September 22, 2004

Publik skools: striving for mediocrity

Don't get me wrong. I have a public edumukashun from kindergarten through B.A., and no regrets. When I have kids of my own, I will probably want to send them through the public system as well, though in my case I also happen to live in a city where a local Christian high school also happens to be the best high school in the province. But antics like the following are symptomatic of a viewpoint that has become so widespread that I am seriously considering seeking to marry a doctor or lawyer, just so I can stay home and educate my hypothetical children myself without having to worry over my paycheque.

In her English class, James White's daughter Summer was assigned a letter, addressed to the President, which was to express her opinion on a subject she felt strongly about. So she did a few hours of research and came up with a really good letter on stem cell research. This was very well received by her classmates. The teacher, however, felt differently, and failed her.

In a meeting between the principal, the teacher, Summer, and her father, she was offered the opportunity to redo the assignment. She refused. And why not? The instructions were followed to the letter the first time. The reason given by the teacher essentially amounts to this: "Summer worked too hard on it, and it was too good." Needless to say, White has escalated this to the next level of administration.

Twenty years ago when I was where Summer White is now, if you stood out academically, envious people still strove to take you down a peg. These days, though, it appears as though it's the teachers doing the knocking down, not your classmates.