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Stranger than Fact By: Judith Weizner
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, June 16, 2005

The school board president of the Snugg’s Cove, California Consolidated School District announced yesterday that the board has voted unanimously to abolish graduation.

“An Ohio student recently went on a shooting rampage because of the pressure associated with graduation,” Board President Anna Kossett told a reporter for the Snugg’s Cove Setting Sun. “It would be the height of irresponsibility for us to allow that sort of thing to occur here in Snugg’s Cove.”

Ms. Kossett explained that in the process of talking with students during the school’s daily anxiety abatement class, teachers had discovered that students fear graduation once they begin to understand that they will face more difficult competitive situations than those they are accustomed to. “They realize they will either have to get jobs or go to colleges that may not provide as nurturing an environment as that in Snugg’s Cove,” the former school psychologist-turned-administrator said.


The Snugg’s Cove school district has led the way in seeking to make students comfortable in the school setting. In 1965 it abandoned letter grades for a more progressive grading system. “Like everyone else, we had used a system of letters from A to F,” Ms. Kossett said, “but when we found that the children who got D’s and F’s felt inferior to the other children we reversed the letters, hoping to improve their self-esteem. But after a year or so it became apparent that even though they were now receiving A’s and B’s, they still felt inferior. So we had to find another way.”


The school never considered using numbers because the concept of greater and lesser is implicit in any use of numbers. Eventually it decided on a system of colors. “Blue was chosen because it is the color of serenity,” Ms. Kossett explained. “Navy was for the students whose work was deemed acceptable, aqua for the average and sky blue for those who needed improvement. During that time the school’s motto was ‘The sky is not the limit’, Ms. Kossett said. “We wanted the sky blue students to understand that they could achieve just as well as anyone else if they’d set their sights beyond the sky.”


Apparently it worked, because the graduation rate, which had been hovering around 65%, shot up to 100% as soon as the requirement for graduation was changed from an average of aqua to an average of blue.


About the same time, the school also adopted a policy of not teaching the students anything they did not already know. “We found that students were intimidated by the possibility of not knowing something,” Ms. Kossett explained. “It was undoubtedly a holdover from the days of taking tests and being graded.”


Despite the recent decision to abolish graduation, the town has always been very proud of its graduates. “Most of the students who’ve gone on to college have eventually adjusted to their new grading systems,” Ms. Kossett said. “ And the others seem to do well in their jobs. One of our former students even made the national news.”


Frank Levellmann had his fifteen minutes of fame last year when he sued the Tico Taco chain over its Employee of the Month program, claiming that choosing one employee over all the others made the ones not chosen feel inferior. Although Tico Taco’s attorneys explained that the company’s policy was to be sure no one got the award twice until each employee had had it once, the company was ordered to halt the program. At that point, the other employees sued, claiming that cessation of the program robbed them of the only tangible sign of their industriousness. Eventually, the company reached a settlement in which every employee would be named Employee of the Month each month.


In his post-trial news conference, Levellmann told reporters that he’d come up with the idea for his suit from his school days in Snugg’s Cove. “That’s where I learned that when you choose one thing, you are excluding other things. We didn’t have music lessons there because of the possibility of playing wrong notes. When you think about it, every time you play a note, you are choosing not to play all the other notes. How could anyone feel good about that kind of discrimination?”


From the date of its incorporation in 1955, Snugg’s Cove honored its commitment to provide a caring environment for its children. The town’s property taxes are among the highest in the state mainly because of its schools, which consist of many separate, nest-shaped classrooms. “I suppose it’s true that construction costs are higher than they would have been if we’d built a single building, but students agree that type of school could make them feel regimented,” Ms. Kossett said.


Now that there will be no more graduations in Snugg’s Cove, what can the graduates who have not graduated expect to do after high school?  Ms. Kossett laughs at this apparent contradiction. “Oh, they’re graduating, all right. We just don’t call it that and we’ll skip the ceremony. What used to be this big, terrifying, looming occasion will become a pleasant transition that they can spread out over several years. They know that anyone who wishes to may stay. Our new policy will probably result in some temporary overcrowding, but we already have approval for funds to build some more classwombs.”

Judith Weizner is a columnist for Frontpagemag.com.

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