Perhaps your children never made honor roll while they were in school. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons you pulled them out, or felt tempted to. If so, this post is for you and yours.
What is Honor Roll For, Anyway?
In civilian life, honor is almost an outdated concept. We think of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, dueling, and we laugh. It’s hard to believe that they would risk losing their lives, over a thing as insignificant as a sullied reputation.
When we have holidays like Memorial Day,however, the word “honor” reappears, with pride of place. We honor our veterans. We honor the fallen. We think of soldiers who go into battle as men and women of honor. We honor their memory.
Remember the Heroes
So, too, in our schools, we remember the hard work that students have done throughout the year, in particular, the hard work that resulted in high grades. Grades, in the academic world, are the ultimate measure of greatness.
Of course, these high achievers should be congratulated. Of course, their parents should be proud. These students will, we all hope, go on to do great things.
Remember the Fallen
But Honor Roll is also a mechanism by which the schools separate the wheat from the chaff. The “serious” students from the lazy bums. That is, the rest of the school population.
At least that’s the way it feels, when you happen to be relegated, by default, to the latter category.
For those who do make it onto A/B honor roll, that cherished list, life is sweet. There are treats, ceremonies, medals. The rest of the students get, in their stocking, the academic equivalent of a piece of coal.
There are those among them, of course, who are not lazy bums. They are already trying their best. And, for one reason or another, despite their best efforts, they still are not able to “make the grade”. They often work longer hours, and try harder, than their more successful peers, yet, by the merciless measure of grades, they still fall short.
To these kids, seeing the academic elite on a pedestal does not motivate them to work harder. It only shames them. And makes their effort seem pointless. Honor Roll is about as motivating to these kids, as participating in a public weigh-in is, to the perpetually obese.
Should We Do Away With Honor Roll?
You could say that Honor Roll is unfair. That it is an arbitrary system of layering the strata of motley humanity. That its sole purpose is to ease the burden on any given college, as it tries to decide which of these unknown, untried children, it should allow into its hallowed halls. All it has to do, is to remove the topsoil. Skim the surface. Take “the cream of the crop,” so to speak.
You could say that the educational system would be more equitable without grades, without the constant duty to categorize human beings into distinct subgroups, each more valuable than those below, and less so, than those above.
But bean counters, if they were disarmed of the labeling system of grades, would not be pleased. How could they be fair? Would students then have to compete on the basis of personality, or athletic prowess? How else could we measure “ability,” that amorphous concept? How could we measure intellect, equally amorphous, and more or less, synonymous?
A New Honor Roll
Let us avoid these arguments by creating our own honor roll: an honor roll for those, for whom education involves a bit more, than just sitting down and memorizing a lesson.
Let’s create an honor roll:
- For those who can’t be certain where their next meal is coming from, or whether they will be able to get safely to and from school.
- For those who have to work to help provide for their family’s sustenance, even though they have not yet reached 18.
- For those who suffer from emotional trauma, or neglect, or mental health issues.
- For those who cannot sit for hours, as the schools demand, but who must move about, and therefore are labeled disruptive, or are medicated, to artificially slow them down.
- For those with mental or physical disabilities, that get in the way of absorbing content, or, of accessing it.
If measured by the right criteria, I bet every child could make honor roll. I’m sure each of you has your own ideas about what criteria might get your child on the list. In the course of a year, every child does something which he or she deserves to be proud of. We, their parents, recognize it as progress, a welcome change for the better. But often “better” is not good enough to even qualify for what most people recognize as “normal.” And so, our children’s successes go uncelebrated.
Well, no more!
Here are ten things from the last year, for which I am eternally grateful and unspeakably proud. And for which my child should, if the world were truly fair, be honorably mentioned:
2017-2018 Honor Roll
For sleeping through the night at least 50% of the time
For reducing the number of items thrown across the room by 90%
For learning to entertain himself for hours at a time so Mom can rest
For taking his medications without a fuss 75% of the time
For going to therapies/activities without throwing a tantrum 75% of the time
For participating willingly in homeschool for hours 80% of the time
For asking for things he wants 25% of the time
For fixing his own snacks and putting away decomposable items 50% of the time
For reducing the number of times he shouts at anyone by 90%
For being a first-rate internet tinkerer and movie trivia buff 100% of the time
What would be your honor roll criteria? And for those of you, whose children have IEPs or have had them in the past, don’t forget your percentages!!;)