Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Excuses

Client I was meeting with today is in his late 50s and the father of a college senior. He was bemoaning the state of math education in grade school and beyond and how in his field of work, there is almost no local talent to be found. The issue of education being dumbed down to cater to the lowest common denominator came up and how his son did not study Algebra until 9th grade and struggled in physics because calculus was taught way too late. He talked about how both teachers and students were held to a much higher standard back in his day. It was interesting to read yet another excuse for not challenging kids more in school - they are too sleep deprived to use their brains. 

Closer home, J tells me how popularity in middle school is directly proportional to athletic ability. Interestingly though, the standard of competition in athletics is not translated to academics or other extra curricular activities. So, whereas the losing team does not get awarded a trophy, kids with straight As are bracketed together with the Bs and all Bs and only one C in a comprehensive Honor Roll list. There is no distinction made between these three sets of kids who in the least have applied very different degrees of effort to achieve what they have. Even if we wanted to completely discount innate ability, it seems fair to recognize the highest degree of effort. Since when did hard-work and motivation to succeed become things to de-recognize ?  The rationale for this strange Honor Roll system is to make sure no one is discouraged and completely gives up. In a sense the school system is conveying to the kids that they will not be able to handle in the classroom what they are able to handle out in the sports field. I find this whole thought process deeply troubling and incoherent. 

J makes snide remarks about she just needs to show up and be breathing and that will be enough to make the Honor Roll in her school. Since the school is not able to provide incentives for her to do well, I have tried to create artificial ones to keep her motivated and engaged. Mostly my strategies have failed resoundingly. To keep things interesting for herself, J has decided to focus most of her energy on her Art grade because it is difficult to maintain an A given the exceptionally high bar in that class and the very subjective nature of the grading process. It is troubling for me to see how the system's excuses for not demanding more from kids (and rewarding them for their effort) is hurting my child.

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