Peter Gray at Psychology Today has posted a thoughtful blog article entitled Why Children Protest Going to School: More Evolutionary Mismatch. I find it an insightful argument in favor of homeschooling and several other education methods that do not lead to a factory model of schooling.
As I was reading an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education about plagiarism from an administrative perspective. It includes suggestions about heading off plagiarism, and pointed out the need to define plagiarism and teach proper citation practices.
The author said faculty protest that they shouldn’t have to teach those basic things, because students should have learned that already. The response not only explained why students may not have learned those basic things but also shed some light on at least one of the reasons students come to college unprepared to do college work.
First, many students do get out of high school never having written an essay that involves research or working with sources. This is happening more and more because of the state-mandated tests students have to take to earn a high school diploma. These tests usually do not require that students cite anything, so teachers who have their salaries or continued employment tied to the test scores of their students do often focus on teaching for the test.
Among other things, high school should prepare a student to reason and to work independently. College work requires that–it’s not just about shoveling more information into their heads, but giving them the tools to think critically.
Unfortunately, misguided efforts at accountability scuttle that very important function of high school, and similar efforts currently aimed at higher education will likely make the situation worse. At a time we bemoan the fact that students aren’t learning much in college (Student Tracking Finds Limited Learning in College), we certainly don’t need to discourage the development of independent, critical thinking skills at any level of education. But this is what happens when we treat schools like factories, and when we force all schools to hue to the same standardized tests, they become factories.
The teachers are as frustrated with this as anyone, based on conversations I’ve had. So let’s not blame them, or even the administrators who simply struggle to comply with mandates forced on them by politicians. Even the politicians are (ineffectively) trying to address public concerns.
We, as a society, need to take a step back–for the time being, don’t just do something, sit there–and examine what we really want an education to do. It’s not just about jobs. Education, properly done, will lead to jobs, but it will do that because education will lead to a higher level of functioning as a human being in a complex society. That is difficult to standardize on a test, but it’s the only thing worth pursuing.
This is the first post in a new category for this blog, called simply “Buccaneering.” The idea comes from an approach to education explicated by James Bach in his book Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: How Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion Can Lead to a Lifetime of Success. Some people love the book, some hate it, but there is food for thought here. Learning is a much more complex thing, and yet a much simpler thing, than many in the education establishment would have it. I’ll have several posts jumping off from these ideas, but I’m hoping we’ll have some discussion around the idea of what constitutes education.
You can get some quick background by taking a look at Bach’s own blog, How I Learn Stuff.
Politics has no place in this blog, which is focused on education. Nevertheless, I feel I would be shirking my duties if I didn’t at least mention this, since it could potentially affect hundreds of PSTCC as well as other college students. It has already affected a Walters State graduate.
I have blogged about it at Kingly News. If you fit either of these categories, please take a look immediately. Updates to the legislative action will also appear there.
Here is an excerpt from an email that illustrates the nature of the problem:
Cindy Benefield with the Department of Education told a graduate from a church related school, “Your diploma is not worth the paper it is written on.” He has to have a high school diploma to be able to work in his current profession.
Later the department did offer that he could take the GED and they would accept that. What that means is this: The DOE will accept making a 70 on a 6th grade level test, but they flatly reject a high school diploma given by a church related school. (They also rejected a Police Officer who after receiving his diploma, graduated from the Police academy with a 4.0 and are setting suspects free, because the arresting officer, a CRS graduate, had to be administratively demoted and cannot appear in court to be a witness in his cases.) [DK–this police officer graduated from Walters State Community College. Apparently, his college education is also invalidated by this DoE interpretation.]