The page then contained a list of statements, including:
Your performance in school determines the quality of your future life: size of income -- person you marry -- station in life -- satisfaction from spare time activities -- etc.
Up to one third of your life is spent in school.
Your main job at this time is studying, being a student.
You are “paid” with knowledge and grades for going to school.
Getting high grades is only one of many rewards of a good student. Even more important is the satisfaction that comes from a job well done -- the best job you are capable of doing! PRIDE!
Studying will be a burden unless YOU do something to make it enjoyable.
The skills you learn and the habits you adopt will remain with you throughout your life.
You become an expert only after continual practice.
Unless you work with each skill repeatedly, the skill will be lost!
Reward yourself if you do a good job.
Where to begin? How about with the outright falsity of what they’re teaching these kids? Your performance in school -- in fifth grade, no less! -- determines the quality of your future life? The person you marry? The satisfaction you get from spare time activities? These are the kind of pseudo-scientific factoids that our kids should learn to be skeptical of. Instead, they’re encouraged to swallow them whole: YES, IT’S A FACT! Please, show me the empirical research supporting these assertions.
I’m sure one could find studies showing correlations between, say, high school or college grades and income. Correlation, of course, doesn’t prove causation, because another cause -- socioeconomic status? -- might be driving both variables. But even if you could prove that getting good grades in college has, for many people, some independent effect on income, it would still be false to say that your performance in fifth grade, or any grade, “determines” the quality of your future life.
As one girl said to her friend, “You should have brought up Einstein.” Or, I thought, George W. Bush.
Second, “station in life”?! Does the district really mean to teach that everyone has a “station in life” that is fixed by the time they finish school? And to pass that “fact” along without any reflection on whether it is just or unjust?
Third, what a vision of school! Did anyone stop to consider that portraying school as a thirteen-year sentence in a labor camp, preceded by a stern lecture, might not be the best motivational strategy? (The word “job” appears six times.) What does it say about the district’s faith in the quality of its classroom experiences that it chooses to use fear as the main motivator for going to school? What does it say about the district’s understanding of motivation? What does it say about the district’s own attitude toward the learning process?
As another parent said after reading the list, “It’s as if they’ve never been intellectually interested in anything in their lives.”
Finally, what about the kids who are struggling? What will this do to their motivation? If they’re trying hard and still not “performing well,” what message -- other than frustration and despair -- will they take away from this presentation, as they anticipate their lowly, inevitable, and apparently deserved “station in life”?
Click the image to see the whole sheet.