Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Edjumahkashun Reform Part 2

My step-daughter goes to public school.

Recently, she brought home a word-search that was the homework for her vocabulary lesson. When asked what some of the words meant (the purpose of vocabulary when I was in school) she admitted that she was unclear on some of them.

Now, my step-daughter reads voraciously, and at a level far above her age-group, but when the lesson plan includes a game that features words that either haven’t been defined, or haven’t been defined in a manner that stresses the retention of their meanings, I become concerned.

The word-search wasn’t our family’s first encounter with scholastic silliness.

Among the other games-as-learning-tools (what my wife calls “make-work”), we have seen ridiculously simplified crossword puzzles, word scrambles, even “color by numbers” for math. My step-daughter is a teenager in her appropriate grade-level.

There is a fallacy of thought that says that school should be fun.

Why? Is work fun? Are paying the bills fun? How about dealing with the numerous bureaucracies of adult life? Would anyone out there categorize a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles as fun?

Children are not just students of the “3 R’s”, but students of life as well. While I understand the need to implement the lessons of life in a graduated manner, I do not understand the need to coddle them into state-sponsored stupidity. Repetition, not gimmicky games, is what teaches children the necessary tools of life.

It gets worse.

This year her school system has decided to institute a new grading policy designed ostensibly to “allow challenged students to keep up with their grade”. It works as follows:

Student A (challenged but willing) studies hard and gets a “C” on an assignment.
Student B doesn’t study and gets an “I” (for incomplete) on the same assignment. The “F” and even “D” grade NO LONGER EXIST.
Student B has to “re-do” the assignment until they get a “C” grade, the minimum and maximum allowed for previously incomplete work.
So while student A, who got the “C” but worked hard to achieve it, is rewarded for his or her troubles, student B has simply slacked off and eventually received the same grade for what may have been much less effort.

Granted, students can get “A”s and continue to shine while others simply skate through, but this idea really damages the students who work hard to just pass. I have often admired those who have to give more effort to do something where others have found the given task to be easy. This policy will hide those who have given their all to make the grade amidst those who just decided to put in the minimum amount of effort possible.

So, because this particular school system is in the inner-city category (thus it has low scores for proficiency, and therefore lowered funding under a certain someone’s program...), and because it is afraid to tell a student that they failed (a fact of life elsewhere in reality), all the students who work hard just to pass are going to be marginalized by those who don’t care.

Incidentally, the grades a student receives in daily class have NO BEARING on proficiency tests. They are two entirely separate things.

All of which begs the question:

Why are we lowering the standards of a school to the level of a student who doesn’t want to be a student and not demanding that they rise to the level of an education that we know they need?