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Telling a kid to suck it up and work harder is too "harsh"

Stories like this one drive me insane.

Here's the deal. A sophomore at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines was benched from the wrestling team following his failure of an advanced algebra class. He wrote an e-mail to the school board protesting, and received three e-mails back. One of those three e-mails offended his poor little mommy's sensibilities, because he used "harsh" language. The harsh language? Well, read the two e-mails for yourself.

Here is sophomore Craig Richman's e-mail:

Dear School Board,

I am sending you a message about my eligibility for sports, and how I disagree with the rule. (Mainly to see if I can do anything about this, so I could change it.)

First to start things off, I want to tell you that I failed my algebra 2 class second semester last school year (Because of this I am now ineligible for 6 weeks for the next sport I play.). I also want to state that I am only a sophomore at Roosevelt high school this year.

Now I would like to explain what I disagree with about the 6 week rule. I honestly don't think it's fair that I have to sit out for some of my wrestling season for "challenging myself."

Last year as a freshman I was taking algebra 2. (A junior grade level math class) I had already received my freshman and sophomore years worth of math credits in middle school. So I am advanced in math. I believe if you say I have to still sit for wrestling season for failing a 2 year advanced class ( That I am retaking this year), then you apparently don't care that much about the education of kids, because then I'll take this as you pretty much saying that you don't want kids to challenge themselves. Now is this true? I honestly hope not since you are the school board but, if I still sit for wrestling season, then ill think way more poorly of the school system.

I would completely understand sitting and not getting the
privilege to wrestle for 6 weeks, if the class I failed wasn't an advanced class that I was taking to challenge my self. (Do you honestly think it's fair that I am punished for not understanding the materials in an advanced class?) Also I don't think this is not fair that I sit because I also never decided to take advanced math (The school did.). When I went to middle school they automatically placed me in a higher math class. I thought about getting that changed, but after discussing this with my mom back in middle school, we thought that this could be good to take advance math, and that no harm could come out of it. But were we wrong?

Wrestling is very important to me, and my season begins next week on Monday. So I hope you read and put some thought in this and email me back quickly. So I know if I can change it so I am able to wrestle all season.

Craig Thomas Richman

Apparently, the kid isn't doing too great in English either.

Now, here's school board member Jonathan Narcisse's e-mail:


Look in the mirror. This is a good rule. Perhaps it isn't tough enough. You are a student athlete and your first priority needs to be your academics.

Playing sports is a privilege not a right.

If you were to become a pro athlete your playing days are numbered. If you expect to be a college athlete your eligibility will be directly linked to your academics.

And if your sports career ends in high school your academic success is even more important.

I played tennis and wrestled in high school. Boxed afterwards. You need to ask yourself what you need to do to be a better student. Life isn't fair. The world isn't fair. What if you were able to compete and suffered a devastating injury. What favor would we have done you?

No, instead of complaining about the tough rules, which by the way apply to everyone, you need to suck it up, ask what help you can get to be a better student and then focus on more than meeting the minimum but ask what can you do to truly excel in the classroom.

I remember this great athlete in high school names Randy. The adults let him slide by. Last time I saw him he was at the Git N Go gas station on Keo asking customers for money for wine and offering blow jobs for money. It was very sad because he had world class athletic talent. So much so that no one told him what I'm telling you now.

He didn't make it in college because they didn't let him slide and now his life is a shambles.

Robert Johnson, the first freshmen to ever start basketball in the Metro, had all these adults falling all over him. For four years he slid by. Then when he got to Iowa State he couldn't cut it. Period. And all that God given talent was wasted and none of the adults that made it easy for him rescued him once he failed.

So suck it up man. Hit the books. Work out and stay in shape and don't make the same mistake ever again.

This may seem like tough love but it's the best advice you could get in this matter.

Jonathan Narcisse
School Board Member

He referenced oral sex, which has Craig's mommy up in arms. Craig himself is more angry that he was told to "suck it up" and that "life isn't fair". Oh, the horrors.
Richman's parents feel Narcisse's 11-paragraph e-mail was unnecessarily harsh. But they are more upset with a story Narcisse shared with the teen about an athlete who hadn't focused enough on his academics and was last seen at a convenience store "asking customers for money for wine and offering (oral sex) for money."

Kim Richman, Craig's mother, said the e-mail was offensive and demeaning.

"It was not something you should be getting from somebody who you should consider a role model, somebody who is on the school board," she said.

Her husband, Tom, agreed: "The analogies are inappropriate, especially when he's writing back to a high school student."

Kim Richman said she plans to express her concerns about Narcisse's e-mail to him and other school officials.

