Letter: Changes in WB schools not preparing pupils
Op-Ed · December 07, 2012

I have long maintained that professional educators (local, state, federal) should never be allowed anywhere near a school house. Validation of my view was written up in a Nov. 15 Times article headlined, “Parents ‘lost’ over new grades.”
It recounts how educators invited interested parents and teachers to a forum wherein they would receive enlightenment regarding the new grading system. To wit: “Beginning (B), “Secure” (S), “Developing (D) and “Exceeds”(E).

The forum upshot was, after failing to present clear answers to clear questions, an elucidating educator said, “explaining the system simply still needs work.” In other words, the educators told the assembly, “We do not know what the hell we are talking about.” They not only failed to complete their assignment, they did not get it in on (meeting) time.

Such conduct by educators in this instance demonstrates exactly what they expect of their students. If I understand correctly, students are now allowed to keep redoing assigned work until they meet a minimum level provided they get it done before a constantly retreating deadline. Johnny, no matter how long it takes you are going to get a letter grade, incomprehensible though it may be.

Is it conceivable that educators addled their brains by bending over backwards too far and hitting their heads while attempting to devise, rationalize and implement this cockamamie “no-zero” grading concept?

As I remember, educators came to view the A, B, C, D & F grading scheme as too harsh because those who found themselves on the bottom of the scale “felt bad” and inferior. This system served for a century or more. Everyone understood it. No forums were required to explain it. Students knew exactly where they stood and how much improvement was needed as did their parents.

Evidently, modern children are very tender and, unlike their grandparents, must not be subjected to the unpleasant realities of life until middle age. Faced with this newly perceived reality, educators set about to devise an inexplicable mishmash of grading systems so as to prevent dumb, lazy, rebellious or mentally deficient students (and perhaps parents) from being made aware of their actual status. The recent forum was a demonstration of educators being hoisted on their own petards.

This idea that students do not have to get assigned work in on time and can rework and resubmit it until they reach a minimum level is absolutely ludicrous. I submit that to promulgate such a policy is to prepare students for failure. No such standard exists in the workaday world. Any employee who cannot understand instructions and carry them out correctly in the time allotted will soon be looking for another job. Attempts to shield students from the harsh realities of life, especially in the workplace, until it slaps them upside the head, does them a disservice. Being fired for failure to perform is harsh reality and does lead to making one feel bad. And maybe hungry.

At one time our society regarded an eighth-grade education as more than sufficient to prepare young people to go forth and make their way in the world. Many wise and successful men made due with less. In the 1920’s or so, graduation from high school started to gain status as a necessity to prepare young folks for success in an increasingly complex world. In the 1950’s more and more young people made earning a college degree a priority. That trend continued through the early years of this century. Educators chanted the mantra; “You cannot succeed without a college degree.” That dictum is now proving to be hollow — a college degree guarantees nothing.

A college degree is no longer a guarantee of a successful life. The odds of obtaining a college degree and getting a good job are not good. A substantial number of college grads are working at jobs outside their specialty, jobs that do not require a college degree and usually for wages barely sufficient to enable them to live independently to say nothing of making their loan payments. Many move back home. Prospects for this situation to improve are not good.

How well is our school preparing students for this new reality? Are all students still being propagandized with idea that the key to their success is a college degree? Are the benefits of technical schools being explained? Are any students (D and F types?) being counseled that they should go to work after graduation and forgo higher education?

Perhaps most important, how well are our college-bound seniors being informed about the pitfalls that await those taking out student loans? Is it being impressed on them that agreeing to accept such debt opens the path to serfdom? These debts cannot be discharged in bankruptcy — they cannot walk away from them. Those who fall behind in their payments will be relentlessly hounded by bill collectors who have been granted power by the government to grab any and all assets to satisfy the debt. They can seize wages, tax refunds, Social Security payments, pensions, bank accounts and other assets including inheritances and property. Only two options are possible: Pay the debt or die.

Yours for effective education.

Willard Salemink, West Branch

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