March 24, 2008

When Failing Just Isn't Good Enough

An "unperforming" school apparently suffers from teachers who just can't handle the criticism inherent in that label. So now they'll be re-named "priority" schools. Why? "It sounds nicer."

The use of a word like "fail" is indeed unpleasant. It implies a criticism, a value judgment. But there are those people out there who just won't get the message unless it's put to them bluntly. "You've performed at a level that meets a different standard of excellence than the one we're looking to satisfy" may be less pleasant to hear. That's because it's so full of weasel words that you have to consciously decipher it to understand that it means "You've failed to meet expectations."

Will teachers in "priority" schools even understand that there is even a problem? And if they do, then what's the point of the euphenism? They'll feel the stigma of failure once they recognize it, regardless of whether weasel words are used to describe it.

The students are emerging from the school uneducated. That's the problem. Where does the problem come from? One of the sources of the problem is surely an unwillingness by the teachers to confront failure.

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