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Normality Is Not A Specialty

ONU's Middle Childhood Education program allows its majors, like me, to obtain a generalist certification if they choose. (Northern Review Photo/Christopher Roesner)

ONU's Middle Childhood Education program allows its majors, like me, to obtain a generalist certification if they choose. (Northern Review Photo/Christopher Roesner)

At the local bowling alley, my friends are trying to find a pair of shoes that fit reasonably, a ball without gratuitously large finger holes, and, quite frankly, their bearings in what is a foreign spot to them. 

Unlike them, I came prepared. 

I haul up my bowling bag I brought along, packed with two custom bowling balls, a pair of shoes with interchangeable bottoms, a rosin bag, a towel, and a glove, among other small commodities. 

I did not bring these things to get more strikes and spares than my friends (I would be able to do that regardless). I brought these things to enjoy one of my favorite activities and improve my game through extra practice. 

My friends have a peculiar reaction. Rather than commending my passion and commitment to my craft, their faces are very judgmental, asking question after question about each item I prepare. They seem to question me not out of pure curiosity, but instead contemptuous derision. 

This is a rampant trend that far exceeds the subtle mockery toward a rosin bag. Far too many people today have developed a harsh partiality against knowledge and skill of which they do not possess. When someone else has a passion for something that we do not, we automatically dismiss it as silly or unimportant. I cannot stress enough how dangerous it is that society is beginning to no longer value specialty. 

This is not an entirely new concept. ‘Nerds’ have been the victims of bullying in schools for decades now. It does not make sense to make fun of those who have the most sense. It has become a norm for the brainiest of kids to be ridiculed for their passion to learn. This attitude has developed not just in the typical bullies, but the average student. 

Young students become attuned to the average level of smarts they need to show to be socially accepted. They know they cannot afford to look too dumb- not middle schooler unable to recall who fought in the Revolutionary War would be mocked, sure. But a kid who can recount nearly every detail of the Revolution from a documentary she watched? 

What a try-hard! 

If a student can’t come up with a rhyme on the teacher’s cue, classmates laugh. A fellow classmate reads and writes poetry on their own time? Well that’s over-the-top.

As students go through the years learning the same thing as one another, they develop a sense of what is cool and not cool to know. It has been proven for decades now that what is accepted is what is also familiar.

Educators and guidance counselors encourage students to continue gaining general knowledge across a wide plain of information in a given area as high school and college years arrive in order to ‘make yourself marketable’ for a job. This makes it so that specialty in adults becomes rarer, which is a big problem. 

I am not criticizing those who want a general business degree, but rather the extent this premise is touted. The thought of “I could land a job at a variety of places,” is comforting for someone about to step out into the real world in desperate need to pay off some student loans. Parents and counselors instead need to advise young adults to specialize in something, allowing them to have their own identity and stand out. 

I speak from experience. Seeing someone who is truly a pro, an expert at what they do is an absolute joy to behold. Making the difficult look easy should not be what we all look down upon, because we need people to be great at something, not so-so at everything. 

But we are living in a world of one-stop and all-in-one beyond education and careers. People do not stop to see that a department store having thirty different departments is not all positive. Little do consumers realize that their favorite brand of product actually manufactures a plethora of varieties, but Walmart only has room for their top two sellers. Because convenience is irresistible, we unknowingly accept and receive generality over specialty all the time. 

There are certainly times where well-rounded is what is needed, admittedly. Covering all bases is a necessary strategy sometimes. But as a people, we have moved our position too far on the spectrum. We must ensure that we value having specialty intelligence and abilities ourselves and take pride in that. But we must also change the way we look at others when they have expansive knowledge on something. 

We automatically think excelling in something obscure or uncommon is laughable and lacks worth. It seems to me we have the mentality of, “It’s inferior if it’s not like me.”