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I have been a professor of biology and biochemistry at a regional college for more than two decades. Sadly, I have noticed a continual deterioration in the performance of my students. In part, I have attributed it to the poor study habits of the last few generations who have relied too heavily on technology in lieu of thinking for themselves.
In fact, the basics are no longer taught in schools because they are considered to be too hard, not because they are archaic or antiquated. Students are no longer required to learn multiplication or division since they have calculators in their phones. Handwriting script and calligraphy are in danger of extinction as computers use printed letters.
A disturbing report I read recently admitted that many of our standardized tests used for college admission or various professional schools have to manipulate their bell-shaped curves to obtain the higher averages of decades ago. What we fail to realize is that the concept of survival of the fittest still applies, even in the realm of technology. There will always be those more adapted to the full potential of its use while others will be stalled at downloading music or playing games.
With all this said, I was appalled to learn from former students of mine who are teachers that they no longer hold honors day to recognize the accomplishments of above-average and exemplary students, those who think outside the box and further our knowledge. Instead, I was told by one that her principal informed his faculty they did not want to hurt the feelings of those who are not doing as well as others. So we either give awards to everybody or do away with honors day.
This train of thought is destroying the foundation of learning, of striving for knowledge, of reasoning things out and of progressing to new heights by building on the old. Why not just do away with quizzes, tests and exams and give everybody an A in all courses? This way we can all be equal and no one’s feelings will be hurt.
Our educational system with its failed No Child Left Behind policy now strives for mediocrity at best, and from my experience, much lower. I am sorry if your child may not be at the same level of intellectual development as your neighbor’s son or daughter, but this is the way of nature, in the wild and in our technology-driven society.
In the natural world, it would be a way to weed out weaker members. No need to reward one whose accomplishments are below par, let alone extraordinary. Besides, it will give your child something to strive for, a reason to do better. This means that if an honor is received, it would be with pride because it was actually earned.
It is also a well-established fact that countries like Russia and China cultivate these talents in their young people and recognize their accomplishments. We Americans are receiving a failing grade in this course.
It is clear that we cannot continue to reward mediocrity. It is counterproductive for the growth of our society, let alone our great nation. So I ask: Honors day anyone? This would be a great start.
Robert H. Wainberg