To Mason High: Competing for Academic Honors is a Preparation for the Real World

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Mason High School, north of Cincinnati, has eliminated the practice of recognizing class valedictorians and salutatorians.  It was done “in an effort to improve students’ mental wellness” and ”it would help curb the competitive culture at the school and permit students to focus on other things.” 1   

Competition is good for mental wellness just as exercise is good for the body.  In the same manner that excessive exercise does harm to the body, extreme competition is bad for a person’s psyche.  Moderation is the key to every beneficial activity.  The practice of recognizing academic achievement should not be dropped because some take it to an extreme.  Learning how to prioritize might as well begin when one in school.

 Competition is Essential

 “Life without competition is life without progress; a static society where the cream does not rise to the top because there would be no goals and no desire to march to the different drum beat and take something farther than it’s ever been taken before.”  2

What about the “dangers” of receiving awards? 

“But after the award?  The post-triumph realization that you are now everyone’s target until next year’s award ceremony, and, naturally, the paranoia of realizing that everyone else is questioning why you, of all people, received the award.

“Some will say it to your face, others behind your back.  The award itself does little to quench self-doubt.  If anything, you might begin to question yourself more now that you hold the award everyone else claims they deserve.”  

Welcome to the real world!  Whoever allows his actions to be ruled by the opinions of other suffers from vanity.  The earlier in life we learn to deal with this, the better off we’ll be.

“Life  Isn’t  Fair”

Eliminating academic awards will not shield the young adults from the difficulties of the world later.  “Life isn’t fair, but it’s unfair to everybody.”

After the school years, everyone will encounter many whose main motivation in life is obtaining human acclaim.  Such individuals are willing to do anything, sometimes not always legal or ethical, to receive it.  The problem is not with the recognition itself, but with the individual’s malformed focus on the transient things of this life instead of the eternal. 

Removing  Legitimate  Incentives  Does  More  Harm  Than  Good

Mason High’s decision to eliminate having a valedictorian and salutatorian is right out of the socialist’s handbook.  Instead of working to improve the overall human condition by helping to raise everyone’s capabilities through fair competition, the goal is to create a “feel good” semi-parity by reducing the fruits of achievement.  This inevitably leads to the stagnation and decline of a society.

History shows repeatedly that this doesn’t work:  the “classless” societies which produced the widespread poverty of the former Soviet-bloc countries and  China, the decline of Argentina and, most recently, the crash of Venezuela.  Does Mason High have any non-revisionist history classes to teach this? 

Two  Ways  to  Thwart  “Easy Rides” to  Academic  Awards

The school claims that some students take easier classes in order to enhance their grade point averages unfairly.  This can be remedied by limiting the number of “filler classes” which may be taken for academic recognition and/or by applying a system of weighted degrees of difficulty which would make some high grades worth more than others when used to calculate class standing.  Fair competition in academics benefits all in the long run.

1 – “Ohio high school removes valedictorian, salutatorian, honors in effort to better students’ mental wellness,” by Kathleen Joyce, 5/11/2019, https://www.foxnews.com/us/ohio-high-school-removes-valedictorian-salutatorian

2 – “Life Without Competition is Life Without Progress,” by Charlie Daniels, 4/10/2014, https://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/charlie-daniels/life-without-competition-life-without-progress

3 – “Grade Wars: Academic competition has turned high school classrooms into boxing rings,” by Megan Lunny, 5/1/8/2017, https://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/366330fc-34cb-11e7-8b75-8bbc4b841277.html

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It’s Unfortunate that Many “Universities” are Digressing to “Particularities”

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Universities have been in existence for many centuries, although a precise starting date is not known.

“It was, after all, in the High Middle Ages that the university came into existence… The precise origins of the very first universities are lost in obscurity, though the picture becomes ever clearer as we move into the thirteenth century.  We cannot give exact dates for the appearance of universities at Paris and Bologna, Oxford and Cambridge, since they evolved over a period of time…”1

The original purpose of the university is “the creation of prepared minds.” True, over the last century, we have seen much commercialization of higher education in the form of investment into research for the business and manufacturing worlds.  In addition, the idea that colleges are to prepare students for more lucrative employment has somehow become the majority opinion.

