Mike Brake | March 24, 2015
YOU GUEST IT: Schools should prepare students for life's realities
The Fairfax County school district in Virginia is imposing new rules on how their teachers may grade failing students. No longer will a student who does no work receive a zero; the new "I didn't do it at all" grade will be 50, since, as one school consultant says, it is "morally and ethically wrong" to punish a student who flunks with an F.
Really? What happens in four or five years when that student, somehow graduated, tells a boss he intends to do no work at all? His paycheck will swiftly become a zero too.
For some years now, many in education have tried to gut gifted-and-talented and honors school programs, or even eliminate the traditional top class rankings historically bestowed on valedictorians and salutatorians. When Florida’s Broward County schools sought to take away those traditional white gowns it was justified by one official who said "there's so much competitiveness."
Well, yes, in life too. That's what school is supposed to prepare kids for, and one lesson is, or ought to be, that hard work reaps rewards, while sloth causes loss. It's also a fact that some kids are smarter than others, and that courses designed for those bright students have long helped steer them into challenging fields like medicine, science, engineering, and even academia.
Opposition to honors, gifted, advanced placement, and other school programs that reward work with more opportunities to learn won't help anyone; in fact, it will hurt everyone, from the bright kids who lose that opportunity to the bottom-of-the-class kids who need something to aspire to, and who will never benefit from the lesson that failure has no consequences. Leveling might please the bean counters who agonize over the fact that some learn more and do better than others, but the resulting landscape will be bleak indeed.
[Guest blogger Mike Brake is a journalist and writer who recently authored a centennial history of Putnam City Schools. He served as chief writer for Gov. Frank Keating and for then-Lt. Gov. and Congresswoman Mary Fallin, and has also served as an adjunct instructor at OSU-OKC.]
Mike Brake is a journalist and writer who recently authored a centennial history of Putnam City Schools. A former reporter at The Oklahoman (his coverage of the moon landing earned a front-page byline on July 21, 1969), he served as chief writer for Gov. Frank Keating and for Lt. Gov. and Congresswoman Mary Fallin. He has also served as an adjunct instructor at OSU-OKC, and currently serves as public information officer for Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan.