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Oh yes parents are lighting up the blogosphere once again; only this time it isn’t the mother who only bathes her baby once a week, the one who’s oversharing too many photos of the toddler she happily potty trained, the unique project she created to give her little girl more role models than princesses, not someone trying to teach their mouthy teen a lesson by acting just as out of control. It’s not the latest parent who’s doling out advice on parenting before all their kids are even out of the house, providing supposed perspectives from other counties, parents who define overbearing, micromanaging, ridiculous expectations. No this time it’s a mother seen as surprisingly sane, reasonable and genuinely concerned about her son’s education shocked he made it on his middle school’s honor roll with a report card also containing a D and a C; originally thinking it was a mistake and taking away her son’s computer games and i-pod for the 2 grades she deemed unacceptable. When she found out it wasn’t a mistake, she wrote a letter to the school and spoke to the principle who agreed that no one getting a D should be on the honor roll, mom telling news outlets there is nothing honorable about a D. Most of the country agrees with her calling it everything from the wussification of America to a celebration of mediocrity, likening it to a participation grade, relating it to the negatives of the self-esteem movement, calling it getting something for nothing leading to the furthering of our prevailing entitlement culture, screaming about the dwindling standards that has left America in 17th place behind so many other nations in standardized tests, going so far as to say this is why millinials couldn’t hold a job because there were actual standards and if you don’t meet those standards no one is going to help you they are going to fire you. Many are holding Beth Tillack up as a parenting hero, an example of what real parenting is.

But wait, this is a case where the kid did earn his place on the honor roll, no matter if it was by one point or, as the mathematicians in multiple comment sections pointed out, one hundredth of a point; countering misleading headlines bolstering this woman’s outrage and feeding the supposedly righteous debate regarding standards, causing everyone to wonder about the quality of education, it was one D and one C, not a grade report filled with C’s and D’s that landed this child on the honor roll. How, with 4 A’s also on the same report card; which, contrary to many commenter assumptions, did not consist of art, music, one possibly being a phys. Ed. class. Other A’s on his report card included orientation to agro science/introduction to manufacturing, language arts (another name for English) and math. Additionally, looking at his report card closely it appears he is taking several advanced classes including civics and science, the C and D grades respectively, giving him a 3.16 GPA; bringing us a whole picture a lot different than the media or the mother would have you believe. While she is perfectly within her rights to deem the lower grades unacceptable, remove privileges as she sees fit, it will most likely backfire on her in the long run; because, aside from the national attention and everyone in his school now knowing his mother is the reason it is suddenly harder to achieve honor roll status, 4 A’s isn’t nothing, nor is rewarding 4 A’s a reward for subpar work, celebrating mediocrity, leading to a sense of entitlement, making hosts of kids think they are smarter than they actually are, as story opinions put forth. Worse, like many story readers, who couldn’t count well enough to distinguish between 3 A’s and 4, do enough math to comprehend an average, she is completely ignorant of how honor roll is constructed, its requirements, that it is based solely on GPA in most cases, GPA consisting of an overall average of grade percentages earned. And on a 4.0 grading scale, a 3.16 is well above the average of 2.0.; incidentally industry standard, the minimum to receive college financial aid, obtain a degree in specific field of study. Subsequently her complaint is neither that the curriculum is too easy, does not adequately teach students, including her son, what they need to know for their grade level, for their successful future interaction in the world, that the grade was earned on a single, uncomplicated project distorting progress, inflating the achievement; her complaint isn’t that he cheated or manipulated his teachers to get the grades represented, but simply no child receiving a D should be on the honor roll. Independent apparently of what else is contained in that report, a reaction focusing only on the 2 bad grades and that doesn’t even include a nice job for the 4 good grades; regardless of what his teacher said about placing him there as an encouragement, one he wasn’t placed there on a whim, he met the requirements and two, mom’s solution of giving teachers discretion about whom to place on the honor roll is fraught with larger problems than those that led to this so called aberration. Whether I’m a student or a parent, I don’t want teachers having arbitrary control over if either of us are recognized for, qualify for an achievement. Using a numerical point system rooted in percentages, averages, removes at least some of the arbitrary nature to the process.

