Matteo: I got an F — it’s your fault!

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

Just about everyone has had the experience of either failing or struggling to pass a class.  There are numerous reasons students give for failure, but as time passes fewer students take personal responsibility and seek to blame external factors for poor grades in a class or classes.

“It’s not my fault, the teacher is a bad teacher?”  “It’s not my fault; the tests were too hard.”  “It’s not my fault everyone else did poorly too.” In the past, students were told to simply “suck it up,” however, in today’s “everyone is a victim mentality,” institutional and educational bureaucrats are quick to ally with students and justify the “it is someone else’s fault dogma.”

The educational enablers defend their coddling of students and, as they always do, come up with a semantic term to rationalize babying students.  They call it “student-centered education.”

I went to college in the 1980s and had more than one of my college professors who, in their opening lectures, bragged about how many students failed their course. Things have certainly changed. Approximately fifteen years ago, I did a guest lecture at the University of Tampa and the professor (non-tenured) who was teaching the class told me that she was always worried about bad reviews from students because it could result in her losing her job at the university. The pendulum of who is in control of classrooms has certainly swung from professional educators to spoiled students who are certain they know more than those who have made education their lives.

At New York University, esteemed professor Maitland Jones Jr. was fired because students complained that his organic chemistry class was too difficult. When 82 of 350 students signed a petition that made the claim that they were failing because the class was too difficult, NYU administrators fired a man who has a distinguished 40-year career teaching chemistry, which included publishing 225 papers.

There have been many instances where university administrators terminated professors because of student accusations and demands. Yet, this isn’t just happening on college campuses. In Florida, middle school teacher Diane Tirado was fired for giving students zeroes for assignments that they didn’t turn in because of what she said was a “no zero policy” that Tirado said was included in her school’s student and parent handbook.

Educational standards have been under attack for years. If you listen to some “educators,” grades are bad, homework is bad, and just about anything that is taught without a woke agenda is racist.  One Brooklyn College professor stated that “The push for “2 + 2 = 4 reeks of white supremacist patriarchy” because “the idea that math (or data) is culturally neutral or in any way objective” is a myth.

In 2019, Seattle Public Schools released a new curriculum plan to “re-humanize” math because claims were made that western math was used to “disenfranchise communities of color.”

One of the goals for a New York group called Abolition Science is to “to undermine the racial capitalist logics of Western Science & Math that necessitate the continued exploitation and violence against land and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color)

So what are the results of “student-centered education,” teaching non-racist, westernized science and math where the feelings police run the asylums and get experienced teachers with high standards fired and identity politics has replaced logical calculations to discern math problems?

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the results of 2018 (the last time this test was given), the US ranked 11th in science and 30th in math out of the 79 countries where students were tested.  The OECD for math scores was 489, and the US average was 479.  Countries ahead of the US in math included: Singapore, Japan, Macao and Taiwan.  In science, US students scored lower than students from Estonia, Macao, Finland, Singapore and Japan.  A conclusion of the report was that US students’ math scores showed no improvement since 2003 and there were no improvements in science since 2006. Thus, as other countries improve, and US students remain stagnant the US is losing ground because of a very poor, politicized educational system, which does not bode well for the future.

The United States spends more on the education of students than any other country in the world, yet the results don’t reflect that Americans are getting the bang for their educational buck.

A large part of this is that when students in other countries are learning complex math and science concepts, students in America are being taught that math and science are racist and teachers are spending hours to come up with gender-inclusive pronouns not to offend their transgender students when they do word problems.  When students complain about their knowledgeable instructors who have proven track records in their fields in other countries, no credence is given to their whining, but in America, these professors are fired, and the ones who survive dumb down their classes to avoid negative reviews so they can remain employed.

School policymakers in other countries focus on useful skills that will help their nations remain globally competitive, whereas in America school boards and educational fat cats are more interested in appeasing those claiming to be a member of some marginalized group and rewriting curriculum that is more focused on feelings than facts and critical thinking skills.  Myopic administrators believe that their fix to problems is to dumb down standards, eliminate grades, and strive for diversity, equity and inclusion as a replacement for merit and rewarding good students for their achievements.

Fundamental attribution error is a psychological concept that explains why some people believe that external forces beyond their control are the cause of bad things, such as getting fired from a job or getting a bad grade on a test. American students are being trained to always point their fingers at others when they feel and are told, “It’s never your fault.” This victim-mentality has made teaching a nightmare for teachers who still believe in standards because these teachers and professors are viewed as scapegoats and the only teacher who will survive this purge are the woke educators who never fail anyone (unless maybe you’re a white male who wears a red hat) and who encourage students to make excuses for not studying, not turning in work and teaching them how to blame others when they don’t get what they want.

Failing at something can be the greatest motivator and teacher because it forces individuals who are not afraid to blame the person in the mirror to examine the reasons for the failure, so it will not be repeated. This requires objectivity, but in a world where math professors make the claim that objectivity is a myth and impart this to their students, it’s a very hard sell. It’s so much easier to make excuses and blame others when things don’t go your way.

If a teacher is fired for refusing to give students 50% on an assignment they never turned in, how does this teach a student to be responsible? The student who expects to get 50% of their paycheck even though they never showed up for 1 minute of work, will be in for a very rude awakening. True educators understand that accountability is one of the greatest lessons that students will ever learn.


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