The cancer of low expecations

Timothy Collins pens this essay for The Daily Yonder about the specter of low expectations found in rural high schools. While it is mostly a persuasion piece, with a flare for the dramatic, part of its effectiveness might be found in that those of us who know rural schools might feel some of the pressure he describes.

Maybe don’t try the four-year college? Maybe don’t try the hard classes? Maybe don’t try the technical training. After all, college is expensive and, anyway, there are no jobs.

Low expectations, seemingly benign or not, erode the community’s ability to adapt and sustain itself. Low expectations for children – along with low school funding, poverty, and diminished expectations for the community itself – are nightmarish. Even if we can’t overcome the financial obstacles for rural schools, we need to encourage children to do their best with high expectations that are tailored to their needs, potentials, and desires to show what they can do for themselves and their communities.

Give up on the kids and you tack an expiration date on your community. A community with low expectations for itself is a sad, desperate place that will be exploited until it changes from within.


  1. This was a strange reflection/essay. Too much overgeneralizing. Certainly not my experience when my kids were is a small school. Expectations come more from the home than from the school. Lots of kids from this school go to college and also get advanced degrees.

    That said, if a kid comes from a low expectation family, the school teachers and counselor makes a huge difference. But I went to the largest school in a 5 state area (3600 kids, grades 10 – 12) and there were tons of opportunities for class selection and after school activities, but we were very limited in how many classes we could sign up for, so kids were either pre-secondary or in the more technical/practical classes. Not time/room for both.

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