On the No Zero Policy in schools and the future effects in the workplace

I have never been an Einstein but my school grades always fluctuated from 60% to top of the class… from one month to the other.

My university years were a simple translation of my early life.Through my first and second degrees I worked full time, missed many, maaany classes, studied French and even took 9 months off to do the, then mandatory, military service. The only course I completed with a +90% attendance was my postgraduate course, which I did between the two degrees.

I was lucky enough to get a BCA grant to finish my second degree in Los Angeles, CA, and there I found out that I could have a broken English, take 50% more classes per term than the average student, work on campus the maximum 20h, join the swimming team and disappear in the desert the rest of the time and still get straight As at the business school.

The fact that I could move from one year to the next in Spain without much effort and some of my classmates who fed me class notes and attended uni full time, was surprising for me. Fair enough, I didn’t get stellar grades, but some of my classmates had to repeat courses.

When I got to California, I was surprised of how low the level was, how little was needed to get best grades (let alone pass) and how good and bad students got warm words regardless their performance.

Fast forward 8 years. Florida seems to have cracked the motivational paradise (or hell?) with their “no zero policy”. They have decided that it seems like punishment to give a zero to a child even if that child never showed up for class. Great training for life! I missed many many classes in my university life, but I can tell you a) I was working full time and b) I would take my work holidays the week before the exams (hence, no holidays at all at the end of the year… for years) and pushed to make up for 4 months of non-attendance.

Let’s not get into the mastering of mother tongues, but who hasn’t heard of kids sports where winners and losers get a trophy? In my boyhood I use to get a bronze medal or just a coloured ribbon if I didn’t make it the podium. This sense of moving people through rewarding them for something they haven’t done actually well is a very dangerous game. Doesn’t a trophy imply some level of success that exceeds those around us? If we just flatten the playing field so that nobody wins and nobody loses, we are talking of an economic model where I don’t think I can fit in.

It is not that I want everybody to lose, but when I decided to work and skip classes I knew the risks of doing so, and I took the risk, there must be a reward for doing better than the rest.

Life does NOT work like this.

What Florida is turning into policy, the rest of the Western world (or at least the countries where I have lived Spain, USA, and UK) has been quietly accepting in their schools and universities.

Dan Miller gave a really good example of why it is wrong to follow this “no zero policy”:

Let’s say that we are watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon and we see a little crack there and two hours have passed and it’s trying to get out.

We think “I am going to try it to get out, we are going to help it out, it’s worked really hard, it’s done half the work, let’s just reward it and help it finish the task”. So we get the scissors and we cut the cocoon open and the butterfly is now free. Or is it? Instead of having the blood pump up into the wings, we’ve got this little bulbous misfit of some kind that never develops into anything. We have shortcut  the process that it was designed to go through to really become a beautiful butterfly.

What else needs to be said? What are we creating (or already created)? Imagine a workforce signing for 40-hour weeks, not showing up and demanding 30 pay. Imagine.

.calvin

* Post inspired and quotations from Dan Miller’s weekly podcast “48 Days to the Work you Love

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