All of that aside, an inherent mission of the university remains that it is to be an arena where a multitude of ideas can discussed and debated.  The concept comes from “the Latin words universitas and universitatis (which) are generally thought of as the source of the word university.

These words are derived from universus universeum / universa, meaning universe or universal.”3

 The intrinsic purpose of the university was maintained in the 1960’s despite near anarchy occurring on some campuses when “progressive” ideas ranging from the validity of the Viet Nam War to sexual mores to questioning our form of government aggressively demanded to be heard.  While many opposed the progressives, it was appropriate that these differences of opinion were allowed to be debated.

Now, after seven centuries of purposeful existence, the “university” is threatened with extinction.  Since the 1960’s, a majority of U.S. universities have adopted the “progressive” social and political philosophies.  However, in this new climate they have abandoned the fundamental purpose of the university by not allowing “conservatives” to speak on many campuses.  Excuses for limiting the exchange of ideas include charges of not representing the university’s core values4 and false accusations of “hate speech” compelling the universities to say they cannot guarantee safety of the speaker or audience because of the expectation of violent protests.

These institutions of higher learning are abdicating their responsibility to “create prepared minds” via civilized discussion of opposing thoughts.  They are ceasing to be universal in the testing of ideas.

An antonym for universal is “particular”.Consequently, institutions that “disinvited” conservative speakers last year such as Princeton University and American University should henceforth be known as Princeton Particularity and American Particularity.5

 

1 – “The Catholic Church and the Creation of the University,” by Thomas E. Woods Jr., http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/education/catholic-contributions/the-catholic-church-and-the-creation-of-the-university.html, 2005.

2 – “The Purpose of Higher Education:  To Create Prepared Minds, “ by Andres Fortino, https://evolllution.com/opinions/the-purpose-of-higher-education-to-create-prepared-minds/, 6/26/2012.

3http://english-ingles.com/en/etymology-of-university/

4 – “Dis-invited: 4 Conservatives Not Welcome To Speak On College Campuses,” by Arissa D (Future Female Leaders cabinet member and a student at Yale University, http://futurefemaleleader.com/disinvited-conservatives-not-welcome/, 4/16/2017.

5http://englishthesaurus.net/antonym/universal

Constitution + “Subsidiarity” + Parental Rights = Strike Three for Federal Dept. of Education

It’s time we recognize the three strikes which have always existed against having the federal Dept. of Education and to push for its elimination.

The Constitution

“Roger Pilon, constitutional scholar has said: ‘From beginning to end the [Constitution] never mentioned the word ‘education.’”1

 “Why then was the Department of Education created? President Jimmy Carter, during whose watch the new department came into being, had promised the department to the National Education Association. Contemporary editorials in both the New York Times and the Washington Post acknowledged that the creation of the department was mainly in response to pressure from the NEA. According to Rep. Benjamin Rosenthal (DN.Y.), Congress went along with the plan out of ‘not wanting to embarrass the president.’ Also, many members of Congress had made promises to educators in their home districts to support the new department.”2

 “Subsidiarity”

This concept states that decisions should always be made at the lowest possible level, as described by:

“Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative.  The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which ‘a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.”3

 (To clarify the often misrepresented “common good”:
“The common good consists of three essential elements: respect for and promotion of the fundamental rights of the person; prosperity, or the development of the spiritual and temporal goods of society; the peace and security of the group and of its members.”4)

Parents’  Rights  with  Regard  to  Educating  Their  Children

“Parents are the principal and first educators of their children… ‘The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.’… Parents should teach their children to subordinate the ‘material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.’… The state may not legitimately usurp the initiative of the spouses, who have the primary responsibility for the procreation and education of their children.”5

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen: “It is a great fallacy for parents to believe that the education of their children depends on the school.  The school is not the primary educator, but the secondary; its authority to teach the children is delegated by the parents, the right inherent in the father and the mother.  Nor is the school ever a substitute for the parents.”6

Conclusion:  This is no justification for a federal department of education.  Just because this mistake is almost forty years old is not a reason for its continuation.  Decisions involving education must be kept at the state and local level so that parents’ can keep a close watch of developments as is their prerogative.  When this occurs, we don’t have to deal with intrusions like Common Core – which was not developed by the states as it claims to have been.  (See the 5-part series on Common Core published by The Ohio Conservative Review in March 2015.)

