My View: Benson observe bemoans loss of rigorous standards
by: JIM CLARK, Juniors Jordan Rogers (left) and Lexy Spinisteanu go on the air in their radio broadcasting class at Benson High School. The school's emphasis on technical programs has long been its drawing card.

Your article on Benson High (Benson goes to bat, Oct. 6) is a sad reminder of the eroding academic standards perpetuated within Portland Public Schools.

How can any person concerned about academic excellence, achievement and the betterment of young people think that abolishing standards is beneficial to students?

There was a time when Benson received national attention for achievement in technical activities, science and math, and for instilling high academic standards in its students.

Admission to Benson was a highly selective process - one that encouraged educational excellence - and Benson students were proud to be rewarded for their preparation and effort. Standards were based on performance and aptitude, and admittance to the school was a coveted honor.

The curriculum was difficult, attendance was mandatory, and a strict dress code was enforced. The queen's English was spoken (it was a requirement), and if you failed to complete the rigorous course schedule, you were removed and returned to the school in your neighborhood.

Current Benson Principal Christie Plinski is 'irked' that her teaching staff decries the quality of students now attending Benson. Maybe Plinski should step outside her politically correct academic cocoon and take an objective look at the devastation that the homogenization of the entire student body has wrought.

A whole generation of area students has been relegated to substandard mediocrity in the name of political correctness by people like Plinski.

What message are they sending? When did the need to cater to underachievers usurp the promotion of challenging standards and demanding performance? Where can outstanding students go to prove their merit?

This is political correctness gone mad, and the real losers in this charade are the students. Only academics living under the cloak of sheltered Ivy League halls could rationalize such folly. When you have no standards, you in turn have no performance. Is this really preparing our kids for the real world in the best capacity?

Our students are continually losing ground to nation-states that demand excellence: India, Pakistan, China, Japan, Germany, Israel, etc. American businesses and industries continue to increase their employment of students from these countries because they are more capable than our own domestic graduates.

I wonder when educators will apply the same 'nonstandards' to athletic events. When an 880-meter race is run with the participants sprinkled at different starting lines on the track to ensure that no standards of performance occur.

The 'winner' of the race would know that they 'won' nothing, for the race was 'rigged' and therefore the whole effort was a meaningless joke. How many gifted and talented runners would try their best? Or even turn out for track?

Will this type of 'race' become the 'standard,' similar to the academic 'standard' of Benson? The results would be as predictable as the anemic educational ghost that Benson has become.

Jim Speirs lives in North Portland.

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