A world without F's
6/19/2002 12:00:00 AM - Michelle Malkin
School's out. What did your children learn this year? Across the country, one poisonous lesson was pumped into the systems of self-esteem-inflated students: There is no such thing as failure.
Christine Pelton, a now-famous former biology teacher at Piper High School in Piper, Kansas, resigned last month when her school board -- pressured by angry parents -- refused to support her flunking of nearly 30 students who plagiarized. Two lesser-known teachers also refused to play along with the education establishment's dumbing-down games. They tried to give out F's, too. Their reward for showing children that slacking off has consequences? Humiliation, intimidation and litigation.
Erich Martel, a history teacher at Wilson Senior High School in Washington, D.C., issued an F last year to a girl who took his Advanced Placement U.S. history course. It was enough to prevent her from graduating. But when the school held its commencement ceremony, there was the student -- strolling across the stage in her cap and gown.
Martel checked the school's computer system. The student's grade had been boosted to a D. "It was a feeling of being sabotaged, a feeling of being undermined, that for reasons that have nothing to do with the student's performance, there are shortcuts around a teacher's legitimate grade," Martel told The Washington Post last week. And he wasn't alone. Martel discovered at least 11 cases in which students' grades were raised without the knowledge of his fellow teachers.
One student earned a D, which her father protested because his daughter "needed a high grade-point average" to go to college. The teacher relented and gave the student a chance to retake the final exam. Her score was even lower. The teacher kept the original grade. But Martel later discovered that it had been changed to a "P" (for "Pass"). "I could not believe it," the overruled teacher, Anexora Skvirsky said. "I am absolutely alarmed. It is uncalled for. It is intolerable. It's like cheating. It's like lying. It's like fraud." Like?
As for those responsible for altering the grades, the D.C. schools are sending a consistent message: Screw up, move up. The assistant high school principal who changed the grade of Martel's student is now a principal at an elementary school in the district. And Wilson High's former principal, who also altered grades, is now an assistant superintendent overseeing the city's high schools. She justifies the grade changes because they were "unfair."
"Unfair" is the same gripe that came from the parents of a high school senior at Sunrise Mountain High School in Glendale, Ariz. When their daughter flunked a required English class, which she needed to pass in order to graduate, Mom and Dad did the natural thing in a no-consequences world: They hired a lawyer.
In a missive that would make the parody writers at the satirical newspaper The Onion blush, attorney Stan F. Massad demanded that teacher Elizabeth Joice "take whatever action is necessary to correct this situation so that it can be settled amicably. Failing that, you will force us to institute litigation." Massad claimed that his client "has been very sick, unable to sleep or eat and she has been forced to seek medical attention. To say that she has experienced Severe Emotional and Physical Distress over this matter is an understatement."
Turning up the sob-story volume, Massad bemoaned: "The student was all ready to graduate and, now, at the eleventh hour she is told that she will not. As you know, the student is on the Student Council and she was looking forward to speaking at the Graduation Ceremonies. It is certainly a shame that this young lady's life has now been ruined forever." (The full text of the bullying letter is available at http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0611lawyerletter-ON.html.)
The Arizona Republic reported that just hours before her graduation last month, the student was allowed to take a retest -- over Joice's objections. The student passed the retest and got her diploma. Life, she has learned from her litigious parents and obsequious school officials, is one big do-over.
Whiny parents wonder why public schools have abandoned standards, forsaken accountability and adopted appeasement as their primary educational mission. Oh, who could be to blame for such an abysmal abdication of responsibility? Who?