Archived Ramblings

Feb 21, 1998


In the continuing saga of The (lack of) Education System:

A couple weeks ago a Denver high-school teacher brought charges against the school board. He claims that he was told to give less 'F's, to lock several students' grades at their current level (even with weeks left in the course) and other similar things. He says that many other teachers have been asked to do the same things. Now, I know graduate schools had long ago dropped the idea of actually failing students, but I didn't know high-schools were taking it up. (The graduate schools I'm talking about include Ivy League ones. Their reasoning is basically that a student is paying a LOT of money to be here, and we want money, so let's keep him here regardless.) Freezing grades is a fairly standard policy in certain cases; such as where an injury or illness prevents the student from attending the last week or so of school. In the specific cases mentioned, these were students who simply stopped attending class a month or two before the end of the semester. Of course the school boards are denying this, saying the freezing was standard policy and that any teacher who has a large number of failing students is worked with to try and find out what the problem is. This is being look at, and I'll put up results if they happen anytime in the near future. I personally believe the teacher, since I've had a bit of experience at public schools. For instance, at the local high school not a single one of the cheerleaders are actually eligible to be cheerleaders, because of poor grades. Oh, but the football team needs to be cheered on. What? Not enough eligible kids to make a team? Well, forget about eligibility, we've got a chance at the State championship. Okay, I'm exaggerating the last part a bit. I think. I haven't talked with the coaches to find out.

Colorado, shocked by the fourth grade assessment test, is still trying to figure out what to do. Governor Romer has proposed an interesting idea, namely that students are not allowed to graduate until they can meet standards on a reading, writing, and math test. It's a good idea, in general, even though no one has mentioned exactly what the standards will be. The biggest problem is the level of standards they're currently talking about. They want to use 10th grade standards. Anyone else find a problem with this? "Oh, you're only two years behind where you should be. Sure, you can graduate." This makes me wonder what standards were used for the fourth grade assessment... Did we find out that half our fourth graders can't read to a second grade level?

I do have a way to tie this in a bit with the latest Daria episode, "Arts 'N Crass," so I will. I'm sure you remember the scene where Mr. O'Neill calls Helen's office. Helen says "Tell them I'll make sure Quinn turns in the assignment on monday; oh, and try to find out what the assignment is, okay, and maybe you can get started making a few notes on it." This is exactly what my mother would do if she had an assistant. For me, nothing like this was necessary, but a recent project of hers makes me want to bitch about this whole thing. My mother thinks my little brother is a genius. He's not. Average? Perhaps, but I hope not. He's been getting poor grades on writing assignments, and my mother doesn't like it. There's not much she can do about it, since he really can't write, and even she acknowledges this. So, instead of teaching him to write, what does she propose to do? She's been asking for my help in picking out a new computer, so that she can get a voice-recognition system for him. How many of you have parents like this? I hope none of you, but from the state of our schools, I don't believe it for a second.
Now, I did have a couple (I mean that literally: two of them) good teachers at the high-school; one of the English teachers and the Spanish teacher. This English teacher, Tanna Brock, was my favorite teacher in high-school. I had her for freshman and junior AP English. I never got good grades from her, however. She kept telling me she knew I could do better than this, and I knew she was right. Of course, by this time junior high (and, later, high school) had taught me what was really expected of me, and my best it wasn't. So, I normally did the homework in class, ignored the teachers (the manifest destiny scene in "Esteemsters" was very familiar to me), and got As and Bs with little effort. Later, my sister had the same teacher, and didn't like her. She (my sister) wasn't getting good grades, and, well, my mother just couldn't have that. She (my mother) even asked me, "Didn't you have her as an English teacher?" Since I knew what was coming, I told her that yes I had, and she was my favorite teacher. My mother responded with "I though you didn't like her. She gave you bad grades." In my mother's mind, a bad grade equals a bad teacher. Couldn't have anything to do with her kids. Doesn't matter if they didn't turn in half the homework, it's not her kid's fault.

One of these days I may put up a story about my school experiences. In the middle of sixth grade, we moved to a new town, and I went from a good private school to a typical public school, so I have a very good (and very dim) view of the difference.

Let me finish with a poem:

There once was a pretty good student,
Who sat in a pretty good class
And was taught by a pretty good teacher,
Who always let pretty good pass.
He wasn't terrific at reading,
He wasn't a whiz-bang at math.
But for him, education was leading
Straight down a pretty good path.
He didn't find school too exciting,
But he wanted to do pretty well,
And he did have some trouble with writing,
And nobody had taught him to spell.
When doing arithmetic problems,
Pretty good was regarded as fine.
Five plus five needn't always add up to be ten,
A pretty good answer was nine.
The pretty good class that he sat in
Was part of a pretty good school.
And the student was not an exception,
On the contrary, he was the rule.
The pretty good school that he went to
Was there in a pretty good town.
And nobody there seemed to notice
He could not tell a verb from a noun.
The pretty good student in fact was
Part of a pretty good mob.
And the first time he knew what he lacked was
When he looked for a pretty good job.
It was then, when he sought a position,
He discovered that life could be tough.
And he soon had a sneaky suspicion
Pretty good might not be good enough.
The pretty good town in our story
Was part of a pretty good state,
Which had pretty good aspirations,
And prayed for a pretty good fate.
There once was a pretty good nation,
Pretty proud of the greatness it had,
Which learned much too late,
If you want to be great,
Pretty good is, in fact, pretty bad.

"The Osgood File," copyright 1986, CBS Inc.


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