Sunday, February 1, 2004

In Tennessee schools, tail is wagging the dog

Academic and employment performance has traditionally thrived on incentives, constructive criticism and competition. Yet, these pillars on which excellence are built have been systematically whittled down to meaningless splinters on which mediocrity brews, epitomized in "Lawyers warn Tenn. Schools not to recognize good pupils," (Jan. 25). We prefer to bask in Mary Poppins-esque, feel-good, meaningless evaluations.

Even in situations where judgment is expected, it is unwelcome; for instance, on the reality show American Idol, where contestants chide judge Simon Cowell's insights for being harsh. Even worse, Time Magazine reports that professors write nothing but glowing evaluations of students for fear of retaliation.

The tail is wagging the dog. If we continue to penalize the excellent student for fear of embarrassing the average student and accept the average by refraining from delivery of constructive criticism, we will truly be an American idle.

Thomas R. Kimball, M.D., Mount Lookout

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