What Our Education System Needs is More Fs


“What Our Education System Needs Is More Fs” by Carl Singleton

1. Choose ONE of the following approaches

A. Offer an Opposing View

Take a different position from that of the author. Support your position and also use counterargument to raise and refute one or more of the author’s points.

B. Expand the Topic

Take a similar position to that of the author. Support your position using at least one of the author’s points as well as additional points (from your own knowledge/experience) that the author did not consider.

2. Write a two-to-four page (500 to 1000 words) essay using the topic and approach that you have chosen. Cite your sources using MLA format.

What Our Education System Needs is More Fs Carl Singleton 1984

I suggest that instituting merit raises, getting back to basics, marrying the university to industry, and. other recommendations will not achieve measurable success [in restoring quality to American education] until something even more basic is returned to practice. The immediate need for our educational system from pre-kindergarten through post-Ph.D. is not more money or better teaching but simply a widespread giving of F’s. Before hastily dismissing the idea as banal and simplistic, think for a moment about the implications of a massive dispensing of failing grades. It would dramatically, emphatically, and immediately force into the open every major issue related to the inadequacies of American education. Let me make it clear that I recommend giving those F’s-by the dozens, hundreds, thousands, even millions-only to students who haven’t learned the required material. The basic problem of our educational system is the common practice of giving credit where none has been earned, a practice that has resulted in the sundry faults delineated by all the reports and studies over recent years. Illiteracy among high-school graduates is growing because those students have been passed rather than flunked; we have low-quality teaching because of low-quality teachers who never should have been certified in the first place; college students have to take basic reading, writing, and mathematics courses because they never learned those skills in classrooms from which they never should have been granted egress. School systems have contributed to massive ignorance by issuing unearned passing grades over a period of some 20 years. At first there was a tolerance of students who did not fully measure up (giving D’s to students who should have received firm F’s); then our grading system continued to deteriorate (D’s became C’s, and B became the average grade); finally we arrived at total accommodation (come to class and get your C’s, laugh at my jokes and take home B’s). Higher salaries, more stringent certification procedures, getting back to basics will have little or no effect on the problem of quality education unless and until we insist, as a profession, on giving F’s whenever students fail to master the material. Sending students home with final grades of F would force most parents to deal with the realities of their children’s failure while it is happening and when it is yet possible to do something about it (less time on TV, and more time on homework, perhaps!). As long as it is the practice of teachers to pass students who should not be passed, the responsibility will not go home to the parents, where, I hope, it belongs. (I am tempted to make an analogy to then Gov. Lester Maddox’s statement some years ago about prison conditions in Georgia – “We’ll get a better grade of prisons when we get a better grade of prisoners”- but I shall refrain.) Giving an F where it is deserved would force concerned parents to get themselves away from the TV set, too, and take an active part in their children’s education. I realize, of course, that some parents would not help; some cannot help. However, Johnny does not deserve to pass just because Daddy doesn’t care or is ignorant. Johnny should pass only when and if he knows the required material. Giving an F whenever and wherever it is the only appropriate grade would force principals, school boards, and voters to come to terms with cost as a factor in improving our educational system. As the numbers of students at various levels were increased by those not being passed, more money would have to be spent to accommodate them. We could not be accommodating them in the old sense of passing them on, but by keeping them at one level until they did in time, one way or another, learn the material. Insisting on respecting the line between passing and failing would also require us to demand as much of ourselves as of our students. As every teacher knows. a failed student can be the product of a failed teacher. Teaching methods, classroom presentations, and testing procedures would have to be of a very high standard-we could not, after all, conscionably give F’s if we have to go home at night thinking it might somehow be our own fault. The results of giving an F where it is deserved would be immediately evident. There would be no illiterate college graduates next spring-none. The same would be true of high-school graduates, and consequently next year’s college freshmen – all of them – would be able to read. I don’t claim that giving F’s will solve all of the problems, but I do argue that unless and until we start failing those students who should be failed, other suggested solutions will make little progress toward improving education. Students in our schools and colleges should be permitted to pass only after they have fully met established standards; borderline cases should be retained. The single most important requirement for solving the problems of education in America today is the big fat F, written decisively in red ink millions of times in schools and colleges across the country.

Citation: Singleton, Carl. “What Our Education System Needs Is More Fs.” Writing from Sources. Ed. Brenda Splatt. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 192-194. Print.

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