Narcisse on Monday stood by the e-mail and said that the teen had heard worse language in the locker room at school. He said the teen needed to be told he had to work harder in order to be a better student.

"If I hurt his parents' feelings and his feelings, tough," Narcisse said. "I'm telling him what his parents should have told him."

Craig Richman said Narcisse's sexual reference made him a little uncomfortable, but he was more upset with Narcisse's lack of help on the issue and telling him "life isn't fair" and to "suck it up."

"He shouldn't be saying things like that," Craig Richman said. "He's on the school board and is supposed to be a role model and give words of encouragement."

So that's the whole sordid story.

And you know what? I am 100% on Jonathan Narcisse's side. Not only am I on his side, but I think someone needs to knock some common sense into the kid's parents. What kind of upbringing must he have had to think that "life isn't fair" is a harsh lesson to learn? Good grief.

If you're wondering why American teenagers have overinflated egos with little accomplishments to back it up, well, here's example number one.

And of course, Narcisse should not have referenced oral sex. It was extremely unprofessional. But let's get real here. We inundate kids with sex ed, oftentimes graphic sex ed, and let teenage boys read Maxim and Playboy and watch MTV. This isn't exactly Victorian London, OK? You'd think the fact that the poor little child's sensibilities weren't disturbed at the mention of oral sex, just at the advice to work harder, would be telling you something. It was a poor choice of analogy, but he should still stand by what he said because it was good advice.

We teach kids so often these days that we're all winners! and that everyone gets a gold star and all kinds of nauseating crap like that. Children today quite obviously have an entitlement complex... much like the rest of the country, actually. Working hard for the privilege to play sports never occured to this kid, did it? No, he just thought he was entitled to play.

To participate in sports and school events when I was in high school, you had to have a 3.0 GPA. The spring semester of my sophomore year, I was not doing well in school. My freshman year I had a pretty decent GPA, but I had transferred to a public school from a Catholic school, and it was ridiculously easier than what I was used to. So I slacked off, and my grades dropped. Therefore, the activities I wanted to participate in were now unavailable to me. So I spent the spring semester working my ass off to get my GPA high enough so that, in my junior year, I'd be able to do everything I wanted to do. My parents certainly didn't help any or complain to the school board. I distinctly remember my mom being very unsympathetic and telling me that I got myself into the situation and I could get myself out. Sure, she'd help me study or with homework if I needed it, but she didn't make any excuses for me or tell me that it wasn't my fault.

Apparently, this approach is inconceivable to this kid and his parents, and a lot of parents around the country. Too many parents think their darling little angel never does anything wrong, and if his GPA suffers, or he broke some rule, well, the school should just look the other way for their little sugar-filled sweetykins. It's ridiculous. Rushing in to rescue your kid every time they get thrown a hardball is not only bad parenting, but it doesn't actually help out the kid. The day will come when Craig, and kids like him, will grow up and realize that everything in life is not handed to them on a silver platter; that they can't just send an e-mail demanding that they get their way. And how will they be able to handle that when that day comes if their parents and teachers have babied them their entire lives while simultaneously telling them how great and wonderful they are? It's a recipe for disaster.

And a man who tried to help this kid, to give him some very, very good advice is now getting punished for it. And for what its worth, someone in the comments pointed out that the class Richman was taking and complained about is actually not an AP course; it's a general math course required to pass high school. Apparently he just chose to take it early, but it is still required for graduation, which kind of changes things a little, doesn't it? It's just another lesson this kid needs to learn. Kudos for trying to challenge yourself and all, but taking risks is exactly that: risky. Regardless of how brilliant your mommy says you are, the outcome may not be exactly what you want it to be, and part of challenging yourself is acknowledging what may happen if you try and fail.

The really sad, scary thing is that these are the people who will be running our country in the near future.

What happened to the original American dream? It used to be that you could accomplish anything, be anything, do anything, if you were willing to work hard enough for it. If you fail, try again. Try harder. Don't give up, keep working. Be resilient. And now what is it? If something doesn't go your way, whine and complain until you get what you want?

What are we doing to the youth of America?

Hat Tip: Rachel Lucas


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Comments (31)

Though I laud the ... (Below threshold)

Though I laud the kid for taking AP classes, the rules are the rules.

Most kids today are not disciplined, and not accountable. Years from now, that kid will remember the letter, and the lesson, from Narcisse.

Narcisse is correct and sho... (Below threshold)
geo Author Profile Page:

Narcisse is correct and should not be taken to task for telling it like it is in real life. Kudos to him.

And kid, get it together. Your choice..complain and wither or work and prosper.

This kid needed a kick in t... (Below threshold)

This kid needed a kick in the ass, and this was the next best thing.

