Monday, October 27, 2003

Writing Gud and ohter stuff

Some years ago, my daughter brought home several of her writing assignments for me to sign. The purpose of this, I suppose, is to insure parental involvement in the child's education. And, I suppose, this is a laudable endeavor. However, I was not prepared for what I was about to find.

These writing assignments, or what was called in my day, "expository writing", were designed for fourth graders to exhibit their command of written language. My daughter who always excelled in school (and still does) also had a lively command of spoken language and preternatural understanding of irony and wit. When I started reading her class work, I was appalled. While I might have given her high marks for imagination and the ability to tell a story, I would have failed her for grammar, syntax, punctuation and spelling. If I were handing out the grades, the best she would have received is a "C". Still, on every one of these papers, written in red, was an "A", often accompanied by a "Good Work!" or "Excellent".

Now, I know I haven't any background in primary education and perhaps my standards for a fourth grade paper might be a tad high, but it seems to me that a ten year old should know after four years of schooling what the principle parts of speech are and how to diagram a sentence. It certainly was common knowledge among my peers at a similar age. Of course, we had the tender and loving guidance of the Sisters of Providence and their rulers.

Driven by curiosity as much as by concern, I made an appointment with my daughter's teacher. I wanted to know what constituted a high mark for what was clearly mediocre work.

When we met, the usual pleasantries were exchanged and she was telling me what a joy my daughter was to have in class (which made me immediately question of her mental state). I produced the documents in question and demanded to know why she was giving my daughter an "A" when she clearly deserved a "C". (She probably would have failed the assignment in my school, but I'm a bit more merciful than the good sisters.)

I was then met with a look of utter disbelief. I'm sure it is unusual indeed to have a parent come in and demand their child's grade be lowered. But, my intention was to find out what the criteria was for literacy among the adults whom I had placed my child's intellectual development. Even a jaded soul such as I was not prepared for what I was about to hear.

"Oh, we don't put much emphasis on that stuff," was the explanation. In the spirit of the therapeutic times in which we live, she went on to explain, "We want the children to express themselves."

Yes, absolutely, by all means they should express themselves! Never mind their writing resembles that of an illiterate rustic or street urchin. This is after all, the age of self-esteem. Pride in one's work notwithstanding, we just need to feel good about ourselves.


Post a Comment

<< Home