Things I Know 203 of 365: My dad could climb a rope

If I were to draw on a paper what gym does for me, I would make one dot and then I would erase it.

– Elizabeth Berg

On matters of policy, my father and I are traditionally at odds. Fiscal, foreign, defense, entitlements, everything.

Education is no exception.

While I’m able to steer clear of most of the others when we get together, I’m not so great at keeping my mouth shut when my dad starts talking about education policy.

Last night, we started talking about testing and Sec. Duncan’s decree easing the expectations of schools around the country to get to 100% proficiency as called for by No Child Left Behind.

My father is of the, “I guess that’s just another thing we don’t expect of our kids anymore” mindset.

He works in the technology office of the school district from which he graduated. As anyone can imagine, this means he often sees the worst from teachers. Rarely do faculty members bake cookies for tech team.

To further illustrate his point of the lowering of the bar for today’s students, my dad talked about a rope.

He first encountered the climbing rope on his first day of middle school P.E.

It kicked his butt.

A competitive swimmer from way back, my dad thought he should have been able to make his way up the rope with no problem. Such was not the case.

For weeks, my father struggled to make it to the top of the climbing rope.

For weeks, he could not make it.

This, for my father, was the bar to which all students should be held.

“I walked through the gym the other day, and do you know what I saw?”

Not pausing for a response, my dad continued, “The rope has knots in it.”

I was confused.

He explained.

The same climbing rope, which had been my father’s adversary for weeks in his youth, had single knots running in it every few feet up to the rafters.

Dad explained this and sat looking at me for a moment.

“It took me weeks to get up that rope, but when I did, I knew I could.”

He lamented the knotting of the rope the same way he was lamenting the easing of NCLB’s testing requirements.

“Are we too worried kids aren’t going to feel good about themselves, so we make everything easy on them?”

I see his point – I really do.

For the same reason folks are worried playgrounds are becoming too safe, learning should have some scraped knees, some trial and error.

My problem with my dad’s point accepts his metaphor and rejects his premise.

What are we still asking kids to climb ropes?

Maybe, in dad’s day, the climbing rope was the best we could do to figure a upper-body strength and endurance. Maybe, way back when, we had no other choice than to make a student’s learning and abilities a matter of public display. Maybe, when my old man was coming up, we didn’t know any better.

I doubt any of that was the case, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Today, though, we certainly have better methods and tools at our disposal.

Cut down the ropes, find out the best ways to figure out if kids are fit and healthy, and then truly teach them how to do it better for reasons other than their peers will laugh at them if they don’t.

Yeah. The metaphor works.

Let’s cut down some ropes.

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