This is something his parents should have told him, but instead they had to 'protect' him from that mean old board member who used an example which although true, was too much for his sensitive ego.

You just don't understand! ... (Below threshold)

You just don't understand! If this little loser is going to be a dependable democrat voter, he has to learn that everything can be adjusted to his liking by simply complaining! Teach him to take care of himself and work for what he wants and, my God, he could become a republican. Or even a gun owner!

He referenced oral sex, whi... (Below threshold)
Strick Author Profile Page:

He referenced oral sex, which has Craig's mommy up in arms

Oral sex? Where I come from 'suck it up' means to suck in your stomach and gut it out. It's the kind of advice any football coach would give.

At least it meant that before the Clinton Administration. I don't believe things have changed that much.

But he's a "jock", ergo, he... (Below threshold)

But he's a "jock", ergo, he's "entitled".

If Mom and Dad are upset about the 'blow job' reference, just what do they think kids junior's age talk about all the time? Nuclear physics?

Mom, Dad and Junior need to get a life. And junior needs another English class.

I do admit to some sympathy... (Below threshold)

I do admit to some sympathy for the kid in one respect. It seems a flaw that the system has a built-in disincentive to take courses beyond the minimum graduation requirements.

Many seniors, for example, may already have met graduation requirements by spring of their last year. Their grades might have no longer have any effect on whether they will graduate or not. So, should they be ineligible for, say, baseball if they're failing courses?

Or, possibly a senior might have only one required course left to graduate. In such cases, perhaps the only one the student needs to be in good standing might be that one course.

There are other examples, but those seem simple enough for discussion.

Dang, Strick, you're going ... (Below threshold)

Dang, Strick, you're going to need an elevator to get up high enough to see where that one went over your head.

Sorry, Falze, but don't see... (Below threshold)
Strick Author Profile Page:

Sorry, Falze, but don't see anything going by at all, much less over my head.

I'm dead certain it's not a sexual reference, and if you read the original article, several people involved are outraged primarily because they're convinced it is. The cultural illiteracy is amazing.

The phrase, particularly in this context, predates the word "suck" being overwhelmed by a sexual meaning by many decades. Remember it well. Then again, I remember when "gay" meant cheerful, so don't hold it against me.

Yeah, I agree he shouldn't ... (Below threshold)

Yeah, I agree he shouldn't have used the sex reference, but the rest of the email is awesome. Good for Mr. Nircisse for telling it like it is. Personally I wish the kid's parents would step up and make sure he can't wrestle because of his grades. My daughter (who is 9) already knows if she gets poor grades, she won't be playing basketball this winter. School comes first, period.

Strick, I think you must ha... (Below threshold)

Strick, I think you must have missed the "blow job" comment in Mr. Nircisse's e-mail.

"Last time I saw him he was at the Git N Go gas station on Keo asking customers for money for wine and offering blow jobs for money."

Perhaps the oral sex refere... (Below threshold)
Andy T:

Perhaps the oral sex reference could have been left out, but I think it adds to Narcisse's point.

Our kids play sports, and we have a higher eligibility standard than the school does.

I don't think the kid is being punished for taking advanced math. He is taking a regular math class early, but nothing more. He had the prerequisites as well. It was not as if he was taking algebra 2 before algebra 1 or geometry.

Rather than passing athletes along, the parents should be demanding the schools educate their kids as a condition for allowing the school the opportunity for the kid to raise the school's profile. The Bd of Ed guy is correct, he will need the basics anyway. He may luck out and be one of the top 1/100 of 1% that can make a lifetime of earnings from professional sports (but as a wrestler that won't happen), but for everyone else, and even the rare one, the more he knows the safer he will be.

We should recruit the Bd of Ed guy to run for Congress or Senate.

Good for Mr. Narcisse. When... (Below threshold)

Good for Mr. Narcisse. When he's done being on the school board in that town, we could desperately use him here! I am so tired of kids not being taught that actions have consequences but instead learning how to immediately claim victim status when something doesn't go their way. If it were my son, he would have already been suspended from wrestling by my husband and I until his grades improved, never mind the school's rules.

Fair enough, didn't read th... (Below threshold)
Strick Author Profile Page:

Fair enough, didn't read the whole letter and missed that one.


Kid should just take basic ... (Below threshold)

Kid should just take basic math next year, get an A, and wrestle to his hearts content.

That's what he will do anyway.

Ah yes, our illustrious edu... (Below threshold)

Ah yes, our illustrious educators can teach a student how to stretch a condom over a banana, but goodness me if someone mentions some harsh fact of life.

