In a number of schools, students participate in a Career Day of some sort. Often, the students are allowed to choose which careers interest them most. And, teachers are almost always encouraging no matter what the student chooses. A side-effect of this is that it becomes quite common for the "doctor" or "lawyer" rooms to fill completely, while many of the other rooms remain fairly empty. We all know that in the real world, most of the population is not made up of doctors and lawyers.
I personally feel that being encouraging is generally a great attribute for a teacher. However, I also feel that sometimes this blind encouragement ultimately sets up a child for failure, which can prove to be quite devastating, especially emotionally. If it is clear that a child has an incredibly low chance of achieving their career goal, is it better for a teacher to ease them into accepting the reality of the situation or better to continually provide encouragement? Note that this does not necessarily mean that a child is not intelligent. This situation could easily come up where a child aspires to be an artist or a professional ball player, but does not have the talent required to achieve their career goal.
Sooner or later, the child will reach a point in his or her life where it becomes painfully obvious that they're not going to make it. Either they are told this by a teacher or they come to that conclusion on their own after a string of failures. Or, perhaps another possibility is that one day they see that the path is too difficult, and so they decide on their own that they would rather not pursue the career in question. It is likely that the child was probably better off not heading down the wrong path to begin with. Much like navigating through a labyrinth, heading in the wrong direction often leads to a lot of lost time and wasted effort. However, it is also quite possible that what the child loses is more than made up by what is gained in terms of psychological development and also having partaken in some worthwhile learning experiences.
So anyway, a few friends and I argued about this over lunch not too long ago. And, I really have to say that I am on the fence on this one. I don't know which side to join. Is it generally better to be encouraging even when you are nearly certain that the path leads to a dead-end? Or, is it better to coax the child into a more realistic frame of mind? Maybe the answer is highly dependent on the mental and emotional state of the child in question. But, one thing I know for sure. If I ever talk about becoming a professional poker player, I want everyone (and their mothers) to tell me that I'm not good enough.