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Fatal Honesty

Oct 3, 2018 by

Could it happen here?   A teacher in Florida was fired last week because she flouted regulations by not evaluating non-existent student work as half-perfect.

A student had two weeks to complete a fair and manageable assignment but chose to not even start it. There were no extenuating circumstances.
Remembering her Shakespeare and the code of principles with which she was raised, the teacher, knowing that “nothing comes of nothing”, gave the student a grade for this assignment that corresponded with their effort: a zero. The teacher was not being spiteful and has a reputation for fairness.

Her fatal flaw seems to be the upholding of standards. For that she was axed faster than you can say “terminated”.  She was tossed out quicker than an intruder from a top secret Pentagon briefing and  forbidden from saying good-bye to he students, so she wrote a few poignant and affectionate words for them.

The school leader, whose office walls are likely festooned with meaningless credentials, was fiercely adamant that a student who did literally nothing has accomplished that same as a classmate who got 50 percent of the assignment right.

Because the teacher did not subscribe to lies and follow an unjust order, she lost her livelihood.
School leaders are cowards when, in the guise of charity, they falsely reward children who trust them. Such deceit is a cynical and self-serving form of abuse.  It is their duty to be candid with students and their parents. It is unkind of them to give these kids a pass in more ways than one.
The teacher did not humiliate the child by giving a”zero”. It may have spurred the child’s awareness that actions have consequences. They won’t get post-traumatic stress syndrome from a bit of short-term constructive shame.

Punishing the teacher is like blaming the victim, as sometimes happens in criminal matters.
Obviously in Port St Lucie, it would be insubordinate for an educator to dispute a supervisor’s decree that henceforth 2 plus 2 equals 5.

In New York City public schools for generations, the lowest passing grade was “65” and “55” for students who did no homework, kept no notebook, never took a test or completed an assignment, never participated and only rarely even attended class.

That’s a 10 point difference out of a total of 100.
That means that motivated students, sweating over subjects that were hard for them, sacrificing spare-time hobbies undergoing intensive tutoring or solitary study, losing sleep and triumphantly eking out a  legitimate “65”, got a report grade grade that was only 10 percent higher than a classmate who didn’t devote a nanosecond of effort.

How fair and logical is that? It is not helpful. But it is still common.

The firing of the teacher in Florida is a travesty. What that state needs is accelerated educational climate change.

Ron Isaac

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