Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Divided They Bawl

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, reflecting upon the illustrious academic career of her first-born son, poses this question to the vast internet co-op of education experts: Is competition a bad thing?

Hold on there! I don't mean to step on the toes of the namby-pamby, I'm okay/you're okay, everybody-gets-one-award, trophies-for-all folks who make the schools go round. That battle was won (or lost) twenty year ago. I don't see the tide shifting. But I want answers, darn it!

Today I read in The Daily Hillmomban that a nearby school district has just revamped the criteria for receiving academic accolades at graduation. How very convenient, with graduation only two days away for them. The headline declared that 40 more students will now be lauded at the graduation ceremony. The old standards decreed that only the top 10 percent of the graduating class would be honored. I don't know the number of graduates at this school. But based on the sports class they compete in, I would guess it to be around 100 to 150. So they will, in effect, be recognizing between one-half and one-third of their graduates as special in an academic kind of way. Is it just me, or does that kind of cheapen the honor? Let's just have fifty valedictorians, how 'bout that? Let them all give speeches. Better bring your stadium cushion.

Midway through the #1 son's fourth grade year, I found out, by accident, through a talky insider, that his third grade teacher had seen to the break-up of his band of friends. "Oh, Teachy brought that up when class assignments were being made. 'Those three boys need to be split up. They're too competitive.' That's why they didn't all get their number one choice for fourth grade. It was a mess. Because you know they always give teachers' kids their first choice." Uh huh. We three moms had consulted every year. "Who are we picking for X grade?" Insiders know where the quality instruction resides. We all wanted the best for our own kids.

Yeah. My son got the teacher we requested. But his buddies didn't. Even though their teacher-moms went over to that building and complained, those three boys remained in separate classrooms. Let's get one thing straight. They were not troublemakers. Not then. Not now. The sole reason for their separation was the machinations of their third grade teacher. The one we had all picked because she was the best third grade teacher. Since when is competition grounds for separation?

Can you imagine a sports team with three great players deciding that they should compete on different teams? "Yeah, it's not good for those boys to push each other. Not healthy. We're putting them on separate teams so each can be a star on his own team." Or what about the music program? "Did you hear? We've created three bands this year! The three amigos all play trumpet, and only one can be first chair at each concert. So now we have three bands, and they can each be first chair every concert!"

So tell me, any third grade teachers out there...is competition a bad thing?


Sioux said...

No, of course not. Competition is a great thing. The teacher has to handle it with kid gloves sometimes, but all the "contenders" can be spurred on, via the competition.

I think you need to hurl a dodge ball at that teacher's head. Right now.

Hillbilly Mom said...

What kind of crazy school do you work at, where dodge ball is still allowed to be mentioned? Next you'll be telling me that corporal punishment is an option.