Guest Commentary | Saddened by academic bullying

Guest Commentary | Saddened by academic bullying


I carefully selected the title for this article because I wanted to convey, without being too politically incorrect, how strongly my feelings are for these actions.

During my education journey, I consistently heard about students planning to attend college or were expected to attend college.

As I entered the teaching profession, I soon realized not all students would or should attend college. The unfortunate aspect was these students had no one looking out for their future, unless it included attending some type of advanced formal education.

To me, this was, and continues to be, a flaw in our education system. When I asked students about their "plans for next year," it usually included planning to attend college. At least that is what they verbalized to me, and it caused me to pause and wonder. Do they really want to attend college, or are they being influenced by an adult (parent, teacher, family member) in their life?

When these students are influenced by someone, whether it be a parent, friend or educator, I consider that to be academic bullying. I would love to quote some type of research to support my position, but I really do not believe that is needed.

My experience as a professional educator provides all of the support I need. Maybe you, as the reader, need more evidence, and I am guessing that data is out there.

Many high schools host honors night with their chest thumping with pride for the 25 percent to 33 percent (my figures from experience, not research) of the graduating class being so honored.

What about the other 67 percent to 75 percent of the class who are not being honored because they "failed" to meet our standards?

It is mathematically impossible for a large percentage of the class to attain our standards, because we honor so few students.

I also believe many of the students we honor at our honors night could succeed without the assistance we present to them during this awards event.

I was not in the top half of my graduating (33 students) class in 1963. I am not proud of that, but I am proud that I was able to earn my master's in education from the University of Illinois. Because of my class rank, I was denied the opportunity to receive a "teacher's scholarship" from my county, even after two successful years in college.

How sad that was to hear, and how disappointed it made me feel. My purpose in telling this story is to point out that many of the students we fail to recognize at honors night will succeed in spite of our lack of support.

I am thankful to state that my parents supported but did not drive me to attend college. I knew what I wanted to do, and it required a four-year degree from a college or university.

I am concerned we are spending so many of our public school resources for a small percentage of students that it doesn't leave much for assisting students who may not be able to attain the standards we as parents, grandparents and professional educators have established.

I am grateful for the schools that dedicate resources for those students who make the effort but are unable to achieve our standards.

Let's not continue to expect so many of our graduates to attend college at the expense of those who try but cannot quite meet our expectations. Those students will be living and working in our communities as productive and active members of our villages, towns and cities.

They will be working on our vehicles, appliances, homes, providing ambulance services and firefighting and other daily services that we find to be vital to our lives.

They deserve our respect and support rather than being disappointed because they didn't "go to college." I encourage all of us to pause and reflect on how our expectations may be detrimental to those students who need our support the most. We need to stop promoting the "you must go to college to be successful" attitude, which can easily be translated into academic bullying.

In closing, I am grateful for the excellent educators and hard-working students who attend our schools. I don't want us to lose track of students who work hard and seem to come up short when recognition takes place each spring. I was one of those, and I can recall, with sadness, how that made me feel inside.

Bob Doan is a retired public school educator who lives in Arthur.