Further according to her interview on Fox News she said his grades in the 2 classes in question were B’s, presumably at mid-quarter when progress reports are issued, then he didn’t do well on a test, didn’t complete an assignment; hold it, here would have been the perfect time to take away his i-pod and his PC gaming privileges, not wait until the report card came out presenting immediate consequences for actions, thus teaching the lesson she wished to impart about effort, attitude, hard work sans negative, and now national, attention. He didn’t study, he got a bad grade on a test for which he is punished; he failed to complete an assignment because he was board, didn’t like it, doesn’t like or respect his teacher and he is punished accordingly because he knows he must do the work, only caveat being if the incompletion was due to not having the supplies, being unable to get help from a teacher, unforeseen, unusual circumstances. Or, what most parents would have done in this situation, allowing the child a chance to see and correct the mistake, telling them to bring the offending grades up or lose those privileges, only commenting if that’s all she saw him doing, lying on the sofa, listening to music, playing games. Yet that too can be deceiving depending on how your child views school; if they treat it like a job, are extremely focused, dedicated and committed during the day, they may need to come home, relax, do nothing school related so they can get up and do it all again tomorrow. Unfortunately Ms. Tillack probably has no earthly clue what her sons best and worst subjects are, no cognizance of the way her son learns best, more effective ways to ensure he assimilates the knowledge he is/was supposed to get than route memorization via the textbook, making her far from a role model for parents. There is a distinct possibility he has a study hall at the beginning or end of every day giving him the opportunity to do homework study for tests; if it is within the last two class periods of the day, studying more at home would likely just exhaust him, drive newly learned material out of his head. Complicating things in the Tillack household, is mom removed privileges before talking to her child’s teacher to ascertain the problem, was it attitude, lack of understanding, misinterpretation of a project that counted for the majority of his quarter grade, or dare we say it, perhaps the teacher themselves who seems to have it out for her child; regardless of the latter, she simultaneously hinted at forced study time great for drilling the information he missed into his head, making him supposedly more intelligent, not necessarily impacting his grade for the better. Especially important considering the teacher’s revised comment about civics stating ask for help; though amended at the parent’s request, if he just needed to buckle down, know the dates, places, events covered on an exam, pay more attention in class or turn in all the work, why wouldn’t the comment read more along the lines, study harder, do all your homework, be mindful of due dates. Ask for help indicates something else entirely. Bettering his next quarter grade may mean doing well on an upcoming research paper, in class labs or a future project. A more productive approach would have been to speak with her child’s teacher about what steps he needed to take in order to raise the grade; then speak to her son asking him how he thought he could improve the grade, what he planned to do to improve it, see if they match up. If he already has a plan to positively change his grade, already comprehends what he needs to do to meet his mother’s demands, why the punishment? If he does not understand what he needs to do guide him by insisting on a plan, listening to his responses about reading the textbook, taking notes, traditional study methods and be willing to devise something different that leads to acquiring missed information. Tackling a misunderstood project may mean mother and son work together on the next one, he learns to ask the teacher for clarification of project guidelines, things not helped by privilege removal.        

What’s missing from the interview substantially belies the good mom persona she has garnered from the public initiating this fight to elevate standards at her child’s middle school, instead showcasing even more ignorance about her child’s education than previously explained. Unmentioned is any prior dissatisfaction with the school, the grading parameters, though under most systems middle school begins at 6th grade, meaning he has been in this school, this particular system going on year 2 and she is just now aware of an issue? Let’s say elementary school is still K-6, not K-5; there are no observations from her highlighting the difference between elementary and middle school, the fact kids at this age are growing up and the expectations should be higher. Then again, if he is adjusting to a new system of grading, increasingly stringent demands in terms of responsibility, self-direction she failed to account for it in judging her son’s report card. Next none of her statements claim either low grade subject is his best subject, substantiating the given perception he didn’t apply himself, leaving no reason for him not to have obtained a higher grade. And the few logical commenters were correct when they pointed out we’ve all had a teacher was biased, a teacher who was bad; I got a C in a high school geography class because the teacher spent 90% of the time talking about completely unrelated material like lacrosse. He refused to mark rivers, country and state capitols using an overhead transparency, smart board containing a map then wanted it in an exact place within the country to be considered a correct answer,  no matter if we got the name right. On top of that he would hand out no less than a dozen geographical markers to be memorized test in 2 days; after explaining this to my mother she no longer frowned upon the C. In contrast Tillack’s, reaction to her son’s grades becomes increasingly detrimental owing to it actually teaching him to also only look at the letter grade, not the process it took to get there, not the time invested in earning it, undermining her concept of teaching him about effort, hard work; what she has inadvertently done is introduce unneeded competition into learning virtually guaranteeing her son learns less becoming too consumed, concerned with mom’s pending over reaction to whatever grades he manages to get for whatever reason.  Examining the long term effect of her extreme actions, they truthfully discourage future exploration, taking of electives to discover talent in any number of areas, rule out vocational activities for which he has zero aptitude, could very well be disregarding his aspirations career, vocation wise; it most definitely disregards natural brain wiring commonly producing people who fall into 3 groups those who like math, hate English, love English and despise math or whose talent lies outside academia. His possible electives in agro science and intro to manufacturing along with the dubious gym class points to a typical boy; maybe athletic, good with his hands, interested in things you do with your hands, interested in plants, possible future veterinary pursuits depending on how far the course goes. All translating into plenty of opportunities whether he is ever a civics master or a science wiz, translating into the probability of more money if he goes into a skilled trade such as brick layer, journeyman, plumber, because they are in such high demand.

