Question of the Day: “What do YOU do when you lead a horse to water and he won’t drink?”

We have all either heard or used this old proverb at some point. Its origin (according to is as early as 1175. It appeared in a book called Old English Homilies. Regardless of its origin story, it means that you can set up the circumstances for someone to do something that is beneficial for them, but you are powerless if that person still refuses. When this situation plays out, the leader of the horse may feel frustrated, put out, and angry. This saying comes to mind almost every day as I try to maneuver students through our educational system and it leads me to our question of the day: “What do YOU do when you lead a horse to water and he just won’t drink?”

I’ll tell you what you do…you stand there and try not to watch. Or you beg, or try and make the water look like something else, something more appealing to the horse. You think, maybe the horse just doesn’t understand how good this water is for him.

You could try scaring the horse into drinking the water by explaining what the horse’s life is going to look like without the water or creating consequences the horse really doesn’t want. “You drink this water or you won’t be led to another watering hole somewhere down the line.”

Then there’s shame and humiliation as you try and show the horse all the other horses are drinking water. You might say, “This one horse over here is drinking water like a champ. Why can’t you drink the water like that?”

But seriously, what do YOU do? Because the proverb stops there, and its implied that it is the horse’s problem at this point, but in reality, it’s not. In reality it’s the rider’s problem because if the horse refuses to drink, the horse will not be able to be used by the rider. You see where I am going with this, right?

Our children are not okay. We can continue to lead them to water, and we can try and make the water look fancy and we can bring them back into school with masks and social distancing, but still so many students are opting to stay home where they are opting to do nothing. Or they are coming to school and still opting to do nothing.

They are losing the opportunity to drink and who could blame them? We have dismantled a system that literally patterned its buildings after prisons, and we just told them the rules have changed.

We have allowed public education to look the same for hundreds of years, knowing millions of students fell through the cracks as our reading and math scores plunged further and further, and now we want to make slight changes just to get through this pandemic.

And now they just not doing it and no one can stop them.

A generation of children who are losing even the sub par education they were being led to…

So what do YOU do?

What are WE going to do? We, as a society, are going to lose out in this. It is not just the horse. This is causing damage that will echo through our future and we are just standing there doing all of the impotent things listed above and nothing is changing.

We could change. We could make real systemic changes that revolutionizes education and truly try and create equity for all. We could use this massive fall to create an endless supply of opportunities for the horse to drink, so if he isn’t drinking in that moment, it does not negatively affect him for the rest of his life.

The answer lies in the ability for the rider to be creative and think outside the box to fix the watering hole options and to stop blaming the HORSE.

So what are WE going to do?

Love and Light, All.

Photo by Pixabay on