Friday, January 01, 2010


At a faculty meeting recently, one of our teachers suggested that a certain student was not “striving” to do his best, and I immediately thought, “Good for him”. It seems to me there’s already too much striving in the world – too much pushing, shoving, struggling, campaigning, grappling, wrestling, scuffling, to say nothing of warring. We don’t need to encourage our teenage students to strive, because the world already forces them up that rugged hill.  The verb “strive”, to me, smacks too much of the “blinders on, eyes straight ahead, get out of my way or I’ll crush you” kind of determination.  When the teacher said the boy was not striving, I pictured the lad simply slowing his engine a bit and perhaps enjoying his young life more than his obsessed classmates.  He may not be striving, but maybe he’s going all out, a phrase that looks at ambition from a different angle. When we go all out in an endeavor, we give everything we have to it -- and the word “give” is significant. Going all out requires opening up and giving every bit of ourselves to our actions. When we’re striving, we’re not so much giving as pushing and shoving, but when we’re going all out, all of ourselves is out in the world, mingling and mixing with life in the hopes of making something new. Going all out can be done in a stress-free and spirited way, whereas striving is usually done with crumpled brows and grinding teeth. You might say I’m playing with semantics here, but still, I’d rather see my students smiling as they lighten up and go all out on an essay, than see them grow old at 14 while striving to beat an assignment into submission.

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