Stop lying to students

There are way too many lies educators tell students and they simply need to end.

If you don’t go to college…

Try this experiment. Ask a class to complete the following statement:

“If you don’t go to college you’ll end up working at…”

In unison, learners will say “McDonalds.” Now, this is a twofold lie.

First, it tells kids that the lack of a higher education will result in menial and degrading, minimum wage labor. This is not true. There are multiple paths to high paying jobs, many of which do not require higher education. College is one path, but not the only one.

Second, it tells learners that working at McDonalds is shameful. Despite your opinion of the fast food chain, the company offers high paying jobs with opportunity for growth. The company is known to promote from within and many franchise owners started as clerks.

I’m teaching responsibility

Responsibility comes from maturity and an intrinsic desire to take care of oneself and others. When it is extrinsic it is called compliance or coercion.  If we want to teach responsibility we have to do the following:

  • allow learners to be a part of the decision making process.
  • give the freedom to make choices.
  • allow learners to set daily or weekly goals in their  work and have them hold each other accountable.
  • let them choose their consequences when they make mistakes.
  • have them play a part of the assessment process.

We have to give them power over learning if we want to teach responsibility. The more control a learner has, the more we teach them to be responsible.

When I was a kid we never…

This just needs to stop because it is the biggest load of garbage ever. In 450 BC, Socrates is attributed to say,

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Adults have complained about the unrulyness of children throughout history.  Maybe YOU didn’t do those things when you were a kid, but to say your generation was perfect in every way is eggregious.

I’m preparing you for the real world 

Short of having to wake up early and being on time, school is nothing like the real world. In the real world people spend their work day on specialized projects or tasks. They do not work on six artificially created, disconnected assignments that they will be tested on and never use again beyond the test. In the real world people work on projects and solve problems.

If we want school to prepare learners for the real world, learning should be integrated and should focus on skills that allow learners to tap into their own interests to address issues that are important to them.

This will look good on your transcript 

If we tell a learner the primary reason they should take on a challenging class or get involved in extracurricular activities is to fill out a college application, then WE are missing the point.

Leadership roles, AP classes, athletics, drama, and other extracurriculars are opportunities for deeper learning and allow kids to develop character. They expose them to experiences that are life-changing and meaningful. Educators should not diminish the value of these to a few words on an application.

You’re a failure

If I had my way, I would get rid of F grades all together. I am not saying a child should get class credit for doing nothing all semester long. However, I think the grade should be an Incomplete.

Learners have not necessarily failed the class. Rather, they did not fulfill the requirements or demonstrate their ability to meet the standards of the class YET. When we put an F on work or on a report card we are saying the learner failed. And when we say Failed the message received is someone who fails is a failure.

The word Fail is so final. If we shift our language from Fail to Incomplete we remove its finality. With an Incomplete a learner can choose later to complete the work or class. In my class I give Incomplete grades and change the grade when learners submit work that meets standards, be it a week after the semester or months later.


8 thoughts on “Stop lying to students

  1. Great post — thanks. The fast food example is so important; if people are going to eat fast food then some jobs will be in fast food, and if we use those jobs as a threat we are endorsing looking down on other humans.

    Regarding responsibility, I’ve thought about this a lot, also from the angle of health, as someone who has a chronic illness that was very bad for a while. Many of my college students would drag themselves to class with the flu thinking this was responsible behavior, when I was on immune suppressing drugs. So many of their other instructors had policies that said that if you miss x classes your grade goes down y etc. I think unintentionally we’ve taught them that responsible people don’t get sick — and I’ve seen otherwise “responsible” students just distraught when they get diagnosed with something that makes them unable to meet all deadlines — because now their identify as a responsible person is in doubt (I have struggled this way too)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Responsibility comes from maturity and an intrinsic desire to take care of oneself and others. When it is extrinsic it is called compliance or coercion.” I’ve been saying something like this for years but you said it so much better. Thanks Aaron.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you! I think you make some sound points. There is nothing wrong with working in fast food. We don’t necessarily teach responsibility. I’m a Pre- A Nation At Risk student. Schools had a plethora of issues. School did not prepare me for the real world. The real world and my parents prepared me for it.

    Nevertheless, there are things we do and tell students today that are today’s reality. While there’s nothing wrong with working in fast food, it’s not a place to make a career unless you’re in management or own a franchise. We don’t directly teach responsibility giving grading policies, but we do have expectations of students and their work and their efforts in extracurricular activities. School aren’t perfect, but they are better than they were when I was in school. I think students have to use the opportunities school affords to learn to plan, lead, grow and develop. There’s nothing wrong with doing these things and adding them to your resume. We do it as adults (i.e. Volunteer at food banks or churches, serve on HOA boards, clean roads, etc.).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Anthony. I agree Schools are getting better, but there is a lot of room for improvement.

      I wasn’t saying that learners shouldn’t be told not to put extracurricular activities on their application. Rather, it should be a perk and not the hook.

      Let’s continue do do what’s best for kids.


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