The 'blow job' reference WA... (Below threshold)

The 'blow job' reference WAS unprofessional and doubly so because he's a school board member, quite a prestigious local position.

Other than that, his advice was good.

But, his comment, "If I hurt his parents' feelings and his feelings, tough," Narcisse said. "I'm telling him what his parents should have told him." is COMPLETELY out of line.

That's because it's NOT his place to be telling parents HOW to raise their kid. Nor what 'values' they should be inculcating in him. ANY kid or ANY parent. Only the parents should have that job, otherwise its OK for the Bill Ayers of the world to inculcate their values into your kid.

The correctness of Narcisse's values, words or lessons is irrelevant, once he starts thinking its his job and therefore appropriate for him to be telling the parents what they should believe and thus how to raise their kid.

Excellent message from Narc... (Below threshold)

Excellent message from Narcisse. Although for specific examples I probably would have picked something other than the oral sex solicitation thing, especially in the written form of communication.

The kid emailed what he tho... (Below threshold)

The kid emailed what he thought, wanting a response. And he got one. A damn good one. The kid made it Narcisse's right to respond when he hit "SEND".

The blow-job reference was unnecessary, however.

BPG,I'm not questi... (Below threshold)


I'm not questioning Narcisse's right to respond nor his right to offer his opinion. You are correct that the kid sending the email created that right.

I'm questioning his response to the parents,"I'm telling him what his parents should have told him."
because he's stating what the parents should be teaching their kid. I don't think that's anyone's business but the parents.

Values are subjective and if Narcisse thinks its his job to tell parents what to teach their kid then Bill Ayers has that right too.

The blow job ref wasn't use... (Below threshold)
Son Of The Godfather:

The blow job ref wasn't used for purient content, it was used to make an effective, scared-straight point. I agree with the entire content of Mr Narcisse's letter and wish there were many more school board members who actually give a damn.
There was no offer of oral sex, no graphic description, etc.
Mr Narcisse seems to be guilty only of using "street lingo" for a sex act in an attempt to open up Craig's perspective.
Folks are way too sensitive nowadays, and yes, he is absolutely telling Craig what his parents should have.

Look for a lawsuit of this "wronged party" to follow.

Heh. That boy and his pare... (Below threshold)

Heh. That boy and his parents have no real clue about living in Iowa. They can come here to NJ and fit right in. But then maybe I need to get back to Iowa...

The parents of every studen... (Below threshold)

The parents of every student like this need to have their asses kicked. God there are such lame, insipid, lazy, foolish people who are allowed to have kids.

You need a license to drive, but only a set of functioning gonads to have and raise a kid. We treat are cars better.

Sexual Education starts in ... (Below threshold)

Sexual Education starts in junior high school in most states (kindergarten in some). So to pretend that he has not been exposed to sexual material by second year of high school is disingenuous. The primary purpose of school is to provide an education and while sports are part it, it is not the main thing. Many schools forget this and leads to disastrous results for their students.
It is good for this student to come face to face with the reality. Also it does not matter what he took in Junior high. In the real world you could make your employer a lot of money last year but if you do not perform today, your head is on the block.
So since he knew the penalties for failure he should have sought help in order to pass the class. The only latitude, I would give him, was if most of the students failed that class. Then this might be indicative of a poor teacher. However, some teachers pass students, from grade to grade and when the encounter a class where they have to perform they fail.

His parents telling the school board how they should do their job allows the school board to respond in kind on how the parents should be doing their job.
I vote this student and his parents for Knucklehead of the Day

Geoffrey Britain, You could... (Below threshold)

Geoffrey Britain, You could not be more wrong - on several levels. First, Mr.Narcisse did not make that comment TO the parents. He was responding to criticism about his email. The article states,
"He said the teen needed to be told he had to work harder in order to be a better student."
Isn't the role of educators and school boards to help students be "better students"?
Furthermore, your obsession with Bill Ayres (a name I suspect you never heard before the recent election) not withstanding, it is EXACTLY the role of education to provide moral guidance and instruction to youth. According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, "educate" means "to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction".

If you knew anything about the development of compulsory education in this country you would know that it was begun primarily to provide a wider base of educated/socially adjusted workers for factories and corporations. The very intent of compulsory education was to "inculcate" children in the values of the American middle class. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were curricula designed to specifically address the moral development, values, and even hygiene of children. Even today most schools have a character education component.

The very idea of a free public education for all Americans is itself a value judgment. There are many cultures - or radicals within those cultures - throughout the world that feel it is a moral obligation to prevent females from being educated.

A school without values or moral judgment is a school in chaos and would be nothing more than a "The Lord of the Flies" remake, except on the playground in place of an island. (By the way, if you understand the "Flies" reference, thank your public school teacher.)

