Education: Where’s the Pride; Where’s the Shame?

William Falzett III
I live in a small town, the kind of town many parents seek out in an effort to raise their children away from the precocious material culture of the suburbs, and the tough third world neighborhoods in and around the cities. We have successfully escaped most of that stuff in our small town, but we have not been able to escape the creeping clutches of political correctness.
My daughter is in the third grade, and recently came home with an assignment to prepare a presentation about a famous historical figure. One of her favorite films “A Night at the Museum” includes a part about Sacajawea, the famous native American, working mother, and guide of the Lewis and Clark expedition. We suggested Sacajawea would be a good choice for her project. She worked on it over a two week period, researching on the Internet, reading a book we bought, and preparing visual aids. She was very excited about the project, and practiced the presentation over and over again at home. After her open house event, I asked what kind of grade she got on it, to which she flatly replied she had gotten 102, an A+. I was surprised by her lack of enthusiasm, so I asked how her grade compared to the other kids. She told me she did not know, because kids are not allowed to share their grades with other students.
A little probing exposed this as a politically correct “don’t ask; don’t tell” rule I have encountered many other times in speaking to the kids about school. Very simply it has no purpose but to ensure no one gets hurt feelings or diminished self-esteem over poor performance. The children are taught that expressions of pride for performance are bad, and there is no shame in performing poorly. Poor performance, mediocrity, and outright failure are all treated the same. Little or no effort is equivalent to diligence, and there is therefore little incentive in the system to perform. Kids learn they can get by doing the bare minimum. Curiously there seems to be no similar treatment of performance when it comes to school sports. The poorest performers are often cut from the team, while the gifted advance, often accompanied by extreme celebration, aggressive coaching, poor sportsmanship and in-your-face trash-talking. The message seems to be that to be good in sports is serious and worth bragging about, but being excellent in academics is not.

One thought on “Education: Where’s the Pride; Where’s the Shame?”

  1. If ignorance is bliss, this author must be one of the happier folks.
    One can argue that the law goes too far or was not meant to apply to this situation but the language of FERPA (Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act) does seem to change the landscape of what we had previously come to expect.
    I, personally, have a significant problem with privacy laws, so am not about to defend the policies behind FERPA or any other such law but FERPA does seem to apply here — it’s not a matter of “political correctness” but a matter of not violating Federal law.
    “The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.”
    I think it would be hard to argue that grades that a student receives for classroom work is not a student record, and unless the school is one not receiving Federal dollars, FERPA and the privacy of grades would seem to apply.

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