“You is kind, you is smart, you is important” is holding you back. Salmon Khan, creator of Khan Academy, will never tell his son that he’s smart. A notion that is rude by southern standards, but not in vain. Khan is cultivating a “growth mindset”, oppose to praising his kid when he makes that A+. Khan says “…Neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones.” So are the best students really the ones that challenge themselves? And I wonder if Khan would have this same mentality with a daughter.
As a young child, I constantly heard how smart I was. As in any black family, the expectation of Black excellence was standard. My sophomore year, I got a wake up call. If I was so smart, then why couldn't I pass this engineering test. I glanced around the room puzzled, my brain! It's not working. Not ONE of my strengths benefitted me in any way in my classes. It was very very confusing.
Instead of refocusing my goals and definition of success, I retook and merciless failed again and again. Why? Because a smart girl doesn't change her major. A smart girl is an engineer. I had brain washed myself into a merciless cycle of doom. The lingering question stood: Do I still get to be 'smart', if I succeed in something outside of the standard quo?
Khan shapes his child’s understanding of success. If I praise you for getting a question right, you will want to get more questions right. If I praise you for challenging yourself, you continue that behavior. Instant results are in high demand and attention directed to mistakes is trivial because few parents want to watch their kid struggle. Especially in public, certain children are little representatives of their parent’s life work. The issue with portraying a perfect little girl is that it’s nearly a sin to make a mistake. Therefore, you only do what you are good at. Rarely ever venture into new challenges. Generally, boys are allowed to make more mistakes. It’s rare that anyone actually admits that he or she is chasing perfection, but I know a few. Worse yet, examine the beautiful southern belle. This perfect stereotype makes it nearly impossible for a Southern Belle to aspire to do anything that she didn’t master by age seven. Rarely, will she ever be challenged intellectually. And there goes the chick could end the ISIS crisis.
We have ample generations of women who care more about their boyfriend’s grades than their own. Enrolling in higher-level chemistry classes just one semester to meet the right type of guy. The stigma of the unchallenged Southern Belle’s also affects the plain Jane’s and Janet’s. We end up with a handful of females in Clemson’s COES and only 21% of the Fortune 500 CEO’s are women. The frazzled unpolished struggling girl in an engineering class is the equivalent of a crippled gazelle. Fact: It’s ok to not be perfect & struggle. Also, Fact: it’s difficult to teach a girl that at age 19. Someone told you in 2001 that you were smart- and that was the last time you ever challenged yourself. The fundamental “growth mindset” is discouraged. Remember, well-behaved women seldom make history. So why be perfect, when you can be smart?