Of course parents have the right and the duty to be their child's primary source for values and morals. As a people, we have determined it is the role of government to intervene when parents abdicate that responsibility. And that is what Mr. Narcisse has done here.

(As an aside, it is a rare event when a public official takes the time and interest to respond so fully to such an ill-planned and error-laden correspondence. The parents should be grateful that he didn't just blow-off the email (no pun intended) and let the ruling stand.)

AmericanWeigh,Well... (Below threshold)



Mr Narcisse's comment that I take issue with was a PUBLIC response to the parents criticism of his highly unprofessional sexual references to their son.

I purposely used the Bill Ayers reference not out of obsession but because as a highly placed and influential 'educator' his focus is ensuring the inculcation of radical far-left 'values' into American students.

I was attempting to make the point that what is sauce for the gander can be sauce for the goose.

When BPG appeared not to get the point I used it again because it's appropriateness seemed self-evident, & most especially relevant because of the recent election.

Given Mr. Narcisse's predilection for promulgating his values as superior to any parents with which he disagrees, it seemed a valid point.

You may disagree but unfounded assumptions about my familiarity with the American educational system only reveal your biases.

For the record, I am a 60 yr old American, born and raised. 6 years of college and a Vietnam veteran.
"Geoffrey Britain' is a 'play' on my given name and Geoffrey IS my actual first name.

As for the history of US compulsory education, Thomas Jefferson, its first noteworthy proponent would find the claim that its purpose was to provide educated workers for its factories and corporations problematic...especially as 90% of American's gained their sustenance directly from the land in his day. Perhaps you are not as well versed on the subject as you had thought?

I am familiar with the Lord of the Flies. When I attended school it was not yet part of the curriculum but at the time of its publication, its noteworthy theme drew attention without the assistance of public school teachers.

"As a people, we have determined it is the role of government to intervene when parents abdicate that responsibility. And that is what Mr. Narcisse has done here."

Other than when laws are broken, I categorically disagree the the proper role of government is to 'intervene' when parents have in the opinion of the Narcisse's and AmericanWeigh's, abdicated their 'moral' responsibilities.

Quite frankly, it's none of your or anyone else's damn business.

The "don't pin your hopes o... (Below threshold)

The "don't pin your hopes on sports" lecture wasn't even on topic as there was no indication that the kid was upset because he might miss a scholarship or professional career. He was upset because he was going to miss the wrestling season. The stupidity about "what if you got hurt" was even more moronic. The "OMG, if you want to be an athlete you'll end up blowing guys at teh gas station" was just the icing on a juvenile rant.

I expect the kid's email to be a bit incoherent because he's a kid. But he clearly anticipated the question of his not taking academics seriously enough and made a clear point to include the fact that he was taking math classes above his grade level. Logically, he more than met the requirements for participation *if* the purpose of the requirements was to ensure some minimal level of academic proficiency.

As others have mentioned... this likely is a serious disincentive for students to take harder classes. If they have to maintain a particular grade, a B or something... a C in bone-head math is entirely different from a C in an AP class.

Suck it up, life isn't fair, might still be the right answer, but as far as I can tell, that was the only part of the reply that was relevant at all.

The *real* answer, which a school board member ought to know (and I suspect this duffus hasn't a clue of) is that even in high school sports, whole schools can lose their certification if they don't follow certain rules. In all likelihood the disqualification wasn't a decision that the school board has any control over.

If its OK for Obama to give... (Below threshold)

If its OK for Obama to give Hillary the finger on national TV, what's the problem with this fellow mentioning male prostitution as a result of blowing off a high school education?

I agree with the school boa... (Below threshold)

I agree with the school board member, even though he probably should have left out the B.J. reference. Personally, as his parents, he wouldn't have had to write that to any kid of mine because I would have told them to suck it up myself. All kids have to do now is whine. I would just play air violin and tell him to call a whambulance.

I taught high school over... (Below threshold)

I taught high school over 20 yrs ago.
One student was smart but he wouldnt do any of his school work and continuously disrupted the class. Well the parent has a conference with the Principal and they wind up auditing my class. It was very stressful. I passed with flying colors. Being a new teacher I went to the counselor to see what I could do for the student.
Guess what? The student was failing 2 other classes and making a U in conduct. They wanted to put pressure on the new teacher to change his failing grade so he could stay on the tennis team.

In the spirit of "no good d... (Below threshold)

In the spirit of "no good deed goes unpunished," Jonathan Narcisse seems to be learning that life isn't fair.

Pity. He seems to be the one person in all of this who doesn't need that lesson.






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