December 19, 2007
The soft bigotry of low expectations has reared its ugly head again. Bennett Lieberman, principal of Central Park East High School in New York City, recently told his teachers in a memo, "If you are not passing more than 65 percent of your students in a class, then you are not designing your expectations to meet their abilities." Whether his motives were pure or not (probably not: under New York City's new school grading system, Central Park East could improve its grade by passing more students), Lieberman's approach is wrong-headed. Senior Richard Palacios said his school is "already too much of an easy ride" and guessed that only three or four kids regularly show up for his math class. Will lowering expectations bring back these truants? Most failing students themselves say no. Lieberman's memo also cautioned his teachers that "most of our students... have difficult home lives, and struggle with life in general." No doubt that's true, but it's all the more reason to reinforce the culture of hard work and high expectations that's missing from so many students' homes. Dumbed-down classes produce dumbed-down kids.
"Dumb down class, asks principal memo," by Ethan Rouen and Erin Einhorn, New York Daily News, December 13, 2007