William Butler Yeats wrote the following lines in Cloths from Heaven: "I have spread my dreams beneath your feet / tread softly because you tread on my dreams."
Almost every day and in so many ways, young people come in and out of our lives and they bring their dreams with them. Sometimes they are incredibly talented and possess so many assets that, though they still want our adult approval, such is their ability that what they really want is to ensure that we do not get in their way.
For the most part, however, young people are like most of us, they are average. They possess many different skill sets. They are what used to be called, "well-rounded," possessed of varied interests and inclinations but often lacking an area of profound interest or skill. As our culture becomes more and more specialized and competitive, will the young people and later the adults that we anoint, become an even smaller group than it is now?
While in Graduate School, I became acquainted with a concept developed by Italian Economist Vilfredo Pareto. The import of Pareto's Principle or Pareto's Analysis is that 20 percent of the vital few will influence 80 percent of the outcomes in any given situation. Later, a variety of economists demonstrated that, worldwide, Pareto's distribution of wealth was valid. In 1989, 20 percent of the richest people in the world possessed 82.7 percent of the wealth.
If the 80/20 rule is valid and 20 percent of any given population controls 80 percent of the resources, where that does leave the 80 percent that only have 20 percent of the resources to compete for? Are we all engaged in a desperate struggle to become part of the 20 percent that control most of the resources? For some, yes, and some will move into the controlling 20 percent.
For those of us who will not become part of the controlling 20 percent, does that make our dreams invalid? I hope not. I believe that it is still possible for anyone to realize their dream or dreams, irrespective of Pareto's 80/20 rule.
Most adults come to the end of their own dreams on their own terms and in their own time. I would like to believe that our children deserve our intentional protection and preservation of their dreams, at least for a while.
We can help preserve a child's dream by suspending judgment about their dreams and by becoming an adult voice of support. In not telling a child that their dream is wrong, you empower them to explore today's dream and the many dreams that will follow if they are not sufficiently discouraged. Their dreams are precious, rare and part of our national treasure.
The children in each of our individual worlds have laid their dreams at our feet, please, tread softly as it is their dreams upon which we tread. Remember, all kids count.
Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org