Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Singing the School-house Blues

At 5:45 this morning, Martha handed me the editorial page from The Arizona Republic newspaper and said, "Here. Read this. It'll piss you off.” Normally she hides rant-causing articles; after all, who in their right mind wants to hear an incoherent rant from me before the sun is up (or down)? As it turns out, this editorial pissed her off just as badly as it did me.

* * * * *

[Headline] Failing Grades No Longer Allowed
Jim Hull, Glendale, [AZ]

"I have been teaching 5th and 6th grade for nine years in Phoenix. This is the first year I have been told to give grades. When I was in school, you earned it.

". . . The underlying reality for teachers is that even if a student deserved to get a failing grade for lack of effort, you're not supposed to give an "F" on the report card.

"The driving force behind all of this is that the principal's office doesn't want phone calls from parents complaining about their kid's failing grades. As long as I pass everybody, I won't have problems from the front office, or so I thought.

"My latest visit to the principal's office resulted in a directive to make my class easier. A parent or two complained my class was too hard for their kids. These are probably the same kids that don't do their work. So how to stay out of the principal's office?

"I give credit where none is due, and pass students on to the next grade at the end of the year whether they've mastered the skills necessary for them to be successful or not."

* * * * *

Is this in fact true, or does this fellow (whom I hope is not an English teacher) have a bad case of sour grapes? I don't know.

I do know that children in metro Phoenix public grammar schools are not "held back" to repeat a grade—what in my day was called "flunking" and a full-year repeat of the grade flunked. Back then, when dirt was a brand-new invention, we didn't have fancy-smancy counselors and psychologists who worried about "self-esteem issues," nor did we seem to have parents who dictated to the school system. If Johnny couldn't read or master third grade grammar, then so be it: Johnny sat in third grade until he was competent for fourth grade work. I may be wrong, but I don't think Johnny fell on a sword or became a serial killer because he was held back to learn.

It goes without saying that children who want to learn will learn utilizing their textbooks, self-initiative, and parental help, and I daresay there are a lot of them. But if Jim Hull's editorial is correct, what is the impetus and rewards for the majority to learn?

Not a damn thing.

* * * * *

In her post of yesterday, here are two quotes from Stinkypaw in Montreal that are apropos:

". . . we live in a society where morons thrive, and surround us; where incompetence seems to be an actual pre-requisite for many jobs . . . We, as a society, are lowering our standards to accommodate the mass. It’s sad."


Barbara Bruederlin said...

It's all gotten out of hand. Of course there are situations where a student needs extra help or some sort of learning aid, but that does not replace the need to actually learn.

Wandering Coyote said...

Entitlement, baby, entitlement.

Meg said...

Wow. That's just ridiculous. It's amazing how many people my age cannot read or spell. It's even more amazing how some kids today can even be expected to function in society when they are allowed to graduate without a proper education.

Mary Witzl said...

Way back when, my mother was forced to pass students who had failed first grade. It was her particular school's policy, however, much she disagreed with it. This is one of the reasons we end up with people who are functionally illiterate -- and amazed when they are expected to perform after a lifetime of getting off the hook...

Attila The Mom said...

I just read an article that said over half of the freshman entering high schools in Houston do not graduate.

Hope the fast food business is booming down there.

Attila The Mom said...

Whoops. That should have read "almost half". Where in the hell are MY reading comprehension skills? LOL

Tiffin said...

Coyote, you nailed it in one. It's the Age of Entitlement. And it will bite us hard, if it hasn't already.

When I was teaching first year students at a large Canadian university while at grad school, one of my little ducklings said he couldn't get his paper done because all of the Chinese visa students lined up at the library before the doors opened, raced in and got all the reference books. Because of this he demanded a pass. It's hard to give someone the gimlet eye when you look younger than they do but I did my best, told him to set his alarm earlier, get to the library before those strangely motivated visa students and get the paper to me in three days or he would get a zero. He tried to end run me to the Chair of the Department who told him flatly that if it had been him, he would have had the zero right then, with no extension. He is probably still whining about me to this day - while going to a Chinese-Canadian doctor.

And it's one of the reasons I bailed on the Ph.D. I knew I couldn't hack the mindset and might even be moved to commit unseemly mayhem.

We don't do our kids any favours with this kind of crap and ultimately we don't do our society any good either.

Oh you shouldn't have got me started, Charlie! This is one of my "buttons"!

Charlie said...

MOM: I suspect that it isn't you but your eyeglasses that cannot read and comprehend.

As far as the fast food jobs, the mentally-empty will not do them--see "Entitlement."

TUI: "... unseemly mayhem." I like it.

And I like it when someone writes a long comment and then blames me for their buttons.

I would add that with entitlement comes "lack of responsibility." If mommy and daddy fix everything for me, then why should I be responsible for my decisions and the consequences thereof? Why should I be a responsible student, or driver, or parent, or employee?