Average isn’t good enough anymore. No “average” student is being told they will be accepted into the college of their dreams nor that they will be able to find a job easily. No average person is being praised for doing what’s seen as principle. Things that are acceptable and dignified to that person fall flat in our vicious superiority-defining society.
What is “average”? What is “normal”?
I would define “average” to be a “C-student”, someone who is simply putting enough effort to get by, to pass. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “average” means a standard or level that is considered to be typical or usual. Does this definition even apply anymore to our society, where being better and beyond average, is so emphasized and praised, where normal is no longer “average”? Is a “C-student” an “average” student, or below average? “Normal” is below the new “average”, which is unreasonably high and almost impossible to achieve for some.
In the current society, above-average people tend to be chosen for a certain job, accepted to a certain school, or even chosen to be someone’s friend. Whether the person is above-average in his or her looks, personality, intelligence, financial status, athletic ability, or musical ability, people innately prefer people who are above average rather than those who are just “average”. People who are average are not given the opportunities to succeed, to do the things they wish to do.
At school, students are given grades—a certain rank is attached to the amount of effort they put in and the amount of talent they have in a certain subject. It is definitely not considered “average” if a student receives C’s in their classes here because the expectations and standards set for the students here are so high, and because our community is composed of individuals that have been selected for their academic, artistic, or athletic prowess.
This innate discrimination is inevitable—it is human nature to want to feel superior, to desire a high status. It is also human nature to prefer things that are “above-average” over things that are “average”. For example, who do you think Harvard University would accept: a straight-A student with flawless extracurriculars, or a straight-C student with no extracurriculars? Who would you rather be friends with: an outgoing person with a cheerful personality, or a dull and constantly sad person?
I may be noticing this problem because of the community I have always been part of—most are privileged students and adults who are constantly pressured to do better, to become far beyond “average”. I have lived in such a community and society for most of my life. In Korea, I was surrounded by two kinds of students: the first kind was students that had an above-average financial status. They never needed to work too hard to achieve what they wanted, but were pressured by their parents to study diligently, earn good grades, and go to a top college. The second kind was students that did not have an above-average financial status. However, they were still pressured to study diligently, earn good grades, and go to a top college, perhaps even more than the first type of students were pressured to do so. Rather than being pressured by their parents, many of this second type of students were pressured by society, and the hope that education would bring them success. Always having been surrounded by such groups of people, I have definitely felt the pressure to exceed people’s expectations in academics.
As these standards rise, the pressure and stress placed on people will unavoidably increase. The gap and inequality between those considered “average” and those considered “above-average” will also increase. This is the problematic aspect of my topic. As a certain group of people raise their standards and increase what “typical” means, more and more people are pressured towards these new unreasonably high standards. It is important for us to be aware of this issue, particularly as we specifically are part of a community where this phenomenon is taking place, where being “average” is no longer okay.
I would like to conclude with two questions:
Is mediocrity no longer acceptable in this society? Are we no longer allowed to be “average”?