Monday, April 27, 2009

Life is Pass/Fail

If you've ever had a job you probably learned that you must show up on time and when you get there you must diligently apply yourself to the task which your employer has hired you for. If you've ever engaged in a competition you were aware that score is going to be kept and at the end of the game the one with the most is winner and the other is loser. It is better to be the winner.

When score is kept and your efforts are rewarded you feel good about yourself. You consider yourself a success. If you fail consistently you feel badly I hope. If you don't feel bad about your failure you are destined for less than mediocrity and a Hobbesian existance.

Why then do we have schools across the country engaging in the practice of no-fail grading for high school students? Can anyone make an argument which will stand up to rational, adult scrutiny that telling students that they will not fail regardless of how little effort they contribute is going to prepare them for life in the real world?

Here are a few folks trying to do just that:

It gives them motivation, you see.

That is simply drivel. I deal with recent high school graduates regularly in my freshman college classes. They are no different today then when I was their age. They are lazy, undisciplined, hormone-crazed, slugs crawling along the jungle floor doing the least they can to get by. If they have the last vestiges of motivation removed from them by saying you won't get a zero no matter how little you do, they will fail in life. The threat of failure on an assignment or even the threat of failure in the entire course should pale in comparison to the result of such failures persisting in their adulthood.

I will not even begin to address the consequences of failure in the business of tactical aviation which I practiced for my career.

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