I’m working on a post on a different subject, but Beth sent this gem (I am copying the entire article)
H.S. Halts Publication of Honor Roll
Needham High Cites Stress On Students As Major Reason
NEEDHAM, Mass. — Needham High School has abandoned its long-standing practice of publishing the names of students who make the honor roll in the local newspaper.
Principal Paul Richards said a key reason for stopping the practice is its contribution to students’ stress level in “This high expectations-high-achievement culture.”
The proposal to stop publishing the honor roll came from a parent. Richards took the issue before the school council, which approved it. Parents were notified of the decision last month. Richards said he received about 60 responses from both parents and students and the feedback has been evenly split for and against.
Richards said one parent with three children attending Needham High told him publishing the honor roll is a constant cause of stress in her family. According to that parent, one of the three students routinely made the honor roll while the other two did not.
Another parent who didn’t want his name used said his two youngsters, a senior and a junior at Needham High, both consistently received honors and high honors. He said he, “took special pride in opening the newspaper and seeing his kids names.” He said he could also see how the publishing of names could put stress on other kids who did not make it.
Richards said publishing of the honor roll represented “an unhealthy focus on grades.” He pointed out that there are lots of other ways that students achieve, such as in clubs, musicals, concerts, athletics and community service.
He said the ranking of students solely based on grades goes against the school’s overall mission which is to “promote learning.”
The decision to drop publishing the honor roll comes at a time when the Needham High community is dealing with heartache. Last month, two seniors were killed in a car crash. Last spring, a Needham High student committed suicide.
The Needham Times has traditionally published the school’s honor roll. Editor-in-Chief Greg Reibman said the paper has “always been interested in recognizing the achievements of all Needham students — not just in academics but in sports, the arts, community service, and in any other way.”
“We understand that the school is trying hard to deal with some enormous challenges. I don’t think anyone believes this alone is going to solve some of these very tough issues, but we respect the decision of the experts who certainly have the students’ best interests in mind,” Reibman said.
Needham High’s principal said the decision to no longer publish the honor roll is not nailed in cement. Richards said it is “subject to review.” He said, “We’ll go through this year without it and assess the impact on the school culture.”
Now, I try to keep a certain level of discourse in this blog, but let’s take this opportunity to say it straight:
Assuming that the grades were obtained honorably and that students have been studying and applying themselves: good grades are the most clear indicator that you are learning. If you “feel” you are learning, but you can’t clarify the subject in your mind well enough to
a. answer a few questions correctly
b. explain it well enough for another person to understand your answer
c. replicate a & b on a test,
you really haven’t learned. A test is exactly that: the opportunity for you to prove that you have learned a subject.
You need a certain set of skills to get good grades:
You need to not only study hard and do a, b, and c above, but you also need to
1. learn to manage your time, and learn to prioritize
2. figure out what the test question is asking
3. express clearly enough what is asked of you, be it verbally or in writing.
I assure you that these skills will serve you well in any situation in life.
Let’s talk about the students’ stress level in “This high expectations-high-achievement culture”: Stress is good.
You should have high expectations of yourself. Stop making excuses.
This high-achievement culture we live in is the most free, most opportunity-rich, wealthiest, and most self-realizing culture in the history of mankind exactly because it is a “high expectations-high-achievement culture”. Instead of a cause for stress, living in this “high expectations-high-achievement culture” is a cause for joy.
The reason for its being high stress is because the repercussions of your actions have an effect on your life, unlike other cultures where no matter what you do, you are doomed to failure. In our culture, you can achieve.
Let me repeat it: Stress is good.
Stress tells you that you need to work on something.
Years ago when I was very ill I found the book Toughness Training for Life, and I learned a lot from it. You know I was desperate when I actually read a self-help book, but the book’s lesson is that you can convert stress
into emotional, mental, and physical toughness. Such toughness is needed to achieve maximum productivity, health, and happiness in life.
If you are a student that’s stressed because your classmates are getting good grades and you aren’t, what you need to be doing is to put away your ipod and your videogames, turn off the TV and the CDs, give up MySpace, stop partying, and start hitting the books. Knowledge doesn’t pour down like manna from the skies. And that’s not all: You need to show up punctually to class every day, participate in class, do the reading, and get the work done correctly and on time. Focus on something other than your pitiful self-esteem: get the work done and learn something.
Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. When I was a college sophomore I transferred from a University where all classes were taught in Spanish to another University – a thousand miles away from home – where all classes were taught in English. I graduated with a 3.5 average from that University (in a total four years of college) at the age of 19. If my parents (particularly my mother) had decided to shelter my fragile ego under a blanket of protection, I probably wouldn’t even have finished high school. And, by the way, one of my high school classmates did commit suicide with her boyfriend. The suicide had absolutely nothing to do with anyone’s grades: it had a lot to do with drug abuse.
If you are a parent, you need to make your child’s education a top priority. Your child will rise to your expectations if you are willing to give him or her the opportunity.
Th[e] Incredibles seems to imply that we are all “special” but that some of us are more special than others, and the world is a better, happier place if individuals are free to openly express and pursue excellence rather than repressing these characteristics so as to not offend the sensibilities of the masses in the statistical average. We can see this dynamic very much at work on the world stage underlying tectonic differences between cultures.
That, indeed, is the privilege of living in the best country in the world.
The Needham school board and their clique of “experts” haven’t figured that out.
Update What is the matter with Massachusetts?
(h’t Larwyn and Jay)