Those of us who are bloggers and anyone who can comprehend a complete sentence will resonate with this College Professor.
America’s Achilles Heel
By Jimmy Reed (Bio and Archives) Monday, October 14, 2013
Recently, a civic organization asked me to be the guest speaker during their weekly luncheon. My ego being what it is, I accepted, even though final examinations were in progress at the small college where I teach.
The man who introduced me is a bank president, and was one of my students at a community college many years ago. I mentioned this to the audience, and commented on some of the changes I’ve witnessed in classrooms of today and those back then.
When I stood before college students four decades ago, I felt challenged, not only because they had been well taught, but also because most of them possessed work ethics that disallowed ignoring homework assignments. I had to be on my toes and know my material well because they asked questions that couldn’t be shrugged off with equivocating answers.
To me, that challenging, competitive learning environment doesn’t seem to be as evident in today’s classrooms. With the advent of diversity, multiculturalism, freedom of expression, and political correctness, academic competition that generates winner-take-all individuality toward which some students aspire has been compromised to accommodate those who are content to remain within the bounds of mediocrity.
If this is true, it describes an educational system unlike the one that spawned generations of young adults who went on to make America the greatest country on earth.
I agree with poet Robert Frost, who said, “The best things and the best people rise out of their separateness. I’m against a homogenized society because I want the cream to rise.”
Mr. Frost knew, and I know, that bright, hard-working youngsters cannot attain their peak potential in educational systems that reduce grade scales and allow such outrageous practices as social promotion.
A few years ago, two students from the state of Washington — a brother and his sister — enrolled in one of my composition courses. Disappointed by public schools’ lackluster performance, their mother home-schooled them.
The most noticeable difference in those students and many of their classmates can be summed up in one word: Articulation. Whereas some students rely on vague, all-inclusive phrases and words such as “thing,” “like,” and “you know,” those two kids were conversant on a wide range of subjects, and could paint pictures with words: They could articulate.
Recently, a student who falls into what I call the just-showing-up-is-good-enough category asked me where she stood in my course.
When I explained that her poor performance prior to the semester’s eleventh hour had rendered a numerical average that would be impossible to boost to a passing grade, she blurted out inarticulately, “Hell no, you just can’t give me an F in this course.” Judging by the perplexed look on her face, she didn’t comprehend my articulate answer: “I do not ‘give’ grades; they are earned.”
Thankfully, for most students, earning is not a strange new concept. They recognize that whatever is worth having is worth struggling for. They are the ones who will disprove the naysayers’ claim that education is America’s Achilles heel.
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Oxford, Mississippi, resident Jimmy Reed is a newspaper columnist, author and college teacher. His latest collection of short stories (Boss, Jaybird And Me: Anthology Of Short Stories) is available via squarebooks.com at 662-236-2262. An e-book version version is available via Barnesandnoble.com. For information, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article reminds me of two separate scenarios, whose origins I have long since forgotten. The First is a quote, “A Horse~! A Horse~! My Kingdom for a Horse~!” And somewhere, someplace, is an editor screaming for a journalist capable of writing a sensible sentence.
The second scenario is that of Diogenes, walking through Sinope, Greece, holding a lantern in the daytime, “looking for an honest man.”
How often have people of this nation cried out for men of ability, creativity, talent and courage, only to trash them because they dared rise above the level of mediocrity? We trash them because we fear their morality threatens our hard-won slothful behaviour, and our cynicism of a strong work ethic. We fear their understanding of the Absolutes of Life, and that the Steel of Character is forged in the Furnaces of Achievement.
Ayn Rand, in Atlas Shrugged, wrote and titled a chapter, “A Equals A”. For this, she was damned and castigated by her critics. It is unbelievable to me, that people cannot understand and comprehend the concept of Action / Reaction-Consequence. But surely as the Sun rose this morning, and has since the Dawn of the Earth, EVERY action, no matter how minor, has its reward, in one form or another.
Ability, persistence, perseverance, competence and courage also have their blessings, and yes, their consequences as well. Love may be freely given, but Respect must needs be earned. Love is of The Supreme Creator,,, Respect is a reward of Ability and Character.
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