I always liked the Native American traditions where people were given a temporary shaming name for punishment. You know, names like "Screws Friends' Wives" or "Sexts His Secretary" or "Pirates DVDs." It seems humane compared with the cost and brutality of jail or beatings, and apparently was very effective.
But when I see public shaming today, especially with kids, it rubs me wrong. Like this kid, James Mond, from Tampa, Florida. His mom, Ronda Holder, is making him work street corners with homeless-style signs because of his 1.222 GPA.
A few points in the mom's favor: As a former teacher, I'm happy to see any parent who cares this much, given the deadbeats I had to deal with. Second, it's hard not to applaud her style. Her son's sign said, "Honk if I need an education." If it wasn't the illiterate thing to do, I just might throw out an LOL at that. And I love the way she talks about it to My Fox:
Until he straightens up his grades and gets his education on track, he's going to work this corner.
"Work this corner," of course, makes you think of drug-dealing and prostitution. I love that it's being used to talk about repenting for crappy academics.
Holder says she's tried everything else she can. And if nothing else, the publicity of the whole phenomenon has won the kid some help. Glenton Gilzean, who runs a regional education program called A Quantum Leap, has volunteered to be a five-days-a-week tutor for the poor put-upon young James. "I saw myself in him," said Gilzean, who probably had a mean mama himself.
I still don't think I can get on board though. Embarrassment is the most powerful force on teenagers. It's the adolescent nuclear option. I know that's why she's doing it, but it's hard to imagine this isn't going to backfire big time, and the kid isn't going to end up on the same street corner, but without the funny sign. Kids have got to have a positive reason to reach out for the grade cookie. But that's coming from a dad who, through no doing of his own, ended up with a teacher's pet.
Maybe she should just give the kid one of the aforementioned shaming names. Just call him "Sucks at Math" or "Plays Too Much Xbox" or "Flunked Geometry" for a few months. That would totally work, right? Or, to make it hipper, "Geometry FAIL."
Which makes me wonder: Has the Internet FAIL phenomenon given the word more or less sting for teens? Any parents of teens already know? Does it make actual failure seem worse, or make it seem like flunking algebra is no worse than using a flashlight for a headlight? Is no one a failure if everyone is?
What do you think of shaming students over crappy grades?
Image via TinaoBao/Flickr