In Mary Sherry’s essay, “In Praise of the F Word,” the author encourages all parents and teachers to use failure as a form of encouragement. Sherry would like for them to use it as a way to motivate students to do better and want more when it comes to their education. What Sherry believes in is that the threat of flunking is a “positive teaching tool” (566).
In Praise of the F Word by Mary Sherry Summary
Mary Sherry in praise of the F word uses a variety of examples to support her claim. The author’s main source of evidence used to support her claim was personal experience. Sherry shares with us her son’s senior year high school experience. He was not putting in the necessary effort needed in class and his English teacher, Mrs. Stifter was not willing to tolerate it. She then said to Sherry that she would flunk her son. Without having seen this type of approach before Sherry was flustered. Not once before had her son been threatened by a teacher like that, but she managed to agree with her approach in the end. Her son realizing he would fail and not graduate, made English class a priority and passed with an A grade (Sherry 565).
One of the many night students that Sherry teaches said, “I was a good kid and didn’t cause any trouble, so they just passed me along even though I didn’t read well and couldn’t write,” this example shows that instead of the teacher using a method that gives her the power she needs, students do as they please without much effort. Sherry’s son was the type to get away with many things until now faced with the fear of failure.
The greatest strength in Mary Sherry’s argument is the involvement of her night time students. I believe the things some of them had to say about their personal education experiences helped me fully understand and support Sherry’s claim. I have also personally heard people question their reasons for receiving their high school diploma, I have heard people say they never received a passing grade on an assignment but had a great relationship with the instructor, so they passed the course.
The things that some of the students stated and experienced were examples of what I saw in my high school. I enjoyed the way the essay flowed, not a thing seemed to be randomly inserted and was easy enough to interpret. Lastly, I liked the way Mary Sherry included her personal experience with her son, it was a way of demonstrating that situations where students are accustomed to simply sailing by are happening everywhere.
The greatest weakness in the argument is the lack of a possible outside source. I would have liked to see numbers or a study conducted to see how many students have experienced situations where they didn’t have to do much to earn their diploma. I also think it would have been great to include other teachers’ perspectives on this subject and if whether or not they think it is a good idea to praise the F word. I think research could have made the essay a lot more reliable and persuade the readers even more.
Overall, Mary Sherry presents her audience with a compelling and convincing argument. I believe she did an excellent job on persuading readers to agree to this form of teaching to help improve education by stating that, “students don’t put school first unless they perceive something is at stake in the end. They‘d rather be sailing” (Sherry 566). Sherry did a good job on repeating the need for having a fear of failure and having the threat of flunking as a positive form of teaching for students in a way to try and convince her readers.
In Sherry's article, the central issue is how to ensure that students learn material before being passed on to the next grade.
Sherry's thesis is that our current educational system fails children when it passes them to the next grade level even though they lack the basic skills. She believes this is why some students graduate from high school even though they are illiterate. Sherry feels that this is the result of an educational system that no longer "flunks" students:
...I see a parade of students who are angry and resentful for having been passed along until they could no longer even pretend to keep up. Of average intelligence or better, they eventually quit school, concluding they were too dumb to finish. 'I should have been held back,' is a comment I hear frequently. Even sadder are those students who are high-school graduates who say to me after a few weeks of class, 'I don't know how I ever got a high-school diploma."
Sherry believes in the benefits of "flunking" students who have not mastered skills. Her central issue is that if "flunking is a regular policy," it can motivate students to "learn the material presented to them." Sherry argues that "the F word" can be a "positive teaching tool."
Sherry's central issue is an important one because it addresses the achievement gap between students who learn content and those who do not. Sherry believes that she has an answer that can help struggling students, suggesting that embracing "the F word" policy can facilitate "a dedicated, caring conspiracy between teachers and parents" and prevent students from illiteracy and disadvantage.