Friday, July 29, 2005

Words Retain Me

Our country's educrats, full of theories from education professors who know nothing about children but empty of common sense, apparently believe that children are so fragile that the merest hint of negativity will make them collapse into blubbering masses of self-loathing.

Thus the trend towards euphemisms that disguise failure and error:

Instead of marking an "X" when a student makes a mistake on an assignment, teachers are opting for the less abrasive circle. Red ink is virtually banned in favour of softer colours such as green or purple that don't carry negative baggage.

And remember the dreaded F on the report card? That's been retired in Canada, along with the word "fail" for students who are held back a grade.

"They're definitely trying to focus on being more positive," Kathy Piotrowski, an elementary teacher in Toronto, said of the new, sometimes controversial marking methods adopted to avoid seeming too harsh.


Like schools all across Canada, Edmonton schools rarely fail kids, even if they don't meet the standards. Research indicates holding back elementary students is particularly traumatic for older kids, who are more likely to drop out of school if they don't move along with their peer group, Ms. Mulgrew saids.

Some districts, like Ottawa public schools, use the term "placement" instead of "promotion" when they bump students up a grade even when the children's overall achievement indicates they are not ready to meet the expectations at the next grade level.

In Toronto public schools, children can be "transferred," rather than promoted to the next grade, if they fail to meet program expectations. If a child is held back, the term used is "retained," as is the case in Ottawa and Edmonton.

"We call it 'retention.' In the good old days, it was 'failure,' " Ms. Mulgrew said.

Children are not complete idiots, whatever the educrats might think otherwise. They can tell when they're being flim-flammed by grown-ups. They know full well if they don't get to go to the next grade with their friends, that they've failed, euphemisms to the contrary.

Moreover, the same language that masks failure also masks success. There is no success without failure, and children who are taught they will never fail, will never strive to succeed.

If there are no winners and losers, why make the effort in the first place?

That's no lesson to teach children who need to make it in the real world of winners and losers, eventually.

Source: National Post

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