Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Stuck in the Middle

In my last post, I wrote about the books by Atul Gawande. I'm going to give an extended quote here, so if you're a representative of Henry Holt and Company, I apologize for trying to get people to read your books:
The hardest question for anyone who takes responsibility for what he or she does is, What if I turn out to be average? If we took all the surgeons at my level of experience, compared our results, and discovered that I am one of the worst, the answer would be easy: I'd turn in my scalpel. But what if I were a B-? Working as I do in a city that's mobbed with surgeons, how could I justify putting patients under the knife? I could tell myself, Someone's got to be average. If the bell curve is a fact, then so is the reality that most doctors are going to be average. There is no shame in being one of them, right?
Except, of course, there is. What is troubling is not just being average but settling for it. Everyone knows that average-ness is, for most of us, our fate. And in certain matters - looks, money, tennis - we would do well to accept this. But in your surgeon, your child's pediatrician, your police department, your local high school? When the stakes are our lives and the lives of our children, we want no one to settle for average. 
If you've ever heard any of the many version of Killing Me Softly With His Song, you know what I felt like reading this passage. I'm not worried about being a bad teacher. I'm worried about staying an average one.

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