Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Index Card Soup


            First off, I give him props for managing to incorporate cats, soup, grades, and inception in an esoteric clusterfuck of an assembly. I can’t speak much to the first two segments, but I do think our former Upper School Principal candidate brought up an intriguing idea in Part the Third. Here’s the policy he was advocating for, in case any of you missed it: relinquish public letter grades for 9th grade students at Park. Kids would still, however, receive grades, and their parents would still get their child’s report in the mail. But under the new plan, instead of having your paltry freshman grades saved on record for colleges to gossip over, they would instead see nothing from that year. K.C.’s justification for this scheme ran something like, ‘it would provide a smoother transition for eight-graders and they wouldn’t feel as pressured to perform, thus allowing them to concentrate on learning and adjusting.’
            His argument makes sense to me, and in context with our philosophy, it sounds like a logical Park move. But I think there are aspects that have been overlooked. I know our school likes to brag about not giving grades in middle school, and I suppose, technically, that’s true. Except that we did get grades, they were just in numerical/symbolic form. Let’s be real, when you got your math test back and it said “OK” on it, you could infer, with adequate precision, your “grade range”. We weren’t that ignorant back then, and neither were our parents. Perhaps more malevolently, our grades were disguised from us, masked with a veil of ambiguity, only for us to discover the truth in a few short years. By high school, we all knew what kind of student we were. There were no surprises at 9th grade quarter reports, or at least, there shouldn’t have been.
            Then there’s the notion of prolongation. Why let kids wait another year until they have to face the realities of high school and the rest of their lives? I hold the position of the sooner, the better. Eventually, the mother has to kick her hatchlings out of the nest and force them to survive independently. The longer we coddle our students, the harder reality is gonna smack them in the face when the time comes. And contrary to ninth grade, tenth grade actually matters. You want as much practice with these new-fangled “grade” things as possible.
            I’m sure most of us would love to live in a world free of evaluation, and I respect Park’s initiative to address this, but the system isn’t changing anytime soon. We can try to go against the grain, but in the end we have to accept that some factors are out of our control for now.

So that’s where I stand. What do you guys think? Am I being cynical?