Critical Analysis Paper
February 21, 2018
The Value of F Word
In her article, “In Praise of the F Word,” Mary Sherry argues that fear of failure as a teaching tool is a motivation for students to be the better academic learners. Sherry asserts that students do not put enough effort to do the best at school because teachers do not face them with the fear of failure. In addition, she points out that students’ parent do not collaborate with teachers in their threat of flunking as a teaching tool. At the end, she concludes her argument with an appeal for teachers and parents to consider this method as an effective teaching technique that can be used by teachers with parent’s unquestionable support. Overall, Sherry’s article is an impressive article. The author position against the weak teaching system is clear for readers and attracts their attention. Sherry seems well-defined when she presents her personal and academic examples. However, Sherry’s article is unconvincing for readers. The lack of bringing strong pieces of evidence, the acceptance of bias in her argument and non-consideration of social factors are some of the reasons that Sherry’s argument is ineffective and does not convince the readers.
First of all, Sherry’s logical appeals and the lack of strong pieces of evidence make her argument questionable. At the beginning of her article, she mentions that “tens of thousands of eighteen-year-olds will graduate this year and be handed meaningless diplomas” (559). This detail is not clear for readers because she does not explain what percentage of those students have these undeserved diplomas? What are the reasons that they have these diplomas? How many of them have problems with concentration in class? The lack of pieces of evidence makes the reader uncertain about the correctness of this detail and the real reason for this meaningless diploma. In addition, Sherry asserts that “Flunking as a regular policy has just as much merit today as it did two generations ago”(560). The writer mentions the importance that this method has today but does not consider statistics or a strong outside source to provide readers the truth of this assertion. At this point, the argumentation can be just an assumption and can cause for readers uncertainty. Sherry builds her argument that the fear of failure is an effective teaching tool by using just her personal examples as a teacher and her example with her son. But her experience, even though she sees both sides of this method, as a teacher at an adult literacy program and parent of her son, it does not make her qualified to come to a conclusion that this teaching tool is more valuable than other teaching methods. She does not bring other data from other authors or surveys that are relevant to her argument. This confidence in appearance but without strong base makes the reader believe that she and her son’s teacher are the only ones that see the effectiveness of this argument. As a result, these examples are not satisfactory to come up with a relevant conclusion.
Secondly, the non-consideration of the opposite side of the argument and the disinterest to hear other views constitutes bias for Sherry’s argument. The author throughout the whole article considers just her own personal situation and not the viewpoint of others. She mentions the fact that “one example does not make a case” (560), but she really disregards the perspective of other parents and students. In addition, not all students are supposed to have the same level of achievement. Every student is unique and has their own character, attitude and intellectual ability that it is not the same for all students. Some students are interested in one subject, some in another subject, and some others have less intellectual ability that means that they need extra help and extra attention. If fear of failure can be successful for one student this does not mean that it is successful for another one. Also, Sherry writes that “A teacher can expect students to concentrate… and card of failure is the way to show who holds the winning hand in classroom” (559). At this point, the author does not consider the other teaching methods than can be effective to attract students’ attention and make them concentrate in the classroom. Every teacher has his/her own technique to make a student concentrate that can be as successful as can the failure method. For example, teachers can make the class more attractive for students, speak personally with them, keep them busy during the lessons, use collaboration among students are some of the effective teaching tools that can make a student take the class more seriously. Her argument is deceptive for readers because non consideration of counterargument in her article makes the argument biased and undermines to other opinions.
Social environment is another important factor that the author does not take into consideration in her argument. The disregard of these factors is another weakness that her article has. At one phrase in her article, Sherry announces that no one should think that students considers school as a priority unless they have something to push them to do it, also the environment from which students come is not important (560).The social environment when children grow up has a important influence on understanding that education has a significant role in their lives. For example, if students live in a bad environment with parents that use alcohol or illegal drugs, they are more exposed to not understand the importance that education has in their lives; as a result, they will concentrate less in class and will be less concerned about their education, even though teachers can threaten them with the fear of failure. So, if students are not conscious of the importance that education has in their future life they really do not worry about the fear of failure. The threat of flunking students in this case does not motivate them. Undoubtedly, the environment that surrounds students has a valuable influence on children’s results at school. Sherry in her article considers just well-educated social class, but not everyone has a chance to have a teacher as a mother to make the child understand the importance that education has in his/her life. Obviously, the author’s disregard of these factors makes her argument weak and less persuasive for readers.
In conclusion, the article “In Praise of F Word” is heedless when considering other factors that indicate students and undermines teachers and students’ views. Furthermore, she does not display valuable evidence to support her argument. These reasons make her argument inefficient and less persuasive for readers. Essentially, teaching methods are complicated and if the threat of flunking is successful for some students, it may not be for other students. Besides, this method for other students can have bad mental consequences, like anxiety and stress. However, the importance of flunking, in some cases, is inevitable and really can motivate student to better understand the value that education has in their life.
Sherry, Mary. “In Praise of the F Word.” Models of Writers, 12th ed., edited by Rosa Alfred and Eschholz Paul, Bedford St.Martin’s press, 2015, pp 559-661.