How to Stunt a Student’s Growth

Many of you who read my blog posts work in education. Perhaps you can shed some light on my topic today, one which I continue to grieve over—the challenges students are unable to work through on their university campuses.

Did you know that Harvard University provides massage circles when tough topics are discussed that might traumatize their students? They also show videos featuring playful puppies, just in case a student becomes anxious or upset and feels the need to watch something happy. Schools are expected to ease up and almost become surrogate parents to the kids.

Believe it or not, it often begins in K-12 schools. CBC News in Toronto recently reported that, “For students in Toronto’s Catholic District School Board, 35 per cent is the new zero. That’s because a new policy specifies that teachers are not allowed to record any mark below 35 per cent on students’ mid-term reports.” Consequently, a student could earn an absolute zero on their report card—but their grade will never go below a 35. Evidently, some believe a failing student just can’t handle that reality.

Wow. Is all of this really helpful to students in the long run?

Not everyone thinks so. Dave Szollosy, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association’s Toronto secondary unit, stated he thinks the new policy could give students an incorrect view of their academic performance. “By not honestly reporting significant needs and problems with the students’ progress, you’re masking problems and not being honest in identifying student needs so they can be properly addressed,” Szollosy said. “If you mask problems, how does that help to identify them?”

I completely agree. When people are young (and the stakes are relatively low) is the time to graciously be honest about where they stand and make corrections. If adults can’t do it in school, a boss will eventually have to do it when they’re at work… and it probably won’t be pretty. Now is the time we get them ready for the world that awaits them.

That’s what my friend Everett Piper believes, too.

A Day Care or a University?

Everett Piper is the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. In a recent open letter to students, Piper furnished some old-fashioned tough love. OWU is a private, faith-based university that’s dealing with the same issues other higher education institutions are dealing with. Below is a portion of that letter:

“This is not a Day Care. It’s a University!

“This past week, I actually had a student come forward after a chapel service and complain because he felt “victimized” by a sermon on the topic of I Corinthians 13. (The “Love Chapter.”) It appears that this young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love. In his mind, the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.  

“I’m not making this up. Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic. Any time their feelings are hurt, they are victims. Anyone who dares to challenge them and, thus, makes them ‘feel bad’ about themselves is a ‘hater,’ a ‘bigot,’ an ‘oppressor’ and a ‘victimizer.’ 

“I have a message for this young man and all others who care to listen. That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience… At OKWU, we teach you to be selfless rather than self-centered… This is a place where you will quickly learn that you need to grow up. This is not a Day Care. It’s a university.”

We May Just Stunt Their Growth

I believe if we cave on this issue, we can actually stunt a student’s growth. I am not suggesting we be cruel or mean-spirited—we can be honest and gracious. But a true sign of love is honesty.

Question: Do you really love the students you serve? We must be honest with students and equip them to stop playing the “victim card.” To not give them a zero when they performed poorly is actually the cruel thing to do. We’ve lied to them. We are guilty of the soft bigotry of low expectations.

The next time you’re tempted to lower a standard that you know is right, or to give in because students say they feel like victims, tell yourself this truth:

I could stunt their growth if I am not truthful with them now. I will fail to prepare them for the challenging world we desperately need them to be ready for. If I really care about them and their hopeful future—I owe it to them to be honest.

I will not stunt their growth. Will you?

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How to Stunt a Student’s Growth