Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Blaming the Symptom

An article about a class action lawsuit in California had me shaking my head. The lawsuit states that the plaintiffs were unfairly discriminated against, as evidenced by the fact that they didn't pass the test. As compensation, they are asking for:
The suit seeks a court order allowing students in this year's graduating class to earn their diploma regardless of whether they passed the math and English portions of the exam.

So, basically, they're saying if that you fail the test, you should get your diploma anyways.

There is a basic clash here between an "entitlement culture" and what I would call an "achievement culture". This clash is, unfortunately, obscuring some legitimate complaints about the quality of education the plaintiffs received, and which the standard exit exam has highlighted.

The fundamental assumption of the lawsuit (flawed, in my opinion) is that anyone who has attended a full measure of high school is entitled to receive a high school diploma. You don't have to take that very far to get to a point where your high school diploma is simply a worthless piece of paper. If you're guarenteed to get one, it doesn't mean anything. In attempting to force the state to grant diplomas to all those individuals who fail the exit exam, the bringers of this lawsuit are devaluing the worth of that diploma to zero.

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