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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Denying Reality In Public Education

     David Fabrizio, the principal of the middle school in Ipswich, Massachusetts, shocked parents by canceling the school's March 2013 Honors Night. The idea behind the annual ceremony was to single out students who have earned high grade point averages. The honored students probably received some kind of certificate of achievement. You know, congratulations for a job well-done, keep up the good work kind of thing. The goal, I image, was to encourage and reward excellence. While it all seemed pretty harmless, Principal Fabrizio found the tradition hurtful to students who did not earn the right to be so honored. That's why he put an end to Honors Night.

     In Fabrizio's letter to parents, he laid out his rationale for ditching the ceremony. He wrote: "The Honors Night which can be a great sense of pride for the recipients' families can also be devastating (italics mine) 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." (I wonder how many students actually fit this description. I would guess not many.) Principal Fabrizio also pointed out that many students with bad grades did not get support at home. What he was saying here is that successful students have an advantage. One advantage they might have is superior intelligence.

     As a kid who was a poor student with disappointed and embarrassed parents, I can say that I never resented the good students. Had everyone in my classes been as mediocre as me, I wouldn't have seen how hard work is rewarded through college scholarships and entrance into the better schools. When I enrolled into a college without admission standards, I knew I had a lot of catching up to do.

     While I wasn't happy as a failed student, denying the good students the recognition they deserved would not have made me or my parents feel any better.

     So, what was behind this movement in public education to wish away the reality that academically, not all kids are equal? I wonder if some education administrators resent the high-performing students and their boasting, too-proud parents. (It would be interesting to know what percentage of elementary and middle school educators were mediocre students themselves. It's no secret that in colleges and universities, education is one of the least demanding majors.)

     Principal Fabrizio had a background in coaching where the good athletes were worshipped and rewarded. The lesser athletes were humiliated and rejected. In sports, if you perform badly, you can get booed. To my knowledge, no one got booed in the classroom. When he coached, was Mr. Fabrizio concerned that his better athletes had physical advantages over the second-stringers? Did he ever start a hardworking player who was small, awkward, and slow? Would he play a kid who was lazy and out-of-shape? I don't think so. At the end of the season, there were team members who were not awarded varsity letters. Should they have been devastated?

     In my opinion, Principal Fabrizio's letter to school parents in Ipswich, Massachusetts as a load of pedagogical crap.


  1. Really? Oh my goodness! What's next Mr. Hyper Liberal? Lets cancel all birthday parties because some kids and their families do not have the means to buy the same volume and quality of gifts for their kids and the other kids may "feel" bad. As a parent of a high honor student that is currently preparing for college in the spring I can tell you that I beamed with pride for my child when she was inducted into the National Honor Society and the math and chemistry equivilents. Life isn't fair Mr. Principal, grow up!

  2. Why give grades in the classroom at all? Isn't it unfair that some students get A's while others get C's? Are we going to start punishing achievement now? Oh wait, we already are.

  3. Mr. David Fabrizio as a coach probably should not honor his outstanding athletic players, too. Moreover, I certainly would expect that all students trying out for Coach Fabrizio's Team will be allowed to play on his team. Per Fabrizio rationale it can also be devastating to a child who has worked extremely hard to be on his team and does not make the cut or does not get rewarded as an outstanding performer on his team. Maybe we should just keep all our children in the house and shield them from the evils of competition.

    There is an important lesson that the students are not learning here, and that is how to cope with the reality of life. Competition exists, I am not the best, life is not fair, so adapt to the situation, and feel good about yourself.

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