Handing a 0 to no 0 policies.

When I started this blog, back when I didn’t know this blog would become, well, this blog, I swore to myself I’d never have a reason to start off an entry with “this might be showing my age”. And then, just like that, I had a reason to start an entry exactly like that. And it’s all the fault of the non-education system.

This indeed might just be showing my age, but when I was in school, the absolute worst thing you could ever have happen to you from an academic viewpoint was to miss a due date. Not because people back then suddenly found themselves incredibly devoted to getting their homework done–far from it. I’m pretty sure there’s always been that cluster of people who had so much better things to do than homework. They were usually the ones seen in the middle of a massive heart attack about 2 days before the exam when they were in danger of having to repeat the class, or worse, the year. They were the ones, most of the time, who insisted they didn’t fail a grade–they were just “held back”, while all the while consistently showing off their definition of “held back”. And then things started happening. Graduation rates fell, dropout rates increased, kids were doing absolutely craptacular in testing. Piled on top of that were, at least in Ontario, several strikes by either the teachers or their support staff–kind of like what’s going on now, except there was no bill 115 for them to be upset with.

When I left highschool, the cariculum at least in Ontario was being turned inside out. Standardised testing was implemented, which didn’t do very many people very many favours. A lot of the courses that were supposed to prepare you for university were either stripped out, or pared down so they weren’t as intimidating for the majority of people. Ontario used to be one of the only, if not the only, province that had a grade 13–the extra year kids could take if they needed additional credits for a college/university course, or if, as was often the case, you needed that university level math, english and whatever else because grades 11 and 12 didn’t have the room for it–and most universities wouldn’t look at you if you didn’t have at least that.

When they killed grade 13, they started softening up on things in general. For instance, around that same time was when I’d first heard of schools getting away from handing out a 0 for incomplete work. Folks who went to the same highschool I spent most of my time at became very familiar with the phrase “I can’t mark air”. Which usually carried with it the pretty straightforward implication that hey, you can put off doing $asignment at your choosing, but don’t look past the end of your nose when it shows up on your report card. Shortly after I was done with highschool in general, that went out the window–around, most likely, the same time as the teacher who invented that phrase was either fired or encouraged to quit or otherwise found herself not working at the school. Then the government changed, attitudes on failure changed, the idea that maybe they were too hard on the kids was taking hold, and we somehow twisted and turned our way to a teacher in Edmonton getting fired for daring to hand out 0’s.

This conversation comes up every so often between myself and quite a few people, usually around the time someone discovers the world outside of highschool is more than a little tiny bit different. It’ll no doubt come up again, after the resignation of the director of toronto’s school board for plagiarrism to the 80 millionth degree–particularly given that the offending director didn’t see anything wrong with it. And indeed, the way things are right now with schools being strongly discouraged from failing kids for not doing their work, or worse–copy/pasting someone else’s work and calling it their own, they’re escentially saying there’s nothing wrong with it. Kids are told to just do the work, or in the case of a plagiarised asignment, to redo it, and often times that’s the end of it. And that’s if the asignment is even investigated for plagiarism at all–which, if we’re being realistic, would have likely meant Toronto would have had a different director for its school board if that actually happened.

governments, at least up here, are big on not being hard on the kids. On making sure the kids are comfortable and not intimidated or stressed or whatever while in school, and on escentially making sure the kids graduate. Which, on its face, is something to be all for. And I’d love to be. But when they do it at the expense of the kids actually learning something, Houston, we have a cluster. In life, especially if you decide to go through university and the like, you’re going to have more than a few scrapes with deadlines. You’re going to have more than a few close calls. You’re probably going to fail, or come close to failing, at least once. It’s not supposed to be easy. Neither is the world outside the university bubble. So why does that not apply to highschool, which is supposed to be prepping you for life in, and after, college/university? Why, instead, are kids shielded from the reality of what happens if they decide to wait until the day of the exam before they go off on a mad dash to hand in the asignments that were due a month ago? If I didn’t know better, I’d be inclined to think the folks who dreamed up this idea were on the business end of a few 0’s in their lifetimes.

Look. No kid at any age *wants* to go to school. I didn’t. Most if not all the people I know didn’t. And we weren’t the biggest fans of homework either. But we did it, even if we bitched about it for an hour and a half afterwards. That’s life. Except now, that part of life is escentially optional. Look, guys. I get it. You want more kids graduating. I can get behind that. I’d love to see more of the younger folks I know graduating. But guess what? Graduating them like this just shoots them in the foot. Sorry, folks. But on this one, I give yall a 0. You can do it over, but now you’re late. Have fun.

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