“You are the person who has to decide whether you’ll do it or toss it aside; you are the person who makes up your mind. Whether you’ll lead or will linger behind. Whether you’ll try for the goal that’s afar or just be contended to stay where you are”. Edgar A. Guest (1881-1959)
It seems “spreading the wealth” has now entered the halls of education. If in the working world, we all must have an equal opportunity to make the same amount of money, whether you spend the time and energy on attaining an education or not, it now appears if all students can’t “make the grade” in school, then the ones who do will no longer be allowed to have the honor of celebrating their efforts with their families in a special evening ceremony in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
A time-honored tradition at Ipswich Middle School has now been relegated to the end of year school assembly, with the intent to spare some students feelings. Those students are the ones who didn’t reach the necessary goals for recognition.
What’s next in the plight to bring America to a “balanced”, “everyone is the same” mediocrity?
The Ipswich Middle School Principal, David Fabrizio, said in a letter to parents, “The Honors Night, which can be a great sense of pride for the recipients’ families, can also be devastating to a child who has worked extremely hard in a difficult class but who, despite growth, has not been able to maintain a high grade-point average”.
Is not attaining the goal (or maybe what some might call failure) no longer an incentive to continue trying to eventually reach the goal?
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt
“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” C.S. Lewis
Awards occasions for schools are a time where students who have chosen to “try for the goal that’s afar” and attained it celebrate their achievements. Scholastic award ceremonies are not something that can be included in a year-end assembly and maintain their special nature, unless that is the assembly’s sole purpose. The purpose of the celebration is achievement.
The school where our family attends takes their last day of school and devotes it specifically to the celebration of achievement, with an all school awards ceremony. Literally, four hours of awards are handed out to students in all grades of the academy. Nothing else is discussed but achievement during the gathering of approximately 700 students. Students are honored with a variety of awards including academics, athletics, music and languages awards. Honors cords are given at different levels of achievement to seniors with a Valedictorian and Salutatorian announced to the community.
Families attend and are allowed to cheer for their students when their names are read aloud from the stage. No political correctness telling us to hold our applause for the sake of those not receiving an award.
Within those 700 students there is a great company of individuals who receive multiple achievement awards for their educational excellence. There is also a population of students whose name is never read. Everyone understands for academic awards are not bestowed on students if they haven’t maintained a solid “A” grade for all 4 quarters of the year in that subject.
For some parents outside our educational community, they might cry foul that students shouldn’t have to maintain the highest grade possible to receive an award, but from experience, our daughter’s first year at the academy she received an A- in mathematics and missed the award. Was she disappointed? You couldn’t believe how disappointed she was, but she hasn’t missed that award in the subsequent years.
Encouragement to attain awards and seek academic success is not necessarily translated by students hearing and seeing others receive accolades.
For multiple years I have sat in the audience of our school awards and observed the entire academy population, as names were read and awards bestowed upon students. The students, who navigated their way through the all honors curriculum of the school and yet didn’t receive awards, show their true colors on these awards days.
To be honest, some just don’t care. To see their classmates awarded honors doesn’t inspire them in the least. The students who don’t receive awards are the ones you see and hear about from your own students throughout the year, who are just there because mom and dad are forcing this on them and their motivation does not lie in awards. To some, there is no motivation except they legally must attend school.
The Ipswich Principal needs to realize that a few minutes of seeing others being honored will not drive a lazy student to success.
The infusion of drive comes from a daily motivation from parents, educators and peers. If a school environment and culture has not been created to stretch a student and yes, in many cases push them to excel then certainly an awards night or end of year assembly will not “flip a switch” in a student’s life either.
Mr. Fabrizio supported his decision to cancel the awards night, “Because academic success is often contingent upon support at home, which not all students are lucky enough to have.”
As a parent of students, Mr. Fabrizio is correct that parents do and should play a very active role in their children’s education. However, he fails to realize that at some point in a student’s educational career responsibility shifts from the parents standing over the student, policing whether homework is being completed and tests are being prepared to take, to the student owning their education and making it their responsibility.
This is certainly not to say that parent’s check out completely around late elementary school and not help students when they struggle with concepts or assist in brainstorming for a project and quiz students on upcoming test material, but if a student is never expected to own his or her education, success will allude them, no matter how many awards they see their classmates given.
With actions such as downplaying award ceremonies, America is throwing away our greatest assets by teaching to the middle and not honoring those who fight the good fight of education and succeed.
Sadly, success is now being viewed as the eighth deadly sin, in America.
If all students can’t have “A’s” then no one should, is what will be chiming out of principal offices and school board meetings in the years to come. Administrators will demonize successful students because they try harder and give what it takes to move ahead in their education.
This type of “equality” isn’t reality. Every student is not created equal and it is time for educators and parents to accept that reality and find ways to help those who need additional support without undermining those who are gifted in these ways.
The mentality of everyone needing to achieve the same level of success in their education, thus dumbing down the public education system, is why so many parents choose charter schools, private schools and homeschooling.
As parents, if we are not satisfied with the level of achievement the students in our home are experiencing then we need to make the proper adjustments to help them succeed.
It may mean we need to turn the television off at night and sit with our kids while they study. For some families, students may need to change schools and with that change may come some adjusting to parent work schedules so students can be dropped off on time and picked up after school since many charter and private schools don’t provide transportation.
In fact, it may mean as parents we have to sacrifice something in our immediate lifestyle, so our children can taste success, maybe even the same type of success we have achieved in life.
Success is not a sin, especially educational success. When we begin to make success less of an honor and more of the mundane, mediocre will be the way other countries begin to describe America.