Saturday, November 30, 2013

Raising the bar is better for everyone, and experiencing failure is good

I think Thomas Sowell has hit the nail on the head in this short video clip about academic standards and education. He is right to say that teachers and teachers unions are failing our children. The proof is obvious in that academic expectations have been consistently falling for decades.

Sowell responds to a caller who describes herself as bright, but also admitting to not being able to learn in an academic setting with text books. She argues that not all people are "book learners". Sowell's response is perfect:
There are requirements in the world!
When I was a high school teacher fifteen to twenty years ago, I always insisted in setting the bar as high as I could for my students, even when I knew many of them struggled. I insisted because I knew that it was just a matter of time for most students to grasp certain concepts, and that the weaker students would just have to work extra hard if they wanted to have a better understanding.

I also had no problem failing a student if he or she could not demonstrate the required understanding to pass my course. I recall being challenged by the administration for doing so, and was repeatedly "asked" to reconsider, and not to fail anyone. I just don't think it's right to push along under achievers through the school system. This does not prepare them for the realities of life.

Experiencing failure teaches a valuable lesson to children. It helps them to figure out what they are good at, and what they are not good at. They also learn to cope with disappointment or feelings of shame. While no child wants to fail, the fact is that some will, and it may even help to motivate them to try even harder the next time around.

Lowering the bar should never be an option, but unfortunately this is exactly what happens in schools across the country. When the bar is lowered and expectations are reduced, everyone loses.

Sowell is right when he says that teachers unions should not be calling the shots. He doesn't like that they can do whatever they please regardless of what the rest of society wants. If the education of our children is going to have any hope at all, the solution is to put parents, taxpayers, and the public at large in charge.

Related articles and videos:
It is possible to have extremely high expectations without any standards whatsoever. Conversely, and this is too often the case in education, it is possible to have very low expectations even when the external standards are extremely high.

1 comment:

  1. Sowell is always insightful. A breath of fresh air.

    If you mandate all children must stay in school till 16 or 18, if you don't want children to fall behind academically from their peers, if you want almost all young people to have the opportunity to go on to college or university, you have to dumb-down the standards.

    Education is an industry. Universities are diploma factories. Their reason for existence has warped into producing secure and high paying jobs for their staff and keeping the consumers of education coming. And government uses them to delay younger people entering the workforce. That translates into heavy government subsidization and regulation of schools, public schools maintaining a virtual monopoly on education, strong unionization, dumbing-down standards and requiring a degree for almost every profession in order to maximize student enrollment.