School daze

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Schools in Nashville, Tenn., have decided not to post honor rolls anymore, and some are thinking about ending the age-old practice of hanging the best classroom work on the walls, all because the school system's attorneys are worried that release of this academic information violates state privacy laws. The move came after some parents complained that their children were being ridiculed because they didn't make the honor roll.

One Nashville principal has jettisoned the honor roll altogether. Some school systems in Tennessee are requiring parents to sign a release before any student information is made public.

It's not an "I'm OK, you're OK" world the students will enter when they graduate. Generally, students will be rewarded and recognized in the work world for doing their job well. Why teach them that performance doesn't matter?

Perhaps part of the impetus for this overreaction has come from the great emphasis put on grades in our schools. Good grades are key to getting into a good college.

At academically competitive Saratoga High School in Northern California, four students face expulsion for using a device to get teachers' passwords that allowed them to steal English tests. Then they shared with other students.

In the soon-to-be-released comedy "The Perfect Score," students plot to steal the SAT exam as if it were a side-splitting episode from "Mission Impossible," hardly stopping to ponder the morality of what they are doing.

But not making the honor roll ought not make a student feel ridiculed. It ought to give the student incentive to do better, to try harder to make it next time.

Next, will the parents of students who did not make the basketball team or the debate team or the cheerleading squad insist that the schools spare their children the embarrassment of not excelling at athletics or argumentation?

Honoring students who excel is not the same as embarrassing those who do not.

The Nashville schools have lost track of their common sense. They have allowed liticaphobia, the fear of lawsuits, to run their schools. Should we now fear praising our children?

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