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No 'F' Grades for Youngsters

March 23, 1986

The "solution" to the immense rate of failure experienced by today's schoolchildren devised by the school board fills me with a sense of helpless outrage. The real victims of this bureaucratic cop-out will be, of course, the children themselves.

Certainly it's a crime that there is such rampant failure in basic educational skills. But rather than solve the crime, the school board has decided instead to destroy the evidence.

Doing away with the "F" grade in the first three grades as a remedy to early failure borders on the psychotic. There are no more "failures," after all, that must mean our school system is a success, right?

"F" sends a message to a child--and just as important, his parent(s)--that there is a basic standard of performance that is not being met. Once this reality is faced (and that's what grades are really all about), steps can be taken to deal with the situation. Perhaps after-school sessions, or tutoring by an older sibling, etc.

The contention is that an "F" makes a young child feel bad about himself. But what is the point of letting him feel good now at the expense of a refusal to face his own shortcomings that will haunt him later on in life, when performance really counts? Is he going to feel better about himself as an adult, at a disadvantage in the job market because he was promoted before being truly ready to master new work, because the teacher didn't want to "hurt his feelings" by giving him an "F"?

I respect school board member Jackie Goldberg and her efforts to improve L.A.'s school system for all. I am thereby quite surprised that she would be the sponsor of such a foolish, ultimately counterproductive measure.

I think the Chinese should add, in honor of 1986, a 13th year to their traditional 12-year cycle. Call it "The Year of the Ostrich."


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