The Professional Association of Teachers, in England, is voting this week to replace F (fail) with the designation Deferred Success. The rationale behind the proposal is that repeated instances of failure set students up for … well… failure. It is true that the letter F has gained significant power in our society as a mark of ones ability. However, to shy away from the reality that everyone is not going succeed in academic achievements is unrealistic, and takes our attention away from the real problem which is that we do not have a good system for providing both the academic minded and the non-academic minded student with the education they need to succeed in life.
As an adult I know there are people who are significantly more intelligent with a higher aptitude to higher education then I. At the same time, there is also a group which is less inclined to succeed in academic pursuits. The fact that for the most part we are all educated together in the same classes sets up the scenario for students to fail at an early age. While I can’t advocate a system whereby students are separated out early based on their test scores, I do feel we need to expand the definition of education to provide opportunities for success rather then deferring it indefinitely. Certainly one area in which we could accomplish this is by ensuring that our schools receive enough funding to offer so called “electives” in addition to the basics. If we want to keep our students motivated and wanting to learn we have to provide them with opportunities to be passionate about learning. For many students, this passion may not come from math, science or literature. These students may find this passion in music, art, shop or language. Imagine a scenario in which a student discovers that he or she is a brilliant carpenter while in the school system. This student would have the opportunity to truly explore this area of study in a supported environment (much like the science student) while at the same time also being exposed to the “basic” skills he/she will need to be successful in life.
It sounds simple and cliché but it all comes down to MONEY. That our elementary and secondary teachers are paid less than a manager at a fast food restaurant is atrocious. That there are charity events held to collect school supplies similar to food drives, is a ridiculous. Our economy is build on commerce. Commerce is dependent upon buying power. Buying power is dependent upon earnings. Earnings are dependent upon skills – are you getting the picture. I am not here to preach “no child left behind” blah blah blah, but if we do not fix the ills of our education system we are going to end up in a society which will not have the financial diversification to support the level of domestic commerce necessary to keep all of us corporate types employed.
Unfortunately, we cannot wait for deferred success, we are already failing.