Click here to see slides on the things we instinctively understood about school that horror roll mom would do well to comprehend.

If she wanted a sure fire way to get him to study, absent playing the parent card for all it’s worth, she could use what he wants to be when he grows up, provided she knew what that was, she could use the fact he doesn’t know what he wants to be and doesn’t want to be barred from it by doing poorly in those subjects. Had she any true knowledge about either the honor roll or the real world, she could have, still should, alert her son to the reality in the workplace, on the job you are not judged by your overall performance; if a marketing campaign, product rollout you were in charge of goes bad, you will likely lose your job. Completely opposite of a serious life lesson, allowing this to gain national notoriety, being so willing to speak to the press on the matter has likely brought undue attention to something her son didn’t care about in the first place; honor roll for years has been a meaningless distinction earned by students classified as nerds, people who are more than un-cool but have little life experience only book knowledge, nothing a middle school-er wants to be and ironically not what employers are looking for. Continuing to validate the rare comment from viewers that the D, on his report card coupled with mom’s crusade stands for drama, describing making a mountain out of molehill type scenario is, this is middle school; he is not using it to get into college, place on a high school résumé to get a job, he does not think higher of himself than he should because of making the honor roll what seems to be the first time, though there is no reason he should not have high self-esteem centered around the other grades. Never mind scholastic pursuits are routinely left off of said documents for fear of intimidating an interviewer; neither is anything counted at the high school or college level besides overall semester grades further decreasing the relevance his mother, topic viewers, not him, put on it. Again both things she would know if she had the sort of worldly knowledge she should have at her age; so what is faulty about her education from the era before self-esteem, everyone gets a trophy, that she didn’t learn them, hmm?  Nor does a D in civics AKA social studies, government produce idiots who still retain voting privileges; it produces people typically excelling in subjects like math. One such person has been an RN for years, and her daughter, with the same weakness, majored in graphic design, gaining dual credits for college in high school combined her major with grant writing to become happily and gainfully employed. Sure he used his status to try and get his i-pod back like the 12 or 13 year old he is; mom had the iron clad upper hand here because she did not take it away because of his GPA, a disciplinary problem or grades in other classes, but the 2 low grades specifically making the honor roll irrelevant to the argument, truths she should have related to him ending the discussion. In fact there is a strong argument she is fighting the wrong battle and should have instead gone after the teacher, whose only comment was originally good job, who had to be prodded into suggesting he work on the low civics grade; something that shouldn’t have had to happen as a competent educator would automatically do so. Steps that solve the core problem leaving the honor roll and whole school out of it.

Click here to hear an editor talk about the truth regarding prepositions

Public opinion, public comment just solidifies how antiquated some of our perceptions have become, originating in social, scholastic trends rather than fact; example multitudes attacked the principle’s given interview agreeing with Tillack because at one point she relates “students may be content at the level they are at,” calling her uneducated, stupid and a reason why the school was turning out students like this one. Her crime, ending a sentence with a proposition; forget this was an interview, where the more conversational tone, form is acceptable vs. a purely written or speech format, it was never against grammatical rules to end a sentence with a preposition. John Dryden complained about what he thought was it’s overuse in the 1600’s critiquing the likes of Shakespeare, but like the mandatory comma before and in items in a series or the sacrilege of beginning a sentence with a preposition, most commonly and, it was never a hard and fast rule of English grammar, no matter how many teachers taught it was. Similarly if we are going to champion this mother, rail against standards saying a child who met the numerical GPA requirement doesn’t deserve something solely because of one letter grade next to their name, imply you should only be placed on the honor roll with straight A’s, only be given it if you spent hours on your homework per night earning the grades, then we as a nation need to open our eyes to the true life lessons for the world in which we live. Because the latter is not only the source of the quarter life, crisis, burn out among young people illustrated by a father who told the story of asking his daughter why she did not take a more challenging major, her reply she was tired of working so hard, it is no guarantee. Relatedly we need to significantly redefine our criteria for what constitutes hard work to encompass more than mere physical labor, scholastic pursuits only deemed worthy if they translate into astro, particle physicist a-la Einstein or those that require endless hours, because the rude awakening often comes to stellar scholastic students who prided themselves on good grades, who go on to who flunk at life owing to a lack of network to aid them in getting their first job, connections, ability to make connections to put them in the right places throughout their career pursuits, who misunderstand initiative in the workplace and constantly need to be told what to do. Attributes not stemming from the current structure of schools focused on self-esteem, coddling students with mediocre achievements, but rather schools still going on the old structure teaching social compliance, obedience, how to follow directions. Today many of the chatty Cathy talkers who drove academics crazy whispering through lessons have jobs as CNA’s, home health aides, dental assistants thanks to their people skills and desire to help others just representing one example. For the record millennials have no trouble holding a job; in fact as late as last year the foremost complaint about the current generation was how long they hold on to their crappy jobs, how unwilling they were to traverse the country like their 1930’s to 1980’s counterparts. Likewise I’m sure they could deal with pressure, criticism; they just refuse to; their melt downs in deans’ offices at colleges, if that’s even what they are, call attention to what shouldn’t be present in learning regardless of if completion is the way of the workplace. Many millennials recognize they do better in low stress environments and fashion their career aspirations accordingly.

