I want to share the following poem published by Charles Osgood in 1991.
There once was a pretty good student,
who sat in a pretty good class,
and was taught by a pretty good teacher,
who always let pretty good pass.
He wasn’t terrific at reading,
he wasn’t a whiz-bang at math,
but for him education was leading,
straight down a pretty good path.
He didn’t find school too exciting,
but he wanted to do pretty well,
and he did have some trouble with writing,
and nobody had taught him to spell.
When doing arithmetic problems,
pretty good was regarded as fine.
Five and five needn’t always add up to be ten,
a pretty good answer was nine.
The pretty good class that he sat in,
was part of a pretty good school,
and the student was not an exception–
on the contrary, he was the rule.
The pretty good school that he went to
was part of a pretty good town,
and nobody there seemed to notice
he could not tell a verb from a noun.
The pretty good student, in fact,
was part of a pretty good mob
and the first time he knew what he lacked was
when he looked for a pretty good job.
It was then when he sought a position
he discovered that life could be tough
and he soon had a sneaky suspicion
that pretty good might not be – good enough.
The pretty good town in our story
was part of a pretty good state,
which had pretty good aspirations,
and prayed for a pretty good fate.
There once was a pretty good nation,
pretty proud of the greatness it had,
which learned, much too late,
if you want to be great,
pretty good, is, in fact, pretty bad.
The Osgood File, Charles Osgood, CBS, as quoted in Ann Landers column, New Jersey Herald and News, October 5, 1991.
I actually read this poem as part of my graduation speech in high school. I feel it is probably more significant today than it was in 1991. Are we settling too often in education? Are too many teachers choosing the route of ‘flying under the radar’ rather than draw administrators into their classrooms? Are too many students hiding their talents because it is easier to go unnoticed than to deal with praise?
We are standing at a precipice in education. We can choose to turn back and take the safe route or we can leap. Me? I have no interest in being ‘Pretty Good’.