20. Phi Beta Delta: Achievement

Education has been sharply divided by discussions over achievement. There certainly has been a lot more heat than light about the topic. Legislators have passed a blizzard of controversial bills that require students to meet certain standards, and newspapers have been full of supposed scandals where administrators are revealed as fudging the achievement statistics. There are numerous catchy slogans such as No Child Left Behind and Adequate Yearly Progress, and such programs are worthy. Schools and colleges are continually getting a lot of criticism, so a word about achievement and the role of Phi Beta Delta is not out of place.

No doubt we do need better program design, more community partnerships, and improved evaluation tools. There is nothing wrong with quality assurance or re-assurance. Some re-engineering is undoubtedly in order. One does wonder though if possibly anxiety about teaching effectiveness is a case of "nothing new under the sun", -- but there can be no quarrel with demands for quality and standards.

Notwithstanding all of this, perhaps a word should be said about the old-fashioned notion of appealing to the idealism that young people fortunately have. An honor society is, after all, a supremely idealistic organization. It assumes that the carrot is as significant as the stick. Recognition and reward are tools just as much as testing and assessment. Phi Beta Delta is the carrot. It rewards work and dedication. That time worn line about catching more flies with honey than vinegar has a point. Having a chapter of Phi Beta Delta is a modest investment in waving the carrot and not the stick. By all means let us have tests and rules and regulations to induce higher standards, but let us also consider that rewarding achievement also has a place. There are sometimes ways to do something in a positive rather than negative way. Rewarding academic achievement is one example.

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