Whomperjawed: Revisited


A few years ago, I wrote a column about entitlement in our school system.  Seeing as how our government is pushing the “Nanny State” mentality as status quo now more than ever, I felt obliged to post it here today.  Read.  Enjoy.


Whomperjawed. That’s the word used by a 70 year old gentleman I used to work with which meant twisted, off center, bent…in other words, not right. It’s a funny word, but the meaning behind it is timeless.

I’ve used the word many times since first hearing it, and no matter what the situation, it always seems to work perfectly.

Whether in reference to a car which has been in a wreck, “Man, that front right fender is whomperjawed,” or my wife’s cooking, “Honey, the potatoes were incredible, but the meatloaf was whomperjawed,” it always gets the point across.

A quick note, if you choose to add the word whomperjawed to your vocabulary, once the wife figures out what it means, comments like the last one can and will have you eating cereal at supper time for a month…you’ve been warned.

The following is a great example of a whomperjawed situation.  A few years ago I had the opportunity to see our public school system in action and I have to tell you, it was slightly whomperjawed. Let me explain.

My wife and I received a letter from the elementary school that our daughters attend. The letter explained that both our girls would be receiving multiple awards. We were excited, just as parents being informed that their child has excelled at something should be.

Our youngest daughter was getting 2 awards. The first was for Citizenship which basically meant that she played well with others.

I thought this award was a little whomperjawed since all students should be playing well with each other. I’m only assuming that those students that did not receive the Citizenship award received licks. They still give licks in school right?

I mean surely they haven’t taken away this much-needed basic disciplinary action from the teacher and thereby handing the very control and operations of the classroom over to the students have they? I’m going to assume not and look into it.

Her other award was for reading minutes (which meant she had met or in her case exceeded the required amount of hours each child is expected to read for the semester).

This one meant a lot to my wife and I because our daughter had been reading every night, even weekends, and we could see how much stronger her reading was getting.

Our daughter loves it also. She wants to read all the time. A big thank you to her teacher.

Our oldest daughter was to receive 2 awards also. The first was for being on the “A” Honor Roll.

I have to tell you, we were ecstatic. She had fallen short of having an all “A” report card for the first half of the semester. A “B” in math kept her from having a perfect report card.

She worked hard the second half of the semester and pulled her math grade up enough to give her an all “A” report card for the semester.

And yes, she still had time to play with her friends, go to the movies, play putt-putt, and spend the night with her grandparents.

So it made me proud to see my daughter strive to make the “A” in math and achieve it. As for the second award, I honestly can’t remember what it was for. I think it too was a Citizenship award (you know…playing well with others).

On the day of the awards ceremony, all of the parents who could afford to take off work, or have the luxury of working from home (this included all the stay at home moms…which let’s face it, is the most under rated yet most rewarding job there is, kudos to all you stay at home moms and dads) were there to see their child or children receive awards.

I myself was glad to be there so I could see my youngest get an award for excelling in the area of reading and see my oldest get an award for having an all “A” report card.

First up was my youngest daughter’s grade. All nine or so classes were lined up in neat lines on the floor.

The Principal and Vice Principal both stood at the front of the assembly area.

The Vice Principal stood just to the left of the Principal. It was her job to shake the hands of the students and give them the awards that they had worked so hard to achieve.

The Principal stood behind a podium and it was here job to read the students name and what award he or she would be receiving.

That was when I saw it.

To the right of the Principal was a table, and on that table was a stack of papers that looked to be 4 inches high. “Wow!” I thought, “There must be a lot of kids who excelled at reading and had perfect attendance.”

Perfect attendance was another award that is always given out at awards ceremonies. A well-deserved award I must say. As the Principal stated, she herself did not even have perfect attendance.

The Principal then started to explain the awards and what they meant so that the parents would better understand.

There of course was the perfect attendance award for those students that had not missed a day of school the entire semester. Rock on.

There was the Citizenship award for good behavior. OK, I guess.

There was the reading minutes award for those students who met or exceeded the reading expectations for the semester. Awesome.

There was the improvement in reading award for the students who had not quite met the class standard but were getting better.

I’m sorry what?

There was the award for improvement in writing for those students that had not quite met the class standard in writing but were getting better.

Come again?

There was the award for improvement in drinking at the water fountain for those students who had managed not to dribble water on his or her shirt.

OK maybe not.

I could not believe what I was hearing. They were giving awards for both outstanding achievement and for subpar performances.

I’m not saying that improvement in reading or writing is a bad thing. It’s a great thing…keep encouraging them to do better. But by giving an award to a student who is on his or her way to meeting the requirements needed to meet the class average, we’ve set a standard and are now awarding the students for not quite meeting that standard.

Students were receiving an award for almost doing what the average student does. Where is the encouragement to do better? One student falls short of the objective and gets an award and one student meets or exceeds the objective and gets an award.

My oldest daughter’s award ceremony would prove to be much of the same. Before it was over, I believe every student in every class had received an award.

Sadly, it turned out not to be a special day to recognize those students who had gone above and beyond in their class work, but a day created to make sure everyone felt equal.

It was a day meant to teach our children that you don’t need go the extra mile to be recognized as being an outstanding student when you can do less than is expected and still get a reward.

To think of all the awards I could have had for being lazy and performing in a substandard manor (and trust me…I performed at a substandard level in elementary, Jr. high, and high school). I could have a wall full of awards.

That started me to thinking.

Are the students who are on the “A” honor roll being taken out of standard classes and being placed into advance classes in efforts to challenge them to excel even further like they were in my day (not that I was anywhere near those classes)?

Or are the students who are working extra hard to make the honor roll being made to stay in standard classes thus interfering with their learning potential?

Is there going to come a day when our children will be able to graduate high school with grades that are less than average?

My final thoughts are these.

If we continue to award mediocre and even substandard performance then we are destined to teach our children that it is OK to be lazy and not strive for excellence.

We are promoting mediocrity in our students and in society.

We’re basically saying It’s OK not to strive to be the best. It’s OK to just get by. It’s OK not to want to better yourself or your situation. It’s OK not to want to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and chase your dreams because if we continue on this path, no one will have aspirations or dreams of success. We’ll all want the status quo (can anyone say Socialism).

There is a reason sports in America is such a big thing. It allows us to see that striving to be all that you can be, and pushing ourselves to be better actually pays off.

It’s funny, when our favorite team loses (can anyone say Cowboys), we ask the teams, “Why didn’t you try harder?” We tell them, “I know and believe you are capable of doing what it takes to win the big game and be awarded the accolades you deserve because you are the best.”

Yet when our children fall short we tell them, “That’s OK, you did so-so and that’s all you need to do to get your award.”

Wow. To me, that type of thinking is kind of whomperjawed.


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