Nor will school districts which are located in areas holding true to timeless values and proven science have to defend themselves against:  “The U.S. Department of Education will tell school districts Friday that federal law requires them to allow students to use restrooms and locker rooms ‘consistent with their gender identity.’”7

These edicts are made despite:  “Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry, said that transgenderism is a ‘mental disorder’ that merits treatment, that sex change is ‘biologically impossible,’ and that people who promote sexual reassignment surgery are collaborating with and promoting a mental disorder… he explained that transgender surgery is not the solution for people who suffer a “disorder of ‘assumption’” – the notion that their maleness or femaleness is different than what nature assigned to them biologically… Dr. McHugh further noted studies from Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic of children who had expressed transgender feelings but for whom, over time, 70%-80% “spontaneously lost those feelings.”8

The net result is: education must be kept at the state and local levels to allow decision-making by those closest to its effects, local parents and educators.  Federal control takes away accountability and has shown itself to be prone to enforcing social engineering without opposition.

 

 

1 – “Common Core: Slingshot to Progress or Spider Web? Part 5 of 5 [What slingshot? More spiders here than at the old Munsters’ house],” by Tony Rubio, http://ohioconservativereview.com/2015/03/21/common-core-slingshot-to-progress-or-spider-web-part-5-of-5-what-slingshot-more-spiders-here-than-at-the-old-munsters-house/, 3/21/2015.

2 – ”Cato Handbook for Congress, Policy Recommendations for the 108th Congress,” by the Cato Institute, http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/cato-handbook-policymakers/2003/9/hb108-28.pdf

3 – Part of paragraph 1883 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd edition, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 25th printing, November 2013.

4 – Paragraph 1925, Ibid.

5 – Excerpts from paragraphs 1653, 2221, 2223 and 2372, Ibid.

6 – The Quotable Fulton Sheen,” edited by George J. Marlin, Richard P. Rabatin and John L. Swan, Doubleday, New York, 1989.  This particular quote was taken from “Thoughts for Daily Living, Garden City, New York: Garden City, 1955.

7 – “Schools must allow transgender bathrooms, Department of Education says,” by Gregory Korte, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/05/12/feds-schools-transgender-bathrooms-letter-title-ix/84311104/, 5/13/2016.

8 – “Johns Hopkins Psychiatrist: Transgender is ‘Mental Disorder;’ Sex Change ‘Biologically Impossible’,” by Michael W. Chapman, http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/johns-hopkins-psychiatrist-transgender-mental-disorder-sex-change, 6/2/2015.

It’s Never the Right Time for This Kind of School Survey

It’s good to learn that the Litchfield, CT school district postponed its “Profiles of Student Life” survey scheduled for tomorrow.  However, this arrogant jab at basic parental authority has pulled back only temporarily and is waiting for the next opportunity.

This survey, to be given “anonymously,” contained questions regarding “gender identity, drugs, sexual activity and whether a student has ever carried a knife or gun.”1

Even though parents may request that their children not take this survey, its mere presence is a cleverly strong challenge to parents.  School administrators know human nature well enough that simply presenting such an inappropriate test is enough to get many parents to be reluctant to stand their ground.  The current tidal wave of disregard for time-tested values and Natural Law is in the administrators’ favor.  The senseless “everybody does it” philosophy has been salvaged from the trash heap of illogic and has become the rallying cry for those who use peer pressure to push others to do what is unwise.

As was mentioned before, they haven’t given up.  A proponent of the survey, Executive Director of the Housatonic Valley Coalition against Substance Abuse (HVCASA), Allison Fulton said, “It takes some time to get everything in order.  When they think they can get the message out in a way that everybody understands the survey a little bit better, that’ll be a better time.”Translation:  given enough time, we can do a better job of fooling them into thinking this invasive survey really is a good thing.

