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The Idiocy of High Expectations

February 17, 2012

I used to work with mentally handicapped adults. A big part of my job was taking them out on day-trips around the city. My co-workers engaged in the bizarre conceit that the “individuals” (as they were called) were the ones deciding where to go and what to do. In a few cases that was true. But in many cases it wasn’t: a lot of these people were quite incapable of any communication or higher thought. We were just wheeling them around. That didn’t matter to my colleagues. They would still say, “Then so-and-so wanted to do such-and-such, and then he decided to….”

They did that for themselves. It made no difference to our clients.

Likewise, when we talk about the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” we do that for ourselves. Pious hope doesn’t do anything for anyone. Worse, it often sets people up to fail.

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