Education has been a major topic in our state. While almost everyone agrees that West Virginia's schools need improvement, proposed methods to do so vary greatly. One of the comments made regarding education is that today's young people just don't put forth enough energy to be successful academically and that "anyone can do anything well if they just try hard enough."

That concept led me to think more about popular sayings. They often have serious flaws but are believed because they are repeated so often.

The "anyone can do anything very well with effort" concept hit home. If that statement were changed to "anyone can try anything and sometimes have success," it might be realistic. Not everyone can do all things well even with great effort.

My maternal grandmother was a concert pianist who performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City. My mother, who herself lacked musical talent, somehow believed that this talent had skipped a generation and was mine for the asking. After many years of piano lessons, the notes became clear to me and my piano teacher that despite desire and effort, not everyone can do some things well even with great effort.

"Everyone needs a college education" became a popular dogma in the past few decades. It's just not true. A four-year post-high school academic program is not right for everyone. While a high school diploma often isn't adequate to compete in today's technological world, there are a variety of post-high school programs that prepare people for good jobs.

"Being rich guarantees happiness." First, there's no guarantee for happiness, and while it is better to have some money and not live in poverty, money alone does not make people joyful. If it did, we would not hear about suicides and other sad events for famous and obviously wealthy people.

"Good people never lie" is a lie. All kinds of people tell untruths, shade the truth or purposefully omit details for many reasons. Most of us will admit to "white lies" to prevent hurt to others or ourselves, but many have learned that if you tell a lie often enough, it is accepted.

"Everything happens for the best," is credited to a French philosopher. While some bad situations have silver linings, the reality is that many things that go wrong will not result in a positive outcome.

The "vaccines cause autism" lie should have run its course by now. The 1998 pronouncement by the now delicensed British physician Andrew Wakefield has been proven false in over a hundred validated medical studies. These erroneous beliefs have resulted in hundreds of measles cases in the U.S., when there should have been none.

"People who live in West Virginia, Mexico, Russia, big cities, rural areas, etc. are all ignorant, dangerous, etc." is fallacious. Human nature is such that we feel much more comfortable with people who look, talk, dress and think like us. As a result, we tend to see those who are different as less desirable and a threat.

Political messages from all sides, which often have half-truths and lies embedded in them, have been avoided here. They currently are too divisive to be useful. On the other hand, Oscar Wilde's advice of "Everything in moderation, including moderation" and Mark Twain's "Always acknowledge a fault; this will throw those in authority off their guard and give you opportunity to commit more" are the kind of messages that give people something about which to smile and remind us that many popular sayings are misleading.

Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. Her email is