Arguments are a waste of time

Study group blog

Sitting down - an opportunity or a waste of time?

May 30, 2013 | From: Nina Steincke | Category: School | Keywords: grades, promotion

Thomas Mann, Johannes B. Kerner, Guido Westerwelle or Winston Churchill - intelligent people who have made great careers. Would you have thought that they all couldn't finish school without sitting down?

But have these celebrities become so successful precisely because they stayed seated and thus had the chance to make up their learning and knowledge deficits or was the lap of honor just a wasted lifetime that did nothing to their success?

No transfer without diligence

Our society has been discussing for years whether it makes sense to stay seated or whether it should be abolished. Most proponents of the lap of honor cite the most important argument that the threat of staying seated is the main incentive to make an effort at school. Students themselves often perceive staying seated as a compensatory justice: those who, unlike their classmates, have not been diligent should not get any further. According to this line of argument, staying seated is primarily to be understood as a disciplinary measure intended to punish laziness.

Bad grades have many causes

But are bad grades always due to a lack of diligence, a lack of ambition or the unwillingness of the students? It is not that easy. Problems in school can have many causes. Of course there are lazy students, but parents' divorce, death in the family, relocation, illness or the like can also lead to a drop in performance. So can a lap of honor be the right solution for every student with grade problems?

Sitting down is not always useful

Students who are not yet mentally mature should remain seated to enable them to compensate for their developmental differences. Just think of the youngest of a school year, for example, who can be up to a year younger than their classmates and thus may not yet have the necessary intellectual skills to be able to keep up with the older ones. Lazy students should stay seated and the fear of being excluded from the class and the display of their failure as a motivation to learn.

Even if staying seated can be an opportunity to catch up on something that has not been missed or to provide the necessary incentive to learn, the lap of honor generally means public humiliation for children and young people. The resulting psychological and social consequences for the students are what criticize the opponents of staying seated. For them, the psychological damage to the children and adolescents is greater than the benefit. In the case of a student who has to endure, for example, the divorce of their parents, the death of their mother or father, or some other difficult fate, it is easy to imagine that staying seated only means additional psychological stress for the child. In many cases, the lap of honor does not eliminate the causal problem and it is doubtful whether the performance will improve if the grade level is repeated. Just as little is staying seated a guarantee for lazy or unwilling students that they will progress in their development and develop the necessary motivation to learn.

Selection of the best?

Lazy students or children and young people with private problems are not necessarily less intelligent. School grades don't necessarily tell you anything about a student's intelligence. Rather, they reflect characteristics such as hard work, perseverance or care, which are more easily recognizable and measurable. So staying seated does not necessarily lead to a selection of the most intelligent students. Opponents of staying seated also invalidate the argumentation of business representatives who see the system of honorary laps as a guarantee for a certain level of education and thus the required quality of trainees, young professionals and later employees.

I think back to my own school days, after all, quite a few students from the upper grades have been downgraded to my year. Very few of them have passed the Abitur. Still, most of them made something of their lives. For them the repeat school year was wasted time. I am also sure that one or the other of them was significantly more intelligent than many who passed their Abitur.

Alternatives to staying seated

Recently, after a fundamental restructuring of the German school system, the voices to solve the problem have been increasing again. There is largely agreement on individual support for the students, which enables the deficits of each individual to be identified quickly and eliminated immediately. But opinions are again divided as to what that should look like in practice.

How do you feel about staying seated?