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Tragedies of Social Promotion

I was listening to the Jordan Harbinger Show where he was interviewing former drug dealer "Freeway" Ricky Ross. Ricky had this interesting thing to say about school:

Teachers didn't hold me back, even though I didn't know how to read or write. They didn't want to hurt me. (Parphrased, not an exact quote.)

I will say that education (you'll notice the little e, there) is the solution to our greatest problems in this world. Whereas, Education (the system) is not the solution to our greatest problems, but is in fact a great contributor to our problems.

Repeating a grade or being held back is almost always a complete waste of time because the expectation is that a student is just being exposed to the exact same things they were exposed to last year.

Why in the world should we think that the exact thing that didn't work the first will magically work the second time?

Instead of going to college on a scholarship, this tennis player turned into a drug dealer, and guess where he finally learned how to read and write? That's right, in prison.

Talk about a failure on our part as educators.

So, what is the solution?

Eliminate grade levels.

Establish proficiency standards at a local level that kids need to master in order to advance.

One complaint is with this approach we won't know that a diploma at one school means the same as a diploma at another school.

Guess what?


It means that students in the state likely spent a similar amount of time sitting in a chair in a certain number of classes.

It doesn't mean that students all know the same things. It doesn't even mean that students were exposed to the same things.

A diploma from Adlai Stevenson High School is not the same as a diploma from the school I graduated from, Ferris High School.

Courageous, dare I say transformative, principals understand that they need to serve their local population, more than they serve colleges, the federal government, and even the state governments.

This started out about social promotion, but even social promotion could be beneficial if done well. The problem is we are focused on what other people think more than we are focused on the impact of our actions on the kids in front of us!