I have been a professor of biology and biochemistry at a regional college for over two decades.
Sadly, I have noticed a continual deterioration in the performance of my students during this time.
In part, I have attributed it to the poor study habits of the last few generations who have relied too heavily on technology in lieu of thinking for themselves.
In fact, the basics are no longer taught in our schools because they are considered to be “too hard,” not because they are archaic or antiquated.
For example, students are no longer required to learn the multiplication or division tables since they have direct access to calculators in their phones.
Handwriting script and calligraphy are now in danger of extinction since computers use printed letters.
A report I recently read disturbingly admitted that many of our standardized tests used for college admission (SAT) or various professional schools (MCAT, LSAT and GRE) have to manipulate their normal bell-shaped curves to obtain the higher averages of decades ago.
What we fail to realize is that the concept of “survival of the fittest” still applies even within the realm of technology.
There will always be those who are more “adapted” to the full potential of its use, while others will be stalled at the level of downloading music or playing games.
With all of the above, I was appalled to learn from some former students of mine who are teachers that they no longer hold Honors Day to recognize the accomplishments of above average and exemplary students — in essence, those who can think outside the box.
Instead, I was told by one of my former students that her principal recently informed his faculty that, “We do not want to hurt the feelings of those who are not doing as well as others. So, we either give awards to everybody, or do away with Honors Day.”
This train of thought is destroying the very foundation of learning, of striving for knowledge, of reasoning things out, and of progressing to new heights by building on the old.
Simply, why not just do away with quizzes, tests and exams, and give everybody an “A” in all of their courses?
This way we can all be equal, and no one’s feelings will be hurt.
No question about it — our educational system with its failed “No Child Left Behind” policy now strives for mediocrity at best, and from my teaching experience, much lower.
I am sorry if your child may not be at the same level of intellectual development as your neighbor’s son or daughter, but this is the way of nature, both in the wild and in our technology-driven society.
In the natural world, it would be a way to weed out weaker members. No need to reward one whose accomplishments are below par, let alone extraordinary.
Besides, it will give your child something to strive for, a reason to do better.
This means that if an honor is received, it would be with pride because it was actually earned. It is also a well-established fact that certain other countries like Russia and China cultivate these talents in their young people and recognize their accomplishments.
We, as Americans, are receiving a failing grade in this course. Thus, it is clear that we cannot continue to reward mediocrity.
It is very counterproductive for the growth of our society.
So now, I ask the question: Honors Day anyone? This would be a great start.
Robert H. Wainberg is a professor of biology at Piedmont College.