If you don’t mentor, who will?

I like to call it this problem “The Scantron Test”.

Most of us have taken a test in which we were provided a sheet of paper that had bubbles on it, and generally A-B-C-D-E as options for each bubble. You had to fill in your name at the top, maybe an identification code or number, and then you were provided a test. On the test, it gave you the question, the answers, and you would select the right answer and fill in the corresponding bubble on the sheet of paper, i.e., the scantron.

The only way you knew which bubble to fill in was based on the test paper you were provided. In a normal environment, everyone gets the same test and the same list of options.

In a real environment, in the classrooms around our country, but in the classroom that is simply known as “life”, that is not the case.

Maybe you’re the kid who grew up in a rundown town, on a rundown street, and went to a rundown school. Every adult you know is either receiving benefits from the city or state via some type of assistance program or works in seasonal / migrant jobs which are subject to significant instability. You are handed a test that says “choose the option that makes most sense about possible careers you can have when you grow up”:

A: janitor, housekeeper, or gas station attendant
B: doctor

Which do you choose? Your scantron gives you the options of A-B-C-D-E, but you only have A and B on your test paper. You never, ever consider B, because being a doctor is nothing but a fantasy to you. And, in truth, the “right” answer should be E: anything, but you don’t ever get that option because you don’t even know that was a valid option.

Do you get it? Therefore, I am about to make an incredibly bold and aggressive statement:

If you are a person who has privilege from how you grew up or have attained privilege from where you now sit in life, you have both a moral and civic obligation to mentor  underprivileged children and/or teenagers that live in your area, however you may choose to define that state.

There are no excuses.

This is not a statement that you must give 10 hours a week, or even 1 hour a week. Maybe your circumstances only allow you to take one half-day out of a year to go to a school around you. Maybe you can only give 30 minutes away from your busy white-collar professional job to step into your corporate cafeteria and talk to a kid about his or her future options. Maybe all you can do is write a blog once a month for a neighborhood school.

Find a way and do it. Because you got a better test paper or you got lucky and bluffed your way through it, but somehow, some way, you are where you are and while we can never make the world a perfectly fair place, we can damn well do a bit better than we have in the past.

If not you, who? If not now, when?

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