Wednesday, April 25, 2012


It has recently been reported that some public schools are forbidding their students from displaying in any way their acceptance by a college of their choice. They  cannot high five or brag to anyone. Their teachers cannot congratulate them in class.  The reason? Why the poor little student who was not accepted might be upset. Their ego might be harmed by the fact that someone fared better than they. Some of these schools even go so far as to advise students to refer any student they see crying to the counselor’s office. There they can receive the solace they so desperately need.

It is hard to believe but there are some public schools that have eliminated the valedictorian program. Again the reason is so that other less accomplished students will not suffer damage to their poor self image. Apparently being the best is no longer considered a good thing. We wouldn’t want all the others, slackers, goof offs and under achievers to feel bad. It would seem that the “educational community” believes we all are equal and no one should stand out. It is somewhat similar to a little league game where all of the players get a trophy whether they win or lose.

Well guess what? That ain’t the real world. The world is a competitive place. Success both in getting a good job and succeeding in that job is not a matter of chance. Employers are looking for the best. They seek out the best students because they rightfully believe these people will become the best employees. Members of the “educational community” seem to think that all the world is like their school where everybody just goes through life with a guaranteed job and their future is secure just because they show up. I sometimes wonder if these kinds of thoughts are the results of aging 60’s hippies. Many of them who survived their excesses of youth are now in positions of authority. A lot of them gyrated toward education because they thought it would be an easy life with a lot of time off. The big difference is that they have to bathe on a regular basis, but I guess they could make that concession.

The problem with most of our public schools is they really do not know what it takes to succeed in the real world. The same is true, in large measure, in colleges. Most members of the academic set have never actually faced life in a competitive world with profit as the ulterior motive. Tenure is an artificial commodity that exists in educational institutions in order to insure the jobs of educators whether they are competent or not. That is not a part of the real world. In the real world you have to produce or else.

I have even heard of schools that choose not to give out any grades on anything. This, they opine, means that no one would ever fail and their little images of themselves would not suffer. Of course it also means no one could ever succeed. A side benefit from such a system to the teachers is there is no way of determining the proficiency of that teacher. Are they competent or are they not? There is no way to know.

Here is an inescapable truth. Most people coming out of school will have to earn a living. Most will have to get a job and perform and their bruised self image is their problem. There are no free rides or free lunches. So, my advice, “Suck it up Buttercup.” Study and learn your lessons whether your teacher is competent or not. In the final analysis it is going to be up to you.

Ron Scarbro April 25, 2012


Anonymous said...

I was told to read your blog, because you were commenting on a subject that is a constant source of frustration for me. As a high school teacher, I do agree that students need to be aware that companies and colleges choose the best candidates. That is why most high schools still have a ranking system to evaluate graduates.

Unfortunately, it seems you are implying that the teachers are to blame. Since you were a businessman, I assume you dictated policy and your bosses followed it? If you were in charge, did your employees set policy for you? Teachers report to administrators. They report to elected officials. We live in a country where only two of the nine U.S. Secretary of Education positions have been given to someone with classroom experience. School board members set policy across the country, yet the vast majority have never tried to teach a student. While there are many awful teachers in the field, you forget that our jobs are defined by the voters. School board policy is what creates these “everyone is special” guidelines. Policy is what forces a teacher to pass students that haven’t completed any work all semester. How do the policy makers get their jobs? They run for office with promises to fix the system. They then blame the teachers who have been following the policies of the last politician.

I teach in a state with no unions. Our “tenure” system isn’t really the tenure everyone keeps talking about. We haven’t had raises in 5 years. I teach in title I schools. You speak about “a competitive place” and having “to produce or else.” Try having your job threatened every semester. Try being told that your job evaluate is being judged based on convincing a student, who knows they will be passed even if they don’t try, to convince a test. Make sure that same student is currently living in an apartment with no power and no running water. Try having a student take the test that determines your job evaluation after he is up all night as his parents are being arrested for shooting at each other in their subsidized housing complex. It gets better when you are in a school system that has done away with grades. Teachers LOVE this. It makes it so easy to convince a student to read a novel when they can go home and play Xbox and still pass the class because some sociology major on the school board decided that grades aren’t important.

Maybe you are right though. Our schools and students should use the business world as a model. Since we are teaching students that the business world doesn’t just give people a pass if they don’t work, would you prefer that we use GM, Chrysler, AIG, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, or Morgan Stanley as our example?

If you understand history, you might be familiar with the concept of politicians using a scapegoat to draw attention from their incompetence. The current scapegoat is teachers. By the way, almost all of my students have gone on to college. One just got into Annapolis. My reviews are well above average, and my students’ test scores are very high. Teachers are just tired of being beaten up for things that are beyond their control.

I’m going to now go back to my easy life with a lot of time off. I just responded to this during a 15 minute break from the 5 hours of grading papers I’ve been doing on a Sunday afternoon. Since I don’t leave school until after 5 most days (after tutoring students), and after 7 many days (since teachers have to help with events at school for no pay), I have to get caught up with grading on the weekends. I do have the summers. Like most teachers, that’s the time to get a second job since the $32000 I earn as a teacher after 5 years doesn’t support a family very easily. I will continue teaching even with the bad pay. Someone needs to give these kids a chance at living a better life. I will not leave my name, since teachers do not get the freedom of speech, and I do not want to get fired.

Ron Scarbro said...

I would love to have you write to me so that you and I could continue this conversation. My address is You might be surprised to learn that we probably agree more than we disagree. Simply stated not all teachers are bad and neither are they all good. Not all businesses are bad, neither are all businesses good. Regardless I appreciate your thoughtful comments. I look forward to hearing from you.