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School that canceled honors night to avoid hurt feelings ridiculed

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A Rhode Island middle school that canceled its traditional honors night out of concerns that rewarding scholarship “excludes” non-scholars has recanted. Fox News reports:

An email sent out to parents of students at Archie R. Cole Middle School in East Greenwich over the weekend said students who would normally be honored at the spring event would instead be recognized during team-based ceremonies and graduation….

But after being ridiculed nationwide for its gesture toward political correctness, the school reversed its decision. A statement posted Tuesday on its website read:

We have decided to honor excellence as we had planned, but at a traditional evening event. We are exceedingly proud of the outstanding achievements of Cole students, and obviously had no intention of failing to acknowledge and celebrate exemplary student accomplishment in its many forms. Rather, our intention was to create a venue where all kids who meet the high expectations that we set for them are recognized and celebrated in a manner consistent with our core values about student learning and performance.

The school’s internal emotional struggle is just the latest in a generally overt tug-of-war between conservatives, who believe in meritocracy, and deniers, who insist the difference between success and failure resides in “white privilege.”

Apparently, the school, which is located in an affluent community, has wrestled with this conundrum for some time. The email that went out attempted to rationalize slighting students who excelled in their school work by claiming:

This will afford us the opportunity to celebrate the individual and collective successes of all students and their effort, progress, and excellence. Additionally, our Cole varsity athletes will receive their medals and trophies at an after school ceremony. [Emphasis added]

The highlighted portion seems to be a throwback to the theory of multiple intelligences, advanced in 1983 by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner, who posited in essence that people who are not “intelligent” in the usual sense — jocks, for example — manifest intelligence differently. According to the theory, an athlete is endowed with “bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.”

But students with good grades in their academic subjects had issues with the school’s initial plan, as did some of the parents. One of them, Joe Kosloski, asked rhetorically:

How else are they supposed to learn coping skills, not just based on success, but relative failure? It might not be failure, but understand what it takes to achieve high levels.

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