No More “No Excuses,” Please


Critical thinking, logic and reasoning are a few skills I believe should be taught to our children in order for them to be productive. Our children should meet high expectations and they should conduct themselves in a manner that represents them well. I want our children and teenagers to be challenged to the point of discomfort. But in the end, when they look back over the tough road they traversed to achieve their goals, they will know the journey was worthwhile.

If this describes the “no excuses” approach that many educators are employing around the country then I’m all for it, but recently some educators have crossed the line in carrying out this philosophy.

In particular Michael Maynard, a language arts teacher at River Ridge High School, in New Port Richey, Florida, was suspended for three days and was reassigned due to several recent complaints from students and parents at the school. He was said to have a harsh tone, making inappropriate comments. But there are also many students who love what he does and support Mr. Maynard.

Mr. Maynard himself is unapologetic. “The kids aren’t getting abused. They’re just whining,” he said. “That’s what they do.” In the article, he says he mainly concerns himself with seeing his students succeed academically rather than their personal issues.

At first, I didn’t have a problem with an older teacher who gets results and is probably cut from a different cloth than most of his students and their parents.

However, I later read about more accusations against Mr. Maynard of making sexist and homophobic comments.

Here is one disturbing example from the article:

“He made inappropriate comments towards me and my boyfriend about our sexual activity when I made a comment about my boyfriend being my ‘ride’ home,” one student writes in an incident report. “This made me extremely uncomfortable,  and I felt kind of inappropriate and violated. He would make comments about how overweight people are, or dumb, genetically, and they will continue to make ‘dumb and fat’ children.”

Do I believe there should be no excuses? Yes. Do I believe that children and teenagers make excuses? Yes. Do I believe there is a thin line between achievement and failure that excuses erase? Yes.

However, “no excuses” should never cross the line of decency. No amount of success on standardized tests and AP exams should be used to replace treating every student with respect. We are talking about impressionable minds and lives, some of whom may look to teachers to help mold them. Teachers are given opportunities to add substance to their lives.
I believe in “no excuses,” but some actions can’t be excused when it comes to the well-being of our children. Hopefully, this situation can spark growth, conversation and the changes that we need.

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