Too many students are failing in the Los Angeles Unified School District; therefore the Board of Education abolishes failing grades for youngsters in kindergarten through second grade (Times, March 18). The decision, a classic indicator of cultural decline, is a tragedy both for the district and its students.
Students need to be challenged to achieve standards. Passing or failing is a minimum standard to be met, and when there is no possibility of failure there can be no success.
The decision is especially painful in following by less than a month front-page reports of disastrously low mathematics test scores by students. It may be possible in the context of a classroom to shield students from the reality of failure, but it does them no favor. They will face that reality when they seek a job and try to function in society. Our state and nation will face that reality when illiteracy grows, the basics of democratic citizenship are not learned, and we can not compete in the world.
Unfortunately, there are those who believe it is better to adapt to the inadequacies of students rather than require them to do their best and make clear when they do not. All too often those who suffer the most from the policy are students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including minorities, who can go through the entire school system without ever meeting the difficult tests they are in fact capable of mastering, and so are never required to develop the skills that would bring them success.
When we challenge our children we give them a great gift. Some of their most satisfying and important moments come from meeting those challenges. When we ignore those truths it is everyone who fails.
Miller is a former president of the Los Angeles Board of Education.