Wha-? Huh?
May 31, 2005

What's wrong with education today? Well, I'll rant and babble about this periodically. There's a lot wrong, a lot I saw as a student and a lot I saw as a teacher.

Now most savvy web crawlers have long ago discovered the joys of Strongbad and his man, The Yellow Dart (+5, no +10 for having a cool nickname). Jeremy Lavine has become the stuff of teacher nightmares and massive urban legend. There have been lots of debates as to whether Jeremy is real or fictitious and just how bad the grader of Jeremy's essays were.

So, I'm not gonna go there just now. I'll probably have to talk about it eventually, because, well, it relates to the whole Why Johnny Won't Learn and Mrs. Curnutt is Tired of the System deal.

For now, though, I just want to share a real paragraph from a real paper submitted for a grade at the University of Notre Dame. This is probably circa 2000 or so. I don't feel like climbing into the attic and digging out the rest of my files to figure out exactly when this was submitted.

The paper is called "Genetics and the Relationship with Identity" and it was the third and "final" draft of the paper. Now, the class was structured in such a way that the students still had one more chance to re-write their papers for a final grade - but the reality was that the students tried to make this draft their very best so they could get out of a final.

One final note before I type in this sample paragraph: the kid who wrote this is a bright, bright kid. This student did improve the paper greatly for the end of the year and did eventually pass the class - although I wondered if the student would when I read this:

Identity has show that genetics can have a key role in the formation of identity. Gene structure will guide the human intelligence. Most of the studies on genetic formation of identity have been through twins. Genetics and identity have a correlation between each other that balance together in unison. Fraternal or identical twins both have physical and mental similarities in genetics, which help compose their identity. Twins can have a different nurturing method used by parents. Parents and twins have adapted a style of nurturing that involves balancing genes. The idea of identity at conception is believed to be the origin of identity especially in the genetics of twins. Twins have shown a role in the genetics in identity.

And this is a smart kid. How did this student get into a prestigious university with writing skills like this?

I don't know the answer for sure for this particular student. But I believe that for this student and the many, many, many more just like this one, the issue is: if the students try, they pass. After all, how many teachers want to be Simon Cowell? In suburban school systems, you can give students all the praise in the world for what they do right, you can carefully word the comments about what they still need to improve -- but you give a grade that doesn't boost a student's self-esteem and you are Simon Cowell. It doesn't matter that students learn that only trying is good enough and that results don't really matter that much.

As I write this, I'm watching Discovery channel's Deadliest Catch. And you know what? Trying really hard doesn't alwasy mean shit. Sometimes you can try really hard, definitely your best and then some . . . and still get little results and no pay.

I've got more to say about this issue and I'll be posting it over the course of the next several months. I just wanted to get things rolling.

Posted by Red Monkey at May 31, 2005 11:12 AM | Why Johnny Won't Learn and Mrs. Curnutt Is Tired of the System | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

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