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Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014
Commentary

Grant: And pizza for all?

Published:

At first, I thought it was a joke, political satire. But no, it was real.

A Maryland middle school was holding a dance and pizza party complete with a DJ and game room for students who earned straight A’s.

Students who got B’s and C’s were invited to attend once classes were over, and pizza was no longer being served.

Students with lower grades were not invited at all.

That meant that 306 of the school’s 865 students were left out of the party, which was called the “Academic Achievement Celebration” at Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring.

Now, students and some parents are calling it an exclusive party and the wrong way to reward achieving students because it makes students who didn’t make the grade feel inferior.

But what is wrong with an event that encourages excellence? When students excel, it is important to recognize and honor them. The intention of such an event is not to make those who didn’t achieve feel badly; perhaps it will give them a target to shoot for so they can be at the next honors party.

One teacher said it “creates a caste system that could easily result in bullying and victimization.” Would that teacher suggest that all who want to play ball be on the varsity teams, lest those who are left out might feel inferior?

Isn’t the opportunity for all to excel what made America great? Not all cultures enjoy that freedom.

Our country stands for equal opportunity for all to achieve. Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you will be with the stars. That’s what America is all about.

As one who was in that half of the class that made the upper half possible, I flunked chemistry. I had to repeat it. A friend, who made an A, offered to tutor me. He didn’t offer to average his grade with mine so that we both got a “C.” He offered to help me excel as he did. I will always remember Mark with great appreciation for his offer of generosity.

I got my A, learned what studying was all about, and went on to be an honor student and get a full scholarship to law school. That’s what achievement and inspiration are all about. It’s the American way.

So no wonder it grinds my cookies when I hear our president call for income equality and equal compensation.

What happened to excellence?

What happened to inspiring people to pull up their bootstraps and achieve personal success, financial and otherwise? Programs that encourage people to lay back and wait for a handout is not what built this country.

I believe in equality of opportunity. Every American child should be entitled to a seat in a classroom to receive instruction and the opportunity to learn and excel.

I also believe in a free enterprise system — one that says the harder you study, the more you apply yourself and the greater you press on, the bigger the house you can live in, the nicer the car and the larger the balance in your bank account.

Is there now something wrong with children striving to distance themselves from others who are satisfied with mediocrity?

Yet our president recently said, “Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition.” Excuse me, Mr. President, but how is setting a course to be the best either in the classroom or at work a “poverty of ambition?”

The free-market economy is working by rewarding those who do for themselves. Capitalism is about seizing opportunity, in the classroom and in the workforce. Perhaps that is a lesson not so well taught in today’s educational system.

Teach love, generosity, good manners and the value of hard study, and some of that will drift from the classroom to the home. And who knows, children will be educating the parents, many of whom apparently need it.

The classroom should be an entrance into the world, not an escape from it.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.”

Well said, Mr. President.

That’s my opinion, and I am sticking to it.

John Grant is a political columnist who served 21 years in the Florida Legislature and now practices estate planning law in Tampa. He can be reached at MyOpinion@johngrant.net

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