Thursday, March 29, 2007

I was afraid I'd get bushels of angry letters about this column, but I've received nothing so far. I really do believe that eliminating things such as class rankings wind up hurting kids rather than helping them.

To me this is perfect example of overly "liberal" thinking. We need to prepare our kids and support them but not coddle them.

Life isn't pretty for many people and we lie to our kids enough as is.

Leigh Catchepaugh, one of our graphic artists and all around smart guy, noticed in last week's rant a similar tone to a typical Andy Rooney screed the slightly out-of-touch geezer who is complaining about the mundane aspects of life.

I'm afraid that this week's column might also seem as if I'm stealing Rooney's shtick.

The decision of the Hampden-Wilbraham School Committee to phase out class standings for the class of 2010 is just plain silly. The idea is that ranking students in order of their academic achievements by percentile (top ten percent, top twenty percent, etc.) rather than number is supposed to force colleges to look at the whole student and not just grades.

The folks in Hampden and Wilbraham aren't the only people who have made this change. School officials in Amherst and Longmeadow have also switched.

Well, it if was good enough for me when I was in high school, wading through three-foot drifts to get to that one-room school house where I would dip Mary Lou's pigtails into the inkwell dang! There's Rooney again!

Many colleges already have admission procedures that consider more than grades, SATS and MCAS. Every parent who has a child currently in college knows a variety of factors come into play to jump over admission hurdles.

One of them is whether or not a college is desperate. Let's face it folks, when admissions are on the decline, colleges stretch their rules a bit. Don't ever forget that higher education is a business and they have to keep those class seats filled.

What I fear is this is further erosion of introducing young people to the fact that the playing field of life is not level. When it comes to issues such as race, religion and gender everyone must be equal, but that equality cannot and should not extend to abilities and performance.

When I was in high school (Class of 1972, Granby Junior-Senior High School), there was one honor roll. Either you were on it or you weren't. Now there are "high honors" and "honors" distinctions that are more inclusive.

The theory is by creating a lower tier schools can encourage more students to do better by affording them some academic recognition.

I don't buy that. I think the inclination is if a student makes the lower honors that may be good enough. It's time to pull up a comfy laurel to rest upon.

Life is built on perceptions and people use shorthand methods to form those perceptions. A grade point average and a class standing doesn't tell the whole story there are plenty of book-smart people who are real life morons but they are useful indicators.

What's next? No grades? Handling out As and Fs is too repressive and creates an unnecessary distraction? I hope not.

The goal of education should be to guide a student to find what is right for him or her. That kind of discovery can mean some tough times for a young ego, but that's okay with the right support from family, friends and school officials.

In an increasingly competitive world, we need more guidelines to help students achieve and not less.

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs


Marky Mark said...

Ludicrous. How can you NOT scratch your head and get Rooney-faced trying to figure that one out?

SRBissette said...

Ah, get Marge talking about all this -- your head will spin, ache, and fall off.

If a quarter of the war budget had gone into education (once again, a standing President has pushed an education change that is UNFUNDED, further draining already-meager resources), we'd be sitting pretty. I'm sooooo glad my kids are out of this clusterfuck.