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A Call to Excellence

By Christopher Thorne
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #24, 1998.

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Christopher Thorne


A creeping social plague in this country is causing slow but steady mental deterioration. It has gradually and indiscriminately made its way into the hearts and minds of families from coast to coast. It is the plague of mediocrity. And it is growing to epidemic proportions.

It seems that every month another study is released that bemoans the current state of education in the United States. A recent survey of "top" students, conducted by the publisher of Who's Who Among American High School Students, indicates this scourge of declining test scores and half-hearted academic performance is a far-reaching problem.

For the past five years, fewer than 30% of high-achieving teens considered their school to be very academically rigorous. With schoolwork devoid of academic challenge, many students are taking it easy, only putting forth a minimum of effort. In fact, a little more than half of Who's Who teens claim to have only spent an hour a day - or less - on homework.

It seems that the less that's demanded, the less students care about schoolwork. The problem of mediocrity is real, as nearly half of the students surveyed indicated "student apathy" as the most serious problem facing their school. But the problem does not end with high school. It has also impacted college campuses.

According to a 1997 survey by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute, college freshmen are feeling less connected with academics than at any other time in the 32-year history of the survey. Yet nearly half of freshman say they expect to earn a "B" average in college, and more students than ever aspire to master's and doctorate degrees.

According to survey director Linda Sax, "These trends suggest that while students' level of involvement in their studies is down, they realize the need to be successful in college for graduate school admissions. Academic credentials, rather than a love of learning, seem to be their motivation."

By putting forth mediocre effort, students expect excellent results. Therein lies the problem. The dilution of academic standards leads to an expectation that a student only needs to put forth time, not significant effort, to achieve academic success.

Fortunately, there is a cure for this malignant malaise of mediocrity. Excellence.

As schools engage in the endless downward spiral of lackluster student performance leading to lowered academic standards leading to more lackluster performance, homeschoolers have the opportunity to step up to the challenge. By raising the bar and not lowering it, homeschoolers can give testimony to the importance of true education by striving for and achieving academic excellence. By striving for excellence and not merely mediocrity, the success you will achieve - both in academics and in life - will be one of your strongest advocates for the homeschooling lifestyle.

"Let your light so shine among men, that they may see your good works . . ."


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