Granted, the HVCASA would seem to be on a noble mission to curb one of society’s most pressing problems – substance addiction.  However, children are first and foremost the parent’s responsibility.  Neither the state nor the schools have the authority to engineer society, regardless of the motives.  The right way to approach the substance abuse problem is to teach the parents how to spot key behavior indicators and what sort of professional help to get.

A more dismissive comment was made by education board member Gayle Carr: “Reaction from the community on the survey makes me think that people are going into this with blinders on. They don’t know anything that caused that problem.”2  Here’s a secret Ms. Carr, our national problem with these issues began way back in the 1960s and Big Brother is a cause, not a cure.

She and the rest of the busy-bodies would eliminate a lot of strife and wasted effort if they were to acknowledge that:

“Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children… The home is well suited for education in the virtues (emphasis directly from text).  This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all freedom.  Parents should teach their children to subordinate the ‘material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones’… Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies.”3

Not only are the schools’ wishes supposed to be subordinate to parental authority, but this centuries-old directive sets a standard which is actually higher.  After all, do we see an emphasis for “self-denial, sound judgment and self-mastery” in school sex education programs or in the HHS mandate where human pregnancy is a “preventable disease”?

Except in cases of true abuse and neglect, the state must not intrude into the family.  Just as freedom of religion is not to be confined to church buildings, parental authority is not to be restricted to homes.

 

1USA Today, “State by State” section, 3/4/2014
2 – “Litchfield Profiles of Student Life survey canceled after community feedback,” by Shako Liu, www.registercitizen.com, 3/10/2014
3 – taken from paragraphs 2223 and 2224 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Liguroi Publications, Liguori, MO, 1994

“ALT” (Appreciating the Little Things) #3: Covington Diocese Increases Summer Sports Break

Make no mistake, I greatly enjoy sports and don’t understand how some fail to catch sports’ competitive bug.  Still, I have become dismayed that college athletics, and even down to high school and younger, have taken over the calendar of its participants and families.  They require the dedication more appropriately associated with careers.

Consequently, I was encouraged to see the Diocese of Covington increase its summer “dead period” for athletic activity from two to three weeks beginning this year.1  The new diocesan policy for Catholic schools will be a cessation of all sports activities starting on June 23 and continuing through July 13.  This will exceed Kentucky’s state policy for high schools.2

Michael Clines, superintendent of Covington’s diocesan schools:  “Basically the extended dead period will allow parents an opportunity to take back their kids without fear of any kind of repercussions or disadvantages.  It also gives the coaches a chance to spend more time with their families or to do other things they would like to do without having that feeling of ‘am I not keeping up with the team down the street?’”1

For our Church which believes in the importance of the family, this is a step in the right direction.  Ideally, this concept will advance further in both parochial and public schools so that sports are taken back to a proper emphasis in our lives.

 

1 – “Extending athletic ‘Dead Period’ hopes to bring new life to families,” by Laura Keener, editor of the Messenger (the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Covington), 1/24/2014
2 – The Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s handbook states that “Students may not receive coaching or training from school personnel (either salaried or non-salaried) and school facilities, uniforms, nicknames, transportation or equipment shall not be used each year in any KHSAA sanctioned sport or sport-activity during the period beginning with June 25, and going through July 9… These restrictions shall not apply to postseason wrap-up activities, celebrations and recognition events relating to a spring sports team at a school which participated in KHSAA state championship play in that particular sport during that particular year.  (Bylaw 24, section 3)  www.khsaa.org/handbook/bylaws

 

Protecting Self-Esteem By Eliminating Academic Competition?

Today on Ave Maria Radio, one of talk show host Al Kresta’s guests was Elizabeth Scalia.  An accomplished Catholic editor and writer, she was promoting her most recent book, “Strange Gods:  Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life” (Ave Maria Press).  The book is a wake-up call for those who limit their understanding of “idols” to the golden calves of Old Testament days.

Yet, a side story which caught my attention involved a conversation she had with one of her children’s teachers.  She was curious as to why the annual school science fair was no longer being held.  It had been an excellent learning opportunity for the students and many looked forward to it.  The reason given was that it had become too much of a contentious event with parents fussing over why their children weren’t rated higher.  The teacher went on to say that the competition hurt some students’ feelings and he was hoping that the honor roll would also be eliminated in next school year.

