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LETTER: Lessons in Mediocrity

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Wade Reynolds, a retired teacher, has hit the mark with his Back Page essay, “Taking Score” regarding the rise of mediocrity, lowering of standards and misplaced priorities. He has identified some problems but solutions seem to go begging.

College athletics do not contribute to academic or research excellence. In fact, they are heavily subsidized by student fees which taxpayers in turn support by backing student loans. The most critical individual is the team bus driver in avoiding accidents which might injure team members.

School teachers — I would include youth and high-school coaches — make an important contribution to the public weal but are not compensated properly. One of the highest-paid state employees is the basketball coach at George Mason University. His salary alone, about $669,000, would employ about 14 public school teachers — each of whom would quadruple the number of young people they would impact in a given year, or as Henry James said, “A teacher affects eternity. ...”

But hovering parents should not be exempt from scrutiny. Kids now get certificates for just showing up. Nor are those parents not engaged in their kids’ learning exempted. The elephant in the educational room is parental involvement or lack thereof. Teachers can only do so much and most school boards don’t even address the issue.

There are few, if any, examples of improved quality when standards are lowered. Folks get admitted to college when they clearly cannot do the work and grade inflation seems to be rampant. Employers decry the lack of qualified job applicants. Perhaps Mr. Reynolds can reconcile this reality with his assertion that teachers have no margin for error. If kids are hitting the target, why do they require remediation and lack marketable job skills?

Walt Pulliam Jr.
Henrico

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