I read an interesting NY Times article suggested to me by a local home school co-op. It explores why college students today are feeling more and more entitled to good grades just for the effort they put into their studies. They believe that going to class, paying attention, taking notes and doing their "best" should merit them, at the very least, a passing grade. A portion of the article reads,

"James Hogge, associate dean of the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University, said: 'Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’

... Nearly two-thirds of the students surveyed said that if they explained to a professor that they were trying hard, that should be taken into account in their grade.

Jason Greenwood, a senior kinesiology major at the University of Maryland echoed that view.

'I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,' Mr. Greenwood said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”

I have an answer for Mr. Greenwood... "What else is there besides the effort he puts in?"

Well, I'd say the result is also pretty important.

Don't most people go to college to prepare for the workplace, at least, in theory? Is a boss supposed to keep Mr. Greenwood or anyone like him on staff, pay his salary and provide all the company benefits, after he has proven he isn't competent and simply because he tried really hard not to screw up?

My husband has a poster hanging in his office, as a joke. It's modeled after the kind you can find all over businesses, schools, and libraries that are supposed to motivate people, but his is a spoof on those. It reads:

When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts,
there is no end to what you can't do.

If you click on the link, you will see that the poster actually mentions college students and those who confuse effort with results as the most fitting people for this poster.

How do kids graduate thinking effort equals merit or participation entitles them to some reward? I went to public school, so I have a few ideas.

One of my teachers in middle school was educated and fully certified for her job as Language Arts Teacher, but she couldn't read the list of spelling words. Every Friday, she'd chose one student to read the list for the class and that student had to take the test later, from another student who then read the words for him or her. Even as kids, we wondered and gossiped in the halls between classes about how the school administration could ignore the fact that a Language teacher was functionally illiterate. But, we also noticed that our teacher never missed school, always did her job (or found ways to get it done), etc. That taught us something.

And, year after year, I had teacher after teacher who addressed their new classes with some variation of the following speech, "I know some of you are afraid of Algebra II. But, if you come to class, pay attention, do your best, you will pass." That taught us something, too.

Are home schoolers immune to this because their success in education is, more often, based on things like mastery of subject matter rather than perfect attendance?

While it may not be a popular stance, I, once again, want to assert that home schooling parents like me should come away from articles like the one above and discussions of this kind and be diligent rather than arrogant. In our own ways, we can actually make the same kind of mistakes the formal K-12 schools are making with their students.

I've heard things like "Abraham Lincoln was self educated" repeated again and again within this homeschooling community. Heck. I may even end up saying in defense of a point I want to make one day. But, let's be honest. Lincoln didn't spend much time in formal school, but that doesn't mean every home schooler will grow up to be as influential or successful as Lincoln. We shouldn't perpetuate that flimsy rational, particularly in front of our children.

We have the privilege of loving our children as our children, but the responsibility of evaluating our students as students. Otherwise, our kids may pick up on any of our subtle or even not-so-subtle references to their superiority, they may confuse our acceptance of them with their academic performance, and therefore, may enter the world as ill-equipped to handle or filter criticism, as incapable of respecting or submitting to their professors or bosses as their traditionally schooled peers seem to be these days.


gina said…
well said!

I think a seperate effort grade would be good- my oldest daughter's high school doesn't even give them any more.

I think it's the everyone needs to excel mentalility of today's parents... but to quote a patient on last week's HOUSE (I know, so academic, right? lol.) "Everyone wants their kid to be "above average" and when they aren't they come up with labels to explain why they aren't. Let's just face it- Having an "average" means some kids are below it." You see this attitude in waiting rooms of dance studios, gyms, hockey rinks, etc. across the country too. Kids are being raised to be stars. And be rewarded for just doing. Not excelling. Maybe someday there will be some balance.

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