Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Flunking Failure

Got nothing better to post at the moment, so here's my essay as mentioned in my previous post:

        Carl Singleton is pleading with the academic community in this essay What Our Education System Needs is More F’s to do just that, to give failing grades to students who fail a subject in school. Teachers have long been giving passing grades to students when they are not deserved. Singleton claims that this has been true for the last twenty years and started by “giving D’s to students who should have received firm F’s” (Singleton, 130). This resulted in a shift downward in letter grades for students with a B now becoming average, C’s replaced D’s as being below average, and the D essentially replaced the F (130). Now that students were receiving D’s rather than F’s they were able to pass on to the next level of their education, regardless of the fact that they did not have a solid understanding of the material. Singleton argues that teachers are also reluctant to flunk students because a failing student could be an indicator of deficient teaching. Not wanting to have the stigma of being a poor teacher, many teachers pass students in order to evade this disgrace.
        With students being passed along without achieving the acceptable level of proficiency in a subject, the problems were merely passed along to the next teacher. As a result Singleton points out an increase in the number of illiterate high-school graduates who have passed through the system rather than being forced to repeat courses that they should have failed (130). With students who should have failed being allowed to pass, those who should indeed pass are being held to lower standards than they otherwise would. This substandard system has lead to the production of “…low-quality teachers who never should have been certified in the first place” (Singleton, 130). As a result many freshman college students are taking classes in basic reading, writing, and math because they failed to learn these basic educational skills while in grade school. This ultimately leads to a drain on college resources which would otherwise be used for teaching higher level courses.
        If these students were sent home from school with failing grades instead of passing ones, Singleton argues that this “…would force most parents to deal with the realities of their children’s failure while it’s happening and when it is yet possible to do something about it” (130). Yes, some parents may not be able or willing to help their children, but at least they would be aware that a problem exists. By having parents knowledgeable about their students’ shortcomings in school they may force their children to dedicate more time to study and less to other activities. Singleton brings up a quote by former Governor Lester Maddox, “‘We’ll get a better grade of prisons when we get a better grade of prisoners’” (130). The same can be said for schools in that better schools will require better students. Better students are those who have learned what is required of them, whether this requires more parental involvement and effort on the students’ part or if it means drastic measures such repeating a class if they did not fully comprehend the required materials. Issuing failing grades where they are due may be the only way to bring about such awareness.
        Once students are given the grades they truly earn the school system will begin to right itself. Singleton explains that neither “Higher salaries, more stringent certifications procedures, [nor] getting back to basics…” have had significant impact on the quality problems faced by today’s educational system (130). Singleton is arguing that by failing the many students who have not earned a passing grade the educators will take notice of the systematic problems and begin to fix them. Once only passing students are allowed to graduate from high-school – while those who fail are forced to repeat until they do pass – everyone who passes through high-school will be literate and able to function academically at the required level. With a higher caliber of students graduating from high-school, colleges will have to devote fewer resources to classes meant to catch students up to the level where they should already be. Less time being spent learning how to read or write or handle basic math problems means more time to spend on further studies. This would usher new teachers into the school system from these graduating classes who have passed all of their subjects in school and who will be able to help students from falling through the gaping cracks that have let so many before them slip through. This perpetual cycle of requiring students to meet the standards set for them will increase the quality of education for all by keeping students until they have mastered the material and passing students only when they are ready.
        Singleton implores teachers to give F’s “…by the dozens, hundreds, thousands, even millions…” if necessary in order to flunk the failure out of the system until such a time comes when the failure is overcome and students pass to a satisfactory level, and are then able to succeed at the next level of their education (130). Singleton makes assumptions that failing grades will wake everyone up to the problems of our public school system and ignores the possibility that some people simply don’t care that students are undeservedly passing. The teachers want to look good by not having failing students in their classes; this is a disservice to their students as they slip behind in their learning, yet continue to pass as if they understood the material required of them. The students now believe they are learning at an acceptable level as they are passing all of their subjects. The harsh reality that students are unprepared finally hits them when they leave high-school. By that point they flood into the colleges to take basic courses to make up for the deficiencies from high-school. Only after this will many of them finally be prepared to pursue their higher education or start a career.


Mercy Now said...

Now, why in the world would you write something this long that I have to remind myself to come back and read this when I have plenty of time on my hands:o)

Trebonte said...


Nice essay. Very interesting. I'm going to have to take a look at that book. Let me know what grade you get in the end :)

Neemund said...

The original essay I wrote my essay on was barely 2 pages long. I got a B on that paper because my teacher didn't think my perspective was clear enough in the paper. I also wrote it in less than an hour.