Giving credit where it isn’t earned

23 Oct

My son got his first school report card and he made Superintendent’s Honor Roll.  For those of us who didn’t know, a Superintendent is apparently a principal’s boss.  So, therefore, the Superintendent’s Honor Roll is a superior honor roll.  In shorthand, he got all A’s on his report card.  This is a tremendously impressive feat–one I never really achieved in elementary school, and we are quite proud of Him.  While his greatness will surely be covered in great detail later, my point in this conversation is to talk about the name of the Honor Roll he made.

You see, when I was in school, this honor roll was referred to as the President’s Honor Roll.  And lest someone attempt to tell me that perhaps my school was just different, I went to the same elementary school that he is currently attending.  So, this was obviously a calculated move.  Now, I do not have problems with changes that are made.  Specifically when those changes are made to make things more understandable.  But that leads me to at least three problems I have with this change in particular.

First, noone really knows what a Superintendent is.  That could be because it usually means different things.  I’ve worked in the education industry in various capacities for more than ten years.  I’ve heard the word “Superintendent” many times.  In the SACS accredited college I worked at it meant something different than it did at the FACCS-accredited high school I worked at and it meant something different still at the ACCS affiliate member home school coop I taught at.  So since noone really knows what it is, it makes my son’s accomplishment difficult to brag about.

Second, in order to explain what a Superintendent is at this particular school, I have to, at least to some degree, belittle the Principal.  To fill two honor rolls with positions filled by the school, you might as well set up a hierarchy with a Superintendent Honor Roll, a Principal Honor Roll, a Teacher Honor Roll, and a Janitor Honor Roll.  Let’s start to tell these kids that some jobs are better than others.  On the other hand, ranking a President ahead of Principal isn’t a comparison kids are going to start equating in their head (My son may say the Superintendent is over the Principal, but he’d never really have to make that distinction between a President and a Principal).

Now before I sound like one of these Namby-Pamby guys who wants to not promote achievement over those who are merely sliding by, I am not.  I am fine with rewarding children for effort, keeping score, and recognizing different honor rolls.  I am not fine with creating the ranking of the adults to whom they are supposed to be submitting.  It’s kind of like when parents go in and belittle the child’s authority figure.  You might as well tell the kid, as long as you can persuade me that you are right, you can ignore this authority.  Why make a point of belittling the position of principal?

My third issue is that this is not a change that was made to synchronize with culture at large.  Of course, if every school were making the change to Superintendent from President, it could be something that I still disagree with, but you still have to recognize that there is merit in being similar to others.  Based on a simple google search, President’s Honor Roll was 25 times more popular than Superintendent’s Honor Roll.  And, on the first page of results, more than half of Superintendent’s Honor Roll results were honor rolls that were the equivalent of this school’s Principal’s Honor Roll.  So not only is the school requiring kids to value Superintendents over Principals, they are creating a system that when they talk to their friends from other schools, the accomplishment is not understood.

So, why am I writing about such a silly change in terminology?  Well, first, as a parent, I need to watch every little thing I tell and teach my children, and I don’t mind teaching about capitalism realities, but I don’t like putting a sliding scale of authority to two authority figures he has to see (though hopefully not report to) on a regular basis.  My main issue is that this seems to be a calculated move that can only be made by this school either to stroke the ego of the Superintendent or to temper the support of our President.  Having met the Superintendent and believing him to be relatively humble, I can only guess that this move was done to temper the support of our President.

This is a move that I don’t like.  First, that is one of the things I loved about the school I attended in my youth.  We were taught that we had to submit to multiple authorities–our parents, our church, our school, our local and state governments, and our Federal government.  The silly name attached to an honor roll is not the only way we communicate, and by all appearances, I am confident they still teach this.  But I don’t want to temper our teaching of our children in support of our country.

First, I am real proud to be an American.  I don’t like everything that happens here.  I have issues with Presidents–some more than others.  But, at the end of the day, I believe that God, in His sovereignty, not only put me in America, but he also put the leaders we have in authority.  And my prayer is consistently that I become better as a citizen of this country (and a better servant to my family, member of my church, employee to my boss), because I know that ultimately, I serve the Lord Christ.  And, frankly, there is nothing that any leader (including President) has to do to earn that.  We must give that respect, regardless of what they do.  (If you literally want to hear me preach on this, you can probably waste 45 minutes here).

I was reminded tonight by Paul Tripp that our lives are made up of mostly small moments, and our preparation of service in these small moments is what prepares us for the few big moments and decisions in our lives.  Similarly, while it is easy to get people to agree to vote and to do the “big” things in support of the leaders God has put over us, it is the small things that show our commitment, dedication, and real purpose.  It is the seemingly meaningless things whereby we show what we value.  And, for my money, I’d rather have our students learn to submit to multiple types of authorities in the simple naming of Honor Rolls.

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One Response to “Giving credit where it isn’t earned”

  1. Jenni October 24, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    Dang, boy, where'd you learn how to write?

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