I’ve written before about my concern that in our zeal to ensure no-one ever feels badly about their accomplishments that everyone gets a trophy and wins a medal we’re actually creating a generation of children who can’t actually handle the win/lose realities of adult life.
All the warm fuzzy thoughts about valuing everyone, everyone’s a winner, etc, is great, but with the exception of a few odd pockets here and there in the world, my experience in life is that it’s actually a dog-eat-dog jungle. There are definitely “win:win” situations, but there are also “win:lose” situations, and that’s okay.
Take this blog entry. We all have finite hours in a day and by reading this blog entry, you’re not reading someone else’s entry. I won, they lost. The people doing something else other than reading this article? I lost ’em. Win, lose. If we all cross-link, though, you can’t actually read all of our articles so somewhere, at some point, someone has to lose.
Don’t worry, though, I’m not a pessimist. Far from it. In fact, I believe that hope is one of the most fundamental of human emotions and it’s what helps us get up in the morning and strive for something better in our lives.
I prefer to think of myself as a pragmatic optimist, however, because I also believe that we can’t cure world hunger, we can’t make everyone equal and we’ll never stop being attracted to winners, even as we ceaselessly learn about their dark sides and secrets.
For children, the challenge is that they don’t really have a world view yet and if us parents are doing our job well, they’re shielded and protected from the worst, the ugliest of the world around them.
Often, the shielding begins at school with helicopter parents and extreme liberal teachers who are more worried everyone gets a gold star than that the children are challenged to better themselves. A generation of students where 75% is an “A-” once the curve is applied and are in shock when they learn life is actually kinda hard and there are people out there who aren’t committed to your success and some who actively dislike you. Just because.
With this in mind, you can only imagine my reaction when I saw my daughter had ended up with a mediocre grade in one of her classes and then two days letter received the following note from the school (altered to protect privacy):
This fall we welcomed a new teacher to our school. During the semester, M- made clear to the students that poor effort and/or behavior would be reflected in their grade. At the end of the semester, many students were quite surprised by the grades they received. We know that many parents were, too. Though we support M-‘s work with the class and his judgement on the grading, we have a commitment in the high school to notify parents when a student is likely to receive a poor grade. This part did not happen to our satisfaction.
After considering various options, we have decided to offer pass/fail to students who are not satisfied with their grades in this course. This course will then not be reflected in the student’s GPA. For students who earned a grade that they would like to keep, they can opt to have that grade included in the GPA. There is no stigma on a transcript for a P/F course, as others will be graded this way as well over the four years of high school.
We are sorry for the confusion about this and believe that this solution, while not excusing poor effort on the part of those who received low grades, best represents our efforts to grade fairly and give students (and their parents) fair warning when they are not meeting expectations in a course.
Let me [rather cynically] translate in case it’s a bit confusing: we hired a new teacher who hadn’t learned to water down his grades and when he actually gave some of the lazier students a poor grade, parents complained and instead of standing behind the teacher, we overrode his evaluation and changed the grade to “pass”. No worries, though, on the transcript a “pass” looks a lot better than a “C” or “C-“.
Yeah, kinda cynical of me, I admit. it’s not quite as bad as I am characterizing in the above paragraph, but still, is it just me, or does this seem more like the act of a school that’s parent body is worried more about GPA for college admissions than the fact that their son or daughter just didn’t do well in a class and needs to do better next time to keep up a good GPA?
Is it much of a step from this to a school that offers “college-ready GPA” and has double-books? You know, one set of grades that actually evaluate the student on the various subjects and courses, and another that’s the official transcript to ensure that little Jane or Joey can get into the Ivy League of their choice…?