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The dumbing down of our youth continues

May 4, 2009

Just when you think you've heard everything about how today's youth aren't being held to acceptable standards in school, something else has come along that defies logic.

ZAP - Zeroes Aren't Permitted - is being used across the country for students in middle school and high school to finish the homework they neglected to do on time.

Shhhh! Please don't tell my son.

The dumbing down of our youth continues.

There are also school districts where an "F" is no longer an "F" - it's an "H" for "held." The students get an "H" on their report cards and are given an opportunity to make good.

Let's all feed good about ourselves.

Football should now be played as 50-on-50 so everyone can be a starter and feel good about themselves.

Basketball 12-on-12, baseball 15-on-15.

No one strikes out any more.

As Tom Hanks so eloquently put it, "There's no crying in baseball."

He meant that as a way for his center fielder to suck it up and play.

He didn't mean that as a way for little Susie of Joey to get a pat on the back and say, "It's OK. You're still a winner."

Years ago the NBA used to have three-to-make-two at the free throw line. Thankfully, that has been eliminated.

Every golfer makes a birdie. Bogeys and the dreaded "others" have been eliminated from the sport.

No more false starts in track. No more scratches in the long jump.

Every kid is now a valedictorian. No more salutatorians. No one is second anymore, we don't want them to feel badly about themselves.

ZAP is so far beyond stupid it is unbelievable. If a student chooses not to do the homework, why in the world should they get a second chance at it?

I bet Scott Norwood and Bill Buckner wishes that were available some 20 years ago.

At Little Axe Middle School in Norman, Okla., 25 percent of the student's total grade is slashed under its program. But students can still receive 75 percent of the homework grade if it is turned in, along with a parent's signature, up to two days late. After more than two days late a zero is given.

But, I thought zeroes weren't permitted?

Seriously, can we lower our standards even more?

At Fowler Middle School in Maynard, Mass., students are given a second chance on lost, missed or "forgotten" homework. This second chance is to increase student performance and build pride.


"ZAP will not be used as a punishment," Assistant Principal Jeff Mela wrote in the letter to parents. "The intent is to keep your child from receiving a zero."

Here's another way not to receive a zero: do the work when you are supposed to.

This just has to be a pain for teachers.

Finally, at Charlotte High School in Charlotte, Mich., late credit is always preferable to a zero, according to its student handbook. Students who miss assignments are mandated to go to a 55-minute classroom session on Tuesdays or Thursdays. For musicians and athletes, that means that classroom sessions takes precedence over all school activities.

What a concept - school before band or sports.

Michael Petrilli, from Stanford University's Hoover Institution and a former U.S. Department of Education official, is not a big fan of the new grading procedures and policies.

"This is clearly about dumbing down expectations for our students," Petrilli told "Some of these children are just a few years away from being in the workforce, in college or even in the military, and in none of those environments will they be coddled like they are in these programs.

"If you're getting a zero, that usually means you didn't turn in the assignment or do the job correctly. All this does is create cynicism among educators and send signals to students that the education system is not serious about achievement."

Why in the world are we lowering standards?

No excuses.

Suck it up and perform.

The idea is not to lower the standards so kids can meet them. Raise the standards and they will meet them.

We are giving kids excuses not to be accountable for their work, their actions, the attitudes.

You cannot perform any extra curricular activities without performing well in the classroom.

You get one chance at making a play each down in football.

You get one chance to turn in the daily homework assignment.

To be able to get one play right one time happens in practice, which is an athlete's daily homework.

Why should a student get three days to turn in homework?

Can you see this same student who eventually graduates and has to go get a job.

"Yes, boss, I was supposed to be here at 7 a.m. Monday," the worker says. "I thought if I showed up at 7 a.m. on Wednesday I could do my job and get 75 percent of my pay."

That would be zero tolerance with zero pay.

Forever ago we had physical education every day. Now, kids are lucky to get it three times a week. And, teachers are gradually being hamstrung with that they can do in class.

Middle schools and elementary schools have banned tag, dodgeball and kids are jumping rope without a rope so they can feel good that they never miss.

Seriously, what are we teaching our kids?

Schools across the nation have implemented a "no touching" policy.

No high-fives, no pats on the back.

No nothing.

In fact, it has been reported that one school disciplined a 5-year-old for giving another child a hug after her grandmother died.

Schools are playing shadow tag, where kids can only "touch" the shadow of another kid.

What happens when it's high noon?

Shadow tag is being played because kids are too rough on the playground.

Clean off your jeans and get up.

I would want my children in day care where they get hugged, grabbed, pushed and roll on the floor and play. I would want my children to be able to know how to interact with kids, know how to get off their keisters after getting bounced on them and know how to deal with a little bit of adversity.

If that happens at that age, I'll take their chances not to be children who sit and whine on the playground when they don't get their way.

Our game of two-hand touch turned into "accidentally on purpose tackle" when we were in the seventh- and eighth-grades. The teachers knew it was coming and eventually stopped it.

One of the best players in that group was a kid who could not do a jumping jack and was forever teased about it. He lived and we all wanted him on our team.

No one had a debilitating injury. Some kids were "tackled" harder than others.

So what?

The age of "everyone is special" has gone on long enough.

Everyone is special because everyone is created in God's image.

But, everyone is not special when it comes to school, sports, band, acting, etc.

It takes zero talent to work hard.

Why are we lowering expectations and standards?

If you ask above and beyond what a student is willing to give, they will meet your standards.

If your child went 1-for-10 from the free throw line in a close game, don't yell at the coach because your child is not in during the fourth quarter.

Your child will learn going 8-for-10 from the free throw line keeps them in the game.

It is then their choice to practice their free throws or be relegated to the bench in the fourth quarter. You, as a parent, really have no say in the matter.

If you are watching your children getting ready to fall flat on their face, do not stand there with open arms making sure they fall into your arms and not on the pavement.

Let them hit the pavement with a loud thud, let them skin their knees and bruise their bodies and then extend an arm to help them up and then give them that hug.

If we catch the fall, kids do not learn how to fail

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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