I’ll never forget how excited I was to be able to take a science course Pass/Fail. I knew I was smart enough to pass, with minimal effort, but if I had to take the course for a real grade, I’d be lucky to get a grade higher than 75. Science wasn’t my strong suit. The Pass/Fail system doesn’t encourage diligence. It allows mediocrity.
New York City’s public school teachers are all “graded” on the Pass/Fail System, and 98 percent of them “Pass.” The unions wouldn’t have it any other way. While unions were created to protect employees from management abuses and foster equality for all, they now allow far too many poor to average performers to keep their jobs.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his 11th year in office, is determined to change the education system in my hometown and I’m behind him all the way. Public school children must have the opportunity to get the same education as their private school “cousins,” whose parents can afford to shell out $30,000 a year for their elementary school education. Teachers must be graded as they grade their own students and those who fail to make the grades must be send packing.
Proponents of the Pass/Fail principle say it allows people to be more relaxed so they can perform their best, without the pressures of being “graded.” Hooey! Many of our teachers are so “relaxed,” they’re practically asleep, and so are their students, not to mention apathetic or angry. Sure, hard-working go-getters will do their best, even when they’re not being graded, but they don’t grow on trees.
There is nothing like a good teacher, who is not only smart, but also dedicated and diligent. I’ll always remember Professors Sidney Towne and Meyer Stein, who taught in the journalism program at NYU, my alma mater. Sidney was a pushover for pretty girls (he was a grandfatherly type), while Meyer was a stern fellow. But each of them helped give me the groundwork for what would become my career as a writer, reporter and editor.
Kids can’t wait to get to college to experience great teachers. But if the quality of New York City’s teachers continues to go down, students won’t have to worry. They won’t be able to get into college in the first place.