January 19, 2006

No More Valedictorian?

Just heard on CNN that Pinellas County in Florida is no longer awarding the valedictorian medal. A quick Blingo search revealled that many other school districts are doing the same. "It's too competative," they say. "We want to emphasize that everyone is equal."

Time to pull out my favorite short story. "Harrison Bergeron" should be required reading for teachers AND students. It shows us that, no matter how bad competition might be, and no matter how much better we all feel if everyone is equal, it really doesn't work in real life. We need to accept the fact that there are people who excel, and people who don't. The people who do are going to be rewarded for their abilities in life, and the people who don't won't be rewarded.

Mainstreaming in education has given us a society that accepts mediocrity. There are no more "honors" or "advanced" classes, so there is no motivation to achieve. Smart kids get good grades with little effort. Kids who need the help don't get it, because there are too many other kids in the classes who don't need help. Teachers can't spend class time focusing on one or two kids who don't get it. They can't spend class time trying to challenge the gifted kids. The majority of their time has to be spent with the majority of the kids.

When I was in school, there was no mainstreaming. The advanced kids were in advanced classes. We did more work, and wrote more papers. We were challenged. The kids who needed extra help got that help, because they were in separate classes. And we actually learned things -- all of us did.

We are so worried about offending someone, telling them that they aren't "gifted" or that they need extra help, that we are sabotaging their education. We worry more about self-esteem than self-sufficiency. And then we wonder why our kids don't learn.

This needs to change. We need to reward performance, and do something to help kids who aren't performing. We need to give kids something to shoot for, rather than making the target so big that anyone can hit it.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 03:43 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 Amen. I am a teacher and I agree 100%. I go to a Christian school and fortunately talk about how we all have talents. I tell them that A,B,C on report cards does not mean you are an A, B, C, or F as a person. God doesn't make F people only A people. However, our Grade from God is determine by how we act and the decisions we make to follow Him or not follow Him. It is essential to know that as we grade kids that they know that as a person they are important in his eyes. This is an attempt by the world to teach this without teaching God -- you can't! God has a purpose for each of us -- a job only we can do! Kids need to know that. If we only hadn't tried to divorce the soul of the teacher from their classroom! And we wonder why some teachers have a hard time keeping their spirit -- they were told to separate it and leave it at home!

Posted by: Vicki Davis at January 26, 2006 08:11 PM (KyRlf)

2 I agree too, I'm one of the advanced students, and the school day is so dull. I breeze through all classes, though I got votech which makes it more interesting. I can actually challenge myself there. Our senior class at Guthrie High in Oklahoma has about 8 Valedictorians, myself being one, but it doesn't mean much when there are so many.

Posted by: Matthew Mills at February 08, 2006 03:16 PM (spWHI)

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