Jewish World Review March 2, 2000 / 25 Adar I, 5760
This report card
deserves an 'A' in every
THIS WOULD NOT SEEM to be an especially good time
to be an administrator or teacher in an American
If you're a principal or a teacher, you know that
you are likely to be blamed for just about anything
that goes wrong in the life of a student.
Standardized test scores at the school may be low
-- for which you -- administrator or teacher -- will
be chastised for not doing enough to make sure the
students get into good colleges.
There may be violence on the school grounds -- for
which you will be severely criticized for not doing
enough to keep the students safe from one another.
But if you do install metal detectors, and if you
search lockers, you will find yourself harshly
questioned for trying to turn the school into a police
If you strongly suggest that students dress in a neat
and dignified manner, you will be accused of trying
to force your own tastes on the boys and girls in
the school, and will be told that how they dress is
none of your business.
But if you permit students to wear anything they
want to school, you will be told that you are
contributing to an undisciplined environment that
diminishes the classroom experience.
It goes on and on; whatever there is that goes
wrong in the school, you are told, is your fault --
you, the administrator, the teacher.
In light of that, it may be instructive to take a look
at a report card that was recently shown to me.
It's not exactly a current report card -- in fact, it
was issued to a student in the Elmhurst Public
Schools during the 1904-1905 school year.
What is interesting is not the student's grades,
which subject-by-subject are carefully and
precisely written by the teacher in fountain pen
inside that almost-100-year-old report card.
Instead, it is enlightening to read the back of the
report card -- where, preprinted, is the following
To the Parent:
The boys and the girls in the schools will be the
men and women of the future, the immortals of
eternity. Because of what they will be, the
responsibility of parents and teacher is very great.
The affections of the parents, naturally centering in
the welfare of their children, lead to a desire that
they, the objects of their dearest thoughts, may
receive the best educational advantages possible.
But no matter how earnestly and persistently the
teacher tries to help the pupil, the best results will
not be forthcoming unless there is the heartiest
co-operation and warmest sympathy between
parents, teachers and pupils.
As it is impossible for you to visit the school
frequently, this report is sent that you may know
how your child is progressing in each study. It will
enable you to see how the latest compares with all
previous reports, and is intended to be a complete
summary of all that pertains to your child's school
life this year. Will you not please examine it
carefully, sign it promptly and act upon the
information given? You will thereby greatly help
both your child and the teacher.
Please aid in securing compliance with the rules of
the school. This is not only necessary for the best
interests of others, but ready obedience to proper
authority is a lesson which every child should learn.
Pupils should not only behave properly, but they
should acquire the habit of being punctual, regular
in attendance, studious, kind, courteous and neat.
They should be taught to think of every action as a
moral act, tending to form habits and indicating and
determining moral character. For the sake of their
present and future welfare, kindly help the teacher
in all efforts to secure these and other desirable
This message to parents evidently was a feature not
only of report cards issued by the Elmhurst Public
Schools, but of school report cards all over the
United States -- in small type on the card, it is
indicated that the card was printed by Richardson,
Smith & Co., a New York company that
specialized in manufacturing standardized report
cards. So most likely the message to parents
appeared on report cards a hundred years ago not
just in northern Illinois, but across the U.S.
In light of the constant news about the troubles in
schools today, you are tempted to ask yourself
what would happen if a public school administrator
were to send such a message home to parents in
our current society.
But you think you can guess:
The administrator would be hauled into federal
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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