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Parents fail to understand tough world awaits students

I listened to the WNED two-hour forum on Dec. 12. The bulk of the questions and comments addressed to State Education Commissioner John King Jr. suggested that the new learning standards used in classrooms are simply too difficult for students. I don’t remember hearing any positive comments. I fear that many parents, teachers and administrators fail to realize or fail to remember that beyond high school stretches a demanding and sometimes downright cruel world that begins in college or one’s first full-time job. In college a student can experience failure, perhaps for the first time.

From the mid-1970s till the early 1980s, I served as a chairman of the (old) economics and commerce department at Niagara University. One of my tasks was to welcome the incoming freshmen and their parents. I greeted them with a short speech that included the following warning: “Here at the university, for the first time in your lives, you will have the opportunity to fail. You can’t fail in the family; it will always love and forgive you. You can’t really fail in elementary and high school, but in college you can fail courses, programs, even majors. Work hard not to fail.” I don’t think the students believed me (they did after the first semester), I don’t know about the parents. Nobody ever came to me afterward to question my speech. Once, however, as I started to talk about failing, an elderly lady, probably a student’s grandmother, started to cry almost hysterically and left the auditorium.

In my experience, what was the most common reason for students’ academic failure? Typically the inability to carry out quantitative analysis, i.e. the inability to solve mathematical/statistical problems and, less frequently, the inability to write reasonably lucidly and coherently.

George J. Neimanis

Lewiston