Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Year after year, it’s a disappointment and a head-scratcher. The full-page ad announcing that nominations are open for the Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award in the Omaha Public Schools promises 15 prizes of $10,000 each.

That’s the good news. The BAD news is that the ad goes on to say that if you want to nominate a teacher, ‘’don’t worry about grammar and spelling -- these letters won’t be graded.’’

In other words, accuracy doesn’t matter in education, much less excellence. If the ‘’great’’ teacher you are nominating somehow neglected to teach proper grammar and spelling, that doesn’t matter . . . because they don’t matter.

And yet somehow, according to the ad, despite an utter contempt for the basics of written communication, the Omaha district still manages to be ‘’one of the very best in the nation.’’


I mean, imagine it: what if you won a MVP award even though you whiffed on two field goals, had a third one sail wide, and had an extra point blocked . . . but were trying your very, very best?

What if you could win an engineering award for a bridge you designed even though there were math errors in the calculations you used for its load-bearing properties . . . but you really burned the midnight oil on your design so you ‘’deserved’’ it?

Think about it. What is this saying about education, and the importance of getting things right?

Think what a different message would have been sent if that ad had read, ‘’Errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation will disqualify letters of nomination because they violate the intention of these awards.’’

Join me in dropping them a line thanking them for the encouragement their award gives to teachers, but advising them of the DIScouragement their criteria gives to parents, taxpayers, employers and everybody else who wants young people to learn how to write correctly:

Buffett Foundation
222 Kiewit Plaza
Omaha, NE 68131

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