Just Don’t Lower The Bar

A proposal is being discussed in North Carolina to change the grading numbers in schools, whereby students would achieve an “A” grade if their averages are 100 to 85, a “B” if their grades are 84-70, a “C” if grades are 69-55, a “D” if they average 54-40, and they would earn an “F” if they average below 40 percent.

As an avid fan of Olympic competition, and watching certain Track and Field events, my thinking, and correct me if I am wrong, is that the Olympic Champion in events like the Pole Vault and High Jump win gold if they are the one who clears the bar higher than anyone else.

There was a teacher who was recently fired because she gave zeroes to students for not completing and/or submitting required work. The school system where she worked had a policy that no student could receive a zero, in fact, no grade below a 50 could be given to any student regardless of the situation. If this North Carolina grading proposal were in the district where the teacher was fired for not giving the 50, many of her students who didn’t do any of the work, would receive a passing grade for doing nothing. They would have to receive a 50 by their policy and on the NC grading scale, which would get them a “C-,” not the highest grade, but a passing one, and noting that they did nothing to earn it.

During this past local High School Basketball season, I was reading some of the scores of the first round of the playoffs and saw that at least four teams, in the playoffs, lost by landslide-like margins, one of the games where the winning team scored near or in the 80s and the losing team scored in the teens.

We have become a society with a mentality of “Everyone receives a trophy,” not “Everyone earns a trophy.” We have decided that too many kids aren’t succeeding in school, so we need to lower the bar so more can achieve passing status. Instead of the givers giving more and more, which makes the getters want more and more, the givers need to instead expect more from the getters, hopefully motivating the getters to earn what they are receiving. It’s not rocket science. It’s not cardiac surgery. It’s called responsibility. It’s called accountability. It’s giving something to get something, and not getting something to get more.

Many would argue that self-esteem is one of the motivating factors of this mentality. Everyone needs to feel good, therefore, if we let them play in the playoffs that will boost their self-esteem. If we lower the standards to receive a passing grade, more students will pass, therefore, more kids will have greater self-esteem.

I do not believe every child deserves an education. I do not believe every player deserves playing time. I do not believe every child deserves to get a trophy. I do not believe every team deserves to make the playoffs.

I believe that every child deserves the opportunity to earn an education. I believe all children will not get there the same way, so it is up to us to help them with strategies and styles to try and get there the best way they can. And if they bust a gut and earn a “C-,” that’s a huge success story.

I also believe that every player deserves an opportunity to earn playing time. I believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to earn rewards and trophies. I believe that every team deserves the opportunity to earn a spot in the playoffs. It has to be in their hands though. They have to commit to what they are doing.

They have to own it themselves. Parents, teachers, advisors, coaches, can present information, offer strategies, help them from getting hurt, show them pros and cons, but it is up to each individual to decide how hard they are going to prepare themselves and do the work to be the best child (later adult), student, player, team member, and enter whatever job or profession you want, and most importantly to be the best them they can be.

In this world, employment is very important. If the North Carolina grading scale carried over to the employment world, which says that achieving less than 50 percent is acceptable, do you think the head of whatever company or business that hires people is going to accept 40 percent from an employee and consider that to be acceptable?

We need to get back to asking the question of our children, our students, our players, our teams, “What are you willing to do to earn your way, and be the best you can be,” instead of listening to the child, student, player, the team ask those in authority, “What are you going to give me/us next?”

People with jobs, or careers, or professions, go out and earn a living. No one gives them a living. Self-esteem has turned into a feeling of self-entitlement. Some think the world owes them a living, food, possessions, money, $200.00 sneakers, free memberships, free tickets, and free housing. I realize that some desperately need assistance in some or most of those things, and they should be helped. In many cases, though, able bodied, and minded, people are receiving more and more, but choose not to earn, but just take. For those able to earn themselves, there needs to be responsibility and accountability on the receiver’s end, and not just a free handout from the giving side.

We need to stop the free giving. We need to stop lowering the bar. We need to go back to expecting the maximum. We need to stop accepting mediocrity. We need to stop letting “good” prevent “better,” and “better” prevent “best,” from having a chance to happen.

The answer is not giving them self-esteem, it is trying to make them see that the first part of self-esteem is the word self. “If it is to be, it is up to me.” Lowering the bar, expecting less, accepting less, only breeds and motivates laziness, complacency, mediocrity, and only makes the child (later adult), student, player, or team member hungrier for more without having to do anything to get it themselves.

Many may not agree with any or all of this, but it makes sense. The more things are made easy, the even more dependent some become to get things even easier still. As much as we’d like, we can’t make it our mission to be their friends. We need to be their parent, teacher, mentor, and/or coach first.

Keep the bar up there and raise it when you have to raise it, but don’t lower it to make things easier. Let our children, students, players, and teams strive for perfection to reach excellence. Hold your ground. We need to figuratively push those we have influence over to reach the bar majorly through their efforts, and avoid literally pulling them up to let them reach it easier. Let them receive awards based on merit and performance. Make them legitimately qualify for post-season. It will build character and make them accountable for their success. And that success will quite possibly, and will quite probably, result in a true SELF-esteem.

It worked in days passed. What’s happening now doesn’t seem to be quite as effective, so why not go back to the days when expectations were higher, and grades, jobs, playing time, awards, and invitations to playoffs had to be earned and not given freely. It makes sense to me.