I was talking about this with my friend Road Rage this weekend, and I can’t seem to get it out of my head. Apparently, professors at many Universities are being asked by their students to adjust students’ marks based on, it seems, *anything but* merit.
Which is to say, there are people out there asking, “If I do most of the readings for this class, will you give me a B?” and “I tried really hard; shouldn’t that account for something?”
I won’t even begin to tell you how ludicrous this is. Okay, that’s a complete lie. This is more than ludicrous. I couldn’t imagine asking any of my profs whether they’d be willing to hedge my marks a little because I smiled sweetly and asked nicely and ‘tried real hard’. Because, really, it doesn’t matter how hard you try. What matters is how well you understand the material, and, more importantly, how well you can explain what you’ve learned. University is just another form of training. In elementary school, you’re trained to to basic math (in many places. I wasn’t at the school that taught math), you’re trained to have a basic understanding of the written word, and sometimes, if you’re not sick for a week, you learn about cloud formations and things like condensation and what happens when you mix baking soda and vinegar.
In high school, you’re trained to pine after Blaine Duncan.
And in University, you’re trained to think critically or you’re trained to hone your mathematics abilities and your skill with research. You’re taught, basically, different ways of thinking and different ways of learning. Which leads to different ways of looking at the world. If you can’t muster a B in University, you’re either doing it wrong or you just don’t have the ability. And there’s nothing shameful in not having the ability (and if you’re doing it wrong, you can correct it). Not everyone is cut out for “higher learning”. And the truth is, many people just don’t like it.
But if you’re not cut out for it, or if you aren’t able to do it, why the hell should you be coddled along and encouraged?
Let’s be honest, here. University isn’t about training you for Real Life. Whoever argues that hasn’t spent a lot of time at University for a very, very long time. So if anyone’s arguing that the reason you shouldn’t be asking your profs to adjust your mark based on gumption, they don’t get it either. You shouldn’t be asking your profts to adjust your mark based on gumption because *effort doesn’t matter* in the long run. University isn’t about trying hard. It’s about learning. It’s the Yoda thing, right? “Do or do not; there is no try.” That should be the motto for every University on the planet.
And another thing. Whoever thought it’d be a good idea to stop failing kids in elementary and high school ought to be stood in front of a line of thirty illiterate, innumerate teenagers whose biggest ambition in life is to not get pregnant, and that person should be forced to teach those kids basic math, basic reading, and basic LIFE SKILLS.
There’s this movement afoot that no child should be allowed to ‘fail’ a grade in school. If they can’t do the work, they simply get moved forward because some pointy-headed child psychologist figured it does more damage to a kid to be ‘left out of his peer group’ than it does to ensure the kid has a BASIC UNDERSTANDING OF HOW THE WORLD WORKS. I’m not kidding, either. At least around here, I know people whose kids literally cannot read, and the kids are simply moved up to the next grade to tackle higher concepts and more difficult passages before they’ve even mastered the previous level. And now, apparently, in Saskatoon, there is a school that is at least discussing the idea of removing ‘failing grades’ from the high school. This would effectively replace the “45” you get in arithmetic in grade nine with “tried real hard” or “no mark”. So, what, when you reach grade 12, instead of getting a diploma, you get a blank piece of paper and are asked to clean out your locker with the other mooks?
The whole idea of achieving excellence by lowering your standards really casts a serious pall on this province.
But you know what? I say sure, go ahead. Let those kids who can’t read pass grade two. Take away failing grades. Raise your kids to feel entitled to succeed simply because they were born. Go ahead! But don’t come whining around here when they smash the windows in your car and ask for a minimum sentence because they ‘tried real hard’ on probation. And don’t you dare complain that they’re still living at home when they’re 35 years old, with no job and no ambition and no goals. And ultimately, just think about this: these illiterate, spoiled kids who figure the world owes them the high life on a platter are going to be deciding mill rates and taxation systems in another 30 years. They’re going to be in charge of your retirement funds. And if you really want a bunch of folks who figure they should get special treatment because they had a tough time in high school running the country the way they’re running their own lives, you go ahead and put all your support behind lowering educational standards down past the point where they have any meaning.
I’m waiting on tenterhooks for the day when my kids come running home in June shouting “Mama! They’ve removed all standards from my classroom, so now I get to be just as smart as the stupid kids!”