Mediocrity and the American Education System: An Opinion

Mediocrity, noun

: the quality of something that is not very good : the quality or state of being mediocre

: a person who does not have the special ability to do something well

I don’t normally use this forum for expressing my thoughts on politically charged topics, but this particular one is bothering me a bit.

There’s a Twitter hashtag out there in the cyberverse, #staymadabby, in response to a Supreme Court case currently under review.  Ms. Abigail Fisher of Texas, a white female, applied to her dream school, the University of Texas in 2009 and did no get in.  She claims students of “lesser” quality (academically, etc) were admitted.  She’s not happy about it. Background on her case to indicate that she wasn’t qualified and that is why she wasn’t admitted.  She sued the University of Texas and her case has been moving slowly through the system all this time.  This will be the second time the case will be presented before the Supreme Court.  Justice Scalia has already chimed in… negatively.  This should get interesting very quickly.

Upon doing a bit of research on UT’s admissions policy, Ms. Fisher’s overall qualifications and my understanding of what Affirmative Action is about and who is assisted most by it, I, personally, don’t think Abby has a leg to stand on.  From the anecdotal reading I’ve come across, she’s just a kid who assumed she’d get in cus well, she’s a white female, why wouldn’t she get in. How DARE THEY not admit her!  She did just enough to get in!  Or so she thought.

DID JUST ENOUGH.

There were a million things wrong with the No Child Left Behind legislation, whose genesis came from Texas.  Basically, that entire program was about “doing just enough” to pass a test and being rewarded for it.  There is an entire generation of students, many who struggled through college, who weren’t pushed to think critically, but to simply “pass the test”.  Students who were given passes and waivers and not pushed in any significant way but were told they’d shine in college.  If you ask any college grad in their mid 20s now, most will tell you, they weren’t ready for the college experience.  I’ve had college professors tell me, this group just didn’t have the chops.  Four year programs took many of them 5 and 6 years to complete.  They were ALL mediocre. Yet, some knew they had to work hard, they WANTED it, they could taste it.

Abby apparently didn’t.  Having a hissy fit about it won’t change that.

I teach children who show me daily that they’re content with “just enough”.  The assumption that “dad will get me in at the mill” or “mom knows someone at her job” will be enough for them.  Those who are considering college are willing to settle for one class at a time at the community college or hope they can cut it at the local commuter campus of the larger state schools.  Many have “helicopter parents”… hovering and pestering and expecting exceptions to the rules for their “babies”. (I have one college professor friend so frustrated with 20 year olds and their mothers he’s considering leaving the classroom)

What does this all mean in the larger picture of the American Education System?  Have we failed the students by not expecting more or has the decades old,  “just enough” mentality about academic success FINALLY caught up with us?  The new education law promises sweeping changes to the way things have been done in the last 13+ years.  We shall see.  Hopefully, some of that change includes the level of performance we expect from our students… starting with the quality of education provided in districts.

I want more for my students than “just enough”.  I don’t want them to be given false hope of success beyond high school when its obvious they haven’t put in the work to be successful.  I don’t want them to be angry when their “dreams” don’t come true because they were told to believe the fairy tale.  I want success for them; whatever that means for each of them.

#StayMadAbby  …sadly, I don’t think it was all your fault, but even with that, success for you is earned, not assumed.