September 3, 2019

From Gerald R. Lucas

Happy 4th, Henry!

Blue tongue!

What can I say about this guy? He’s the coolest four-year-old I know. He’s made it through another year, and he’s been prospering. Every day is a new adventure, even if sometimes it’s just on the TV. I hope that will continue, dude. We have many more planned for this next year. Happy birthday, Henry. I love you.

Dad Advice, 2019

I’d like to leave you with a bit of wisdom I realized this year. Maybe I knew it all along, but only this year did it coalesce into my conscious mind. This year, it has to do with expectations based on privilege.

I tend to think that things should be done a certain way: that there’s a correct way of doing something, and other ways are incorrect—or at least less-correct. This could be as simple as choosing the right knife and cutting board to chop a carrot, to the grammar and diction you use in writing a letter, to the way you treat customers if you run a business. This mindset has led me to have certain expectations when it comes to relationships I have with others. Depending on the relationship—instructor/student, friend, employee/customer—I will have certain expectations about how others behave. There are correct behaviors and varying degrees of less-correct ones. For example, if I, as your instructor, give an assignment with a set of instructions, I expect that the students will do their best to follow those directions and hand in their best work by the due date. Logical? Well...

And I guess this is the lesson: expectations lead to disappointment almost always. And not only that: often my expectations aren’t even fair.

Often these expectations are based on my privilege as a white man. This perspective colors my expectations of others and gives a false idea of what exactly is correct. If I decide that what is “correct” can be multifarious, then that transforms my expectations and allows for an individual to be him- or herself without my judging them based on my own admittedly arbitrary criteria. I need to be less judgmental and more open to possibilities. I do not know what is correct (or at least every way that’s correct), so I need to temper my expectations, shut up, and maybe I’ll learn something new.

This is a tough lesson for me. As an educator, I have to teach certain “standards.” These are often quantifiable, like did you use correct capitalization in your sentence or did you read the assignment. Yet, I find myself resisting “standards” in almost everything I do. What makes me so special? Here’s my thought about that: learn the standards, then go beyond them. You have to prove yourself before you can break the rules.

I guess what I’m trying to communicate is this: you’re not so special. Don’t ever assume that you have all the knowledge and know-how. This leads to arrogance and makes you a jerk when you don’t get your way. Don’t be a jerk.