Politics in the classroom get a low grade

By Lnn Moncus

Some of us have been following the grade-changing incident in the large city in our state and have hoped that many people will be made aware of what can happen when politics get in the way of education.

Having endured a similar experience while teaching down south, I have been particularly interested in seeing what the outcome may be. As you might surmise, I am most definitely in the teacher’s corner and can but hope she will stand by her guns. Fortunately, her principal and many of her colleagues are on her side, and that should give her the strength to fight for a teacher’s right to give the earned grades. It should also send a message that administrators aren’t always in the right when they decide to take action into their own hands.

Once upon a time, a football player didn’t make a passing grade in one of my classes, and all heck broke loose. I was totally aghast when calls began to come in from authority figures to ask me to change the grade.

Well, I wasn’t about to do that but didn’t quite know which way to jump until a few other authority figures called to offer their support and to tell me not to change any grade no matter what threats came in. Some of those calls, particularly from deans outside my own college, gave me the courage to stand by my convictions. I finally made the point that no grade would be changed by me and that if the power that was making all the noise chose to change that grade, he would have to sign and make said change a matter of public knowledge.

Well, the grade was not changed, and I retained my job, but the student was placed in a summer course in which he was assured a passing grade. That student must have liked to suffer because he signed up for another class with me the next semester. He said he appreciated what I had done and that he wanted to prove that he could make a passing grade. He worked very hard and earned that passing grade. Because we both learned to respect each other, we stayed in touch for several years, and he went on to play professional football.

Sometimes, those not involved in teaching don’t realize just how much politics can play in that profession.
When a teacher assigns a grade, that teacher should be the only one to have control over it. Of course, if a mistake has been made, the grade should be raised, but if the change is forced in order to allow one student to graduate without having met the requirements of the course, that teacher should not fold under pressure, and the administrator should learn the boundaries between teaching and administering.

Someone needs to recognize those boundaries, and teachers need to be able to go about their work without having interference from outside the classroom.

‘Tis little wonder that the teaching profession is a little short on numbers.