Is this teacher serious?  He is forgetting that many of us academically successful nerds have felt strong disappointment at not always being able to excel in the “real” school glamour events – sports.  Perhaps we should let everyone be on the team and, better yet, cease keeping track of won-lost records?

Neither position is in the best interests of the future adults we are supposed to be helping to mature.  As with anything, excessive competition will be destructive for individuals and for society.  By the same token, the absence of competition is detrimental for all concerned (recall the debacles of socialist societies strewn throughout history).

Yes, we are all created equal in terms of human dignity.  However, equality in human dignity does not mean we are identical.  Any attempt to downplay the various talents each has been given shortchanges society as well as being unfair to the individual.

The problem is not competition, but our attitude toward our talents.  Each person is bestowed with the ability to help mankind whether by accomplishments or through the ability to teach love and compassion as a result of our weaknesses.  If we are fortunate to be the achievers, we have an obligation to be thankful for and a right to make the best use of our abilities.  However, we do not have the right to make others feel inferior.  The focus of our “wins” should be more of what we accomplished instead of what we did against someone.

If viewed properly, competition has the potential to help everyone, not just the “victorious.” 

Chicago Public Schools Commit Flagrant Foul With Early Sex Education Plan

”A new policy approved by the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will require all public school students to participate in sex education instruction, beginning in kindergarten.  The new mandate was passed February 27, will require each student to receive ‘minimum instructional minutes’ of sex-ed information that is ‘medically accurate’ as well as (supposedly) age-appropriate.  ‘It is important that we provide students of all ages with accurate and appropriate information so they can make healthy choices in regards to their social interactions, behaviors, and relationships,’ Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in the CPS announcement about the policy. ‘By implementing a new sexual health education policy, we will be helping them to build a foundation of knowledge that can guide them not just in the pre-adolescent and adolescent years, but throughout their lives.’”1

Why  the  CPS  is  Clearly  Out-of-Bounds

Sexual morality is one aspect which separates humans from other animals (the HHS mandate’s veterinarian treatment of human reproduction notwithstanding).  “Sex education” is but a part of the formation process.  As with all education, it is not under the jurisdiction of the state, but of the parents who are the first and primary teachers of children.2  For the state to usurp parental authority in this matter is not only damaging to the child,3 but is another proof of Diana Fessler’s warning in the early 1990s that the “it takes a village to raise a child” philosophy was being misused for ulterior motives.(The African concept meant that villages, microcosms of society, were concerned with the upbringing of children as an assist to parents, not as a replacement of them.)

Our  Challenge

With the President leading the way, the self-appointed elite continues to make inroads into areas of authority not granted to them by the Constitution or by God (Natural Law for non-believers).   We must ignore the spurious claims of the media that we are extremists whenever we assert ourselves in an effort to fulfill our innate responsibilities.  Chicagoans need to reverse this flawed policy.  For the rest of us, vigilance is the key.  We must be on guard at all times because many a program inspired by sinister intent is packaged as a delightful alternative.  The serpent is not only to be found in the Paradise of antiquity.  He is in our midst, in disguise.

 

1 – Newsdesk International’s Blog, 3/15/2013
2 – As we are reminded by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 2221: “The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children, but must extend to their moral education and spiritual formation. ‘The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.’  The right and duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable.” And by Paragraph 2223: “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children…”  (published by Liguori Publications, Liguori, MO, 1994)
3 – Also from the same Newsdesk International’s Blog of 3/15/2013, “Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council told the Christian Post that the notion of early-childhood sex education ‘is part of the legacy of Alfred Kinsey, and the belief that “children are sexual from birth.”’ This is a false and pernicious idea that introduces words, thoughts, and concepts to children long before it is developmentally appropriate for them. This premature exposure may contribute to early sexual activity, when we should be working to prevent it.”
4 – In her first successful campaign to be elected to the Ohio Board of Education, Ms. Fessler presented some of the Board’s long-range plans to construct 24-hour school centers.  These centers were to be available to students of all ages where they could go for the counsel, assistance, etc. that is properly found at home.  The goal of these social engineers was to create a society which would be devoid of those supposedly intolerant views of well-meaning, but outdated parents.