The title of this post is one of the simple truths that the author of Real Education outlines. Actually, it’s a trivial fact stemming from the definition of “average”. Yet, I bet many people when reading “half of the children are below average” feel a sudden urge to disagree.
Ability varies. That’s a simple reality of education. We have to recognize that. In the classroom, I believe in competition. To me, the way to bring up a failing student is to call him out for being lazy, or as the author suggests: to humiliate him for under-performing. This applies to the F students and the A students alike. In fact, the author particularly emphasizes knocking down the ego of the gifted students. With that idea I especially agree. In my experience, great performance is most often achieved in the long process of overcoming: striving with everything you have for the things that you suspect may be impossibly difficult.
Every student needs to learn that good education is a serious challenge. Hours of listening to lectures, reading textbooks, doing homework. Every day. For years. In order to succeed in that environment, a student has to develop a passion for overcoming their limitations. If they do not, then guess what, college is NOT for them.
Too many proposals addressing the reform of our education system do not acknowledge the elephant in the room, as the author says “some kids are just dumb”. To me, that’s a too harsh a way of putting it. I would perhaps phrase it differently. But ultimately the “value” of a human being does not depend upon his/her intelligence or performance. There are plenty of good men with an IQ below 100, perhaps even more than there are with an IQ above 100. So, I don’t know why we are so ashamed as a society to acknowledge the intellectual abilities of others, in the way that we do for athletic abilities for sports. “All men are created equal” does not literally mean we are all the same. It means we all deserve the same fundamental human rights. School should be based on the latter idea not the former one.
We should care for all students, as teachers, passionately, but also be reasonable objective observers of reality in the classroom. Perhaps, those two goals are tough to balance.
I don’t like how Randian I sound in this post. This is definitely one of the times when I wish I had more time to soften the language and clarify the argument. Oh well, this is just a blog that no one (except sometimes my dad) reads, not a dissertation.