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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Credit Junkies

I am tired of being viewed as a credit-spewing machine. We have created a system in which students are only interested in points, credit, and grades. And though I do not believe that the human mind is equivalent to poultry, I do fear that this system will only churn out pecking hens that as soon as the food pellets stop appearing become quite somnambulant in nature.

The concrete cause of my frustration is a recent vocabulary quiz. Nearly ninety percent of the students failed. The words were drawn from the text that we are currently reading in class, the students were given to 45 minute class periods to fill out a sheet of notes on the words, and we had a Jeopardy style review (using a Smartboard) the day before the quiz. The words were no more difficult than you would find in a daily newspaper.

I decided to give the quiz again. It was as if that day had never happened. Made aware of the fact that they were functionally illiterate, I assumed that the students would study during the intervening 48 hours. Though some of the students responded admirably, a number of them requested to see the old quiz so that they could only study the words that they missed. Yet others were concerned that the score on the second quiz would be lower than the first, and it would only be fair if I were to take the highest score. The disturbing part about this is that the right answers on the quiz were conjured from luck rather than knowledge.

I acknowledge that educators have a different perspective on learning, but is it too much to ask that students, people, should want to become smarter. It is a wasted day in which I learn nothing. Often people will say to me that there are so few surprises in the world today as if the ability to predict likely outcomes is a bad thing. Not only is predictive ability a valuable skill, but anyone that actually lives life would know that it is fallible and that surprises lurk around every corner. Since we have all become credit junkies and live our lives according to the rut of least resistance the only surprise most people experience is when there precious cheese is moved.

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