Hi Folks! Lynden Dorvel, a high school physics teacher in Edmonton, Canada, has been suspended indefinitely for defying his school’s relatively new practice of not giving zeros. As reported in the Edmonton Journal:
The physics teacher with 35 years experience said he continued giving zeros when students failed to hand in assignments, instead of using behaviour codes such as “not completed,” which the school requires under its grading and reporting practice.
The school says it stopped using zeros a year and a half ago because it believes giving students feedback on what they have yet to do is more motivating. Teacher Dorval says he not only shows students how the zero will affect their overall grade (which should be darn motivating), he stays after school three days a week for students to come in for extra help and is usually available at lunch hour, too. He also gives students a handout at the beginning of the year explaining his grading.
Why is this an issue on Free-Range Kids? Because it is once again treating today’s teens as if they are less competent and more fragile than any of the generations preceding them. When students don’t turn in a bunch of their assignments, the school asks teachers to write, “unable to evaluate.” But they clearly are able to evaluate, they’re just being told not to.
It’s not that I’m against all changes in school culture. I’m glad we don’t rap students’ knuckles anymore, and the dunce cap seemed pretty cruel. But a zero is a statement of fact, not an insult. Who has decided students can’t handle everyday life? The same folks who think they can’t handle pretty much anything else, from age-old literature (see Fannie story, below) or a bike ride to school (see this story, below) or the glare of notebook paper (see this) or a room temperature lunch (one of my favorite stories, here). But unless evolution did a U turn just a few years ago, kids can handle a lot more than we give them credit for. – L.