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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Placing the blame for student failure

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Bill Gates, for all of his intellectual ability and proven achievement, is not always right. The computer guru told the nation's governors Sunday that American high schools are obsolete and leave far too many students unprepared for college or technical training.

On this point, Gates is wrong. Granted, some schools do a miserable job in the areas of discipline as well as classroom learning. But more often than not, it's the American family structure that is obsolete, not the school system.

I'll say it to the bitter end - if a student comes to school woefully unprepared and if there is no appreciation of education in the household - then all of the teaching skills in the world won't change the outcome.

Why our learned leaders believe that all students can excel in the classroom is beyond me. It has never been that way and it will never be that way. Because of raw intelligence, because of family background, because of peer pressure and a host of other reasons, some students will perform at a lower level than other students.

Gates and others want to point the finger of blame in the wrong direction. They fail to accept the foundation that students bring with them as a factor in their achievement. It's way too easy to simply blame a teacher or a school when a group of students fails to achieve. Teachers should unquestionably push all students to achieve the absolutely maximum they possibly can. But at the end of the day, some students will achieve more than others. So quit blaming the schools.

Perhaps Gates, because of his vast wealth, believes that putting more tax money into the system is the answer. His money would be better served in developing a stronger family structure, with discipline and responsibility and respect for others as the cornerstones. But as we all know, that dream is allusive and perhaps beyond the bounds of human achievement.

High schools are not failing their students. Parents are failing their children. Gates told the governors that schools should be smaller and failing schools should be closed. But Gates failed to explain how to pay for his costly plan. I suspect the American taxpayer- who is struggling with health care costs, transportation costs and thousands of other issues - might just balk at paying more taxes to chase a distant dream.

All students should be consistently prodded to achieve the most they can. There are no exceptions to that rule. But once accomplished, we need to appreciate that those who achieve below expectations did so not because of a school failure.

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