 Click here to read for yourself what things we learned in school we now have to unlearn in the “real world.”

And if success is defined as holding a job, establishing a career along with how much money you make, there are a lot of success stories out there that are not centered around working our fingers to the bone, keeping noses to the grindstone rather working smarter, centering on innovation, capitalizing on better, more efficient ways to use existing materials, products and services. This is what Steve Jobs did with Apple PC’s, Bill Gates did with software and later what Apple did with MP3 technology; while it was discovered, created in France, Apple honed it for the i-pod becoming a global craze. The creators of MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, didn’t invent the personal computer or the concept of a webpage; what they did was create a web based communication medium for people to connect and share things easily the way they wanted to. Twitter and Facebook have surprising business applications one allowing ads, coupons, deals to be disseminated to the masses, be seen much faster, the other allowing persons to market themselves to employers in a whole new way. This is likewise what employers are looking for people with the skills to see a need and work to successfully fulfill it, not simply be a drone. To say nothing of it was the educated masses of the 40’s and 50’s who created it’s not what you know but who business and hiring model still in operation currently. Neither is luck, serendipity or randomness to be utterly discounted in how a person’s life turns out; we see this not just in the tech market with never before refined ideas but in the Beatles success, the phenomenon that was Michael Jackson’s Thriller, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter or Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga. Digging deeper into the feats heralded in history or on the news, the 15 year old who won his high school science contest, who spent time over the summer in a lab working on an inexpensive tester for cancer possessing capabilities well beyond that didn’t do it by being excellent academically, taking advanced science classes, shunning video games; he did it by natural talent, an idea and voluntary, veracious reading of science journals. The boy who became an expert on dinosaurs and wanted to be a museum curator for that department gaining the attention of his local museum, obtaining a mock interview did so with parental support allowing him to read the books, explore the hobby, parents willing to take him to see several exhibits nationwide not forcing perfect grades. Lastly in the unconventionally extraordinary category, the11 year old who created the sand-less sandbag using salt in his bag to create heavy water once wet thus blocking incoming water where placed without needing droves of people to fill, then move heavy sandbags and doing so more effectively, did it more so because he had yet to be indoctrinated with what’s possible and what’s not than all around perfection, a need to measure himself against everyone else, proving once again not everything is about competition.        

Click above to find out what the 21st century workforce is really looking for.

Keeping in mind too long before the “wussification of America,” long before there was a self-esteem movement, long before we seemed to celebrate mediocrity, we had a deemed superior education system that yes sent a nation to the moon, allowed organ transplants, made way for the computer; still it turned out people like MicheleBachmann, Sarah Palin who are seen as a success in the field of politics despite mangling history even “America’s dumbest,” wouldn’t mess up. It was an education system that had no idea how to educate persons with conditions like Downs Syndrome, repeatedly put dunce caps on students suffering from learning disabilities, dyslexia for instance, and paddled children with ADHD or Turrets; both conditions treatable with medication and other medical intervention. Yes it may have produced students who were well grounded in worldly knowledge but also stunted them in other ways by only offering basic, traditional, academic education lacking anything outside of woodshop for those with other talents. As a result they went into medial work, fulfilled the social traditions of getting married, having a family and being exceedingly unhappy the entire time; I know one of them was my uncle, who could tell you about plants, identify trees, tree leaves, loved gardening, did passably in school but because there were no classes in horticulture, landscaping he worked 22 years as a janitor, lived in a trailer far from reaching his full potential. Real parenting is yes about setting standards, expectations; however, it is, more importantly, about accepting your child for who they are, nurturing the talents they inherently demonstrate, allowing them room to explore hobbies that could turn into careers, fund their passion and help them develop it into something with earning potential. A far more worthwhile endeavor for Beth Tillack than going toe to toe with the local middle school over standards would be to invest some quality time into getting to know her son; learning what his best and worst subjects are, his interests, his capabilities, noting perhaps they have changed and so too should her expectations. And when she can do his homework alongside him without help, achieving the same, better grades in the offending subjects, then she has the right to complain.