Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Friday, August 29, 1997

2.0 grade rule
just doesn’t add up

ONE of the first things I learned when I got to college was that four years at a Hawaii public high school had not taught me HOW to learn.

Granted, that was 25 years ago. I hope teachers are doing a

better job teaching today than they did back then.

But I wonder. If so many kids are having trouble keeping at least a "C" average, maybe the problem is with the teachers as much as the learners.

The state school board has recently fiddled with the so-called 2.0 grade rule, in which students have to maintain at least a "C" average to be able to participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities. Under the new rules, kids will be able to attend practices even if they don't have a "C" average.

Now, imagine imposing similar restrictions on teachers who allowed students to fall below the 2.0 mark? Let's say that any teacher whose class does not maintain at least a 2.0 average is not allowed to coach school athletic teams, attend conferences or take part in other school functions.

You hear that screaming? That's the sound you hear when anyone suggests making teachers more accountable for the outcome of their teaching.

I've said before that I think teachers should be the highest paid public employees in the state. But only if the taxpayers were allowed to hire the absolute best teachers available. Don't hold your breath on that one.

BUT there are a few less drastic solutions to improving the public schools.

First off, make it mandatory for every ELECTED public official to send their kid to public school. One of the reasons public schools are suffering nationally is that we have a social strata of the "elected elite" who feed at the public trough, yet send their kids to private schools. These people have no vested interest in improving public schools.

So we'd lose a few so-called "public servants" because they don't want to sacrifice their children to the public school system. Good riddance. Their concern for the public is obviously more hypothetical and theoretical than actual.

The day every state legislator's child attends public school is the day that we will see a radical improvement in the school system.

But there's an even easier way to raise student grades, and it has nothing to do with denying students the opportunity to compete in sports. It involves teaching them how to learn.

I like to joke that I was in Aiea High School's "Downward Bound Program." In truth, I was just one of many clueless kids who didn't know how to learn.

It wasn't until I got to college that I learned how to take notes, study and take tests. The first thing high school students should be taught is how to learn. And the parents, too, should be taught how to help their children learn. I'll bet most kids who are performing less than "C" work don't even have a quiet, well-lit place at home to study.

Obviously, some kids are natural students. And they are the ones that the teachers generally pay attention to. But a basic course on how to learn would probably do more to raise grades in public schools than any arbitrary "pass-to-play" rule. That rule assumes kids know HOW to do better scholastically and I'm not sure they do.

Ironically, at least in sports kids are taught the basics first and then sent in to play the game. A football coach wouldn't think of sending a kid in to play before teaching him how to block, pass and catch. And the coach (teacher) is always held responsible for the overall success or failure of his team (class).

Maybe coaches should teach teachers about the importance of discipline and preparation.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

or send E-mail to charley@nomayo.com or

The Honolulu Lite online archive is at:

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Community]
[Info] [Letter to Editor] [Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1997 Honolulu Star-Bulletin