A Charity “D”

There is a movement today for schools to drop grading systems (so students are more equal), to eliminate the SAT (“to reduce and simplify demands on students“) and to drop “honors” classes (to combat academic tracking). The reason is that since some students are “not prepared” for such challenges, it is better to eliminate the challenge. Rather than fix the problem, we simply dumb down our schools.

When it comes to math, I take off my socks and shoes to count to “20.” Math is not my strong suit. When I was a junior in high school, I was required to take a course in algebra. And I was dismal. And after a few weeks in the course – I was failing. And I continued to fail well into the semester.

My teacher – Miss Delp – approached me one day after class and asked if I wanted to fail. Obviously I did not. But understanding this stuff was very difficult for my small brain. So she made me an offer. She said that if I came in after school for tutoring – at least twice a week for the rest of the semester – she would give me a “charity D.” If by some miracle I excelled, I might even get a C minus. So I agreed.

Now for all that sank in, she might well have been teaching me in Arabic. But I stuck to it. And fortunately, so did Miss Delp. And at the end of the semester, I was quite proud. I got a “D” in algebra.

From my perspective, I believe there is merit in challenging students to excel. And to grade accordingly. When we take away incentive, everyone loses. Today – I still have no clue what the product of two constants, three coefficients and a variable is (did I say that right?). But I am certainly grateful – to have been challenged mightily. And to have had the support of a teacher who pushed me to succeed.

One thought on “A Charity “D”

  1. Robert Lindstrom

    I am certain that we can agree that there is much that can be improved in our educational system, but that will require a true bipartisan effort over a significant period of time.
    In the 1990’s, there was a landmark report written by the secretaries of the departments of labor and education called the Secretary’s Commission on the Achieving Necessary Skills, or SCANS. (see the link below). Although this effort was led by these two governmental agencies, it had the active participation of CEO’s and other leaders from many U.S. Corporations. They were asking for solid preparation in the basic skills, both academic and social, along with an emphasis upon team-based problem solving. These business leaders had long expressed their frustration with the lack of balanced preparation of the American workforce, and basically said “if you send us people with these skills, we will hire them!” This was a major piece of collaboration between the public and private sectors, and would have made a significant difference in how our young people are educated and prepared for the future. However, because it was launched during the Clinton administration, it was summarily discarded by the the Bush Administration. I believe that it is worth reconsideration, and that it would help to resolve the weaknesses of our current grading system without “dumming it down” in the name of fairness to all.

    Click to access general-college-mtg-2009-08-20-scans.pdf

    Thanks ,

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