Do students want it easy? A reader writes:
I’m a professor of computer science at a well-regarded university, and by most accounts the toughest professor in our department. I agree with what the majority of your readers have to say about our high schools, but there are a few points I would add.
I find that students like to be challenged. The impression that students are looking for an easy ride is completely inaccurate, at least for most students. The problem, from my perspective, is a vicious cycle in which nonchallenging high school courses result in disrespect from students, which in turn gives teachers the impression that students don’t want challenge, so the courses get watered down even more, etc. The solution is for teachers to make their courses demanding and not to apologize about it. The system needs to support them in doing so.
And, we need to fail some students. Different students have different academic “pain thresholds”; some see anything less than an A as reason to buckle down and do better, while others will calmly accept a C or D and change nothing. The simple fact is that some students will not take education seriously until they fail. If we refuse to fail any students, we harm this group by allowing them to sabotage their own educations through lack of effort.
Current educational doctrine views a tough academic standard, with some students failing, as elitist, and a gentle standard, with a focus on high self-esteem, as egalitarian. In fact, exactly the reverse is true. Some students will drive themselves to learn regardless of whether they are made to or not. Others will learn only if the educational system demands it of them. A gentle standard, regardless of its intentions, is brutally elitist in that ensures that the former group become intellectual “haves” while the latter become intellectual “have-nots”. A high standard that demands excellence of all students is truly egalitarian in its outcome, and is essential to the health of a free society.
— Clinton Staley
San Luis Obispo
Some students have parents who will push them to work hard. Those who don’t need to get that from their teachers.