Sunday, March 03, 2013

"I have a box and I know what to put in it!"

So my youngest kid has been in school since September-all of five months, after a life of unschooling. The biggest lesson she's learned there? How to pass tests. What do I need to 'know' to get a 4 plus? Is this work worth a 4 plus?
This is how it goes; the teacher hands out a sheet that outlines what you need to know to if you want to get  5/10, use two words.
If you want 6/10 give more content. For an 8/10 you will need to show that there is some mental processing going on. If you want a 10/10 you need to be able to show some originality.
If you hand it in late 10% will be deducted from your marks.
My daughter describes learning in school in a nut shell with the following words: "I have a box and I know what to put in it."

What's more, it seems that cheating is the norm: "Everyone is cheating and getting As. You're a fool if you don't. You'll be left in the dust!"
How does it work? "You get your paper and you stick it in the pencil case. No one is going to look in your pencil case. These are just the subjects you don't care about."

There you have it: "These are just the subjects you don't care about," says it all. If you don't care about the subject, what's the big problem if you cheat in order to pass into the next year? That makes sense to them. It makes perfect sense to me as well. The goal is to get into the next grade with good marks whether or not you deserve them. Here's why school doesn't mean education. Nobody cares about what is being taught. Why should they? It's someone else's interest; not theirs.
One evening, at the dinner table where my youngest is studying for health test, my oldest (in grade 12 and at the same school) exclaims, "Did you know that this unit hasn't been changed since 1990? Since you were two! There is absolutely no accounting for the changes in awareness around issues like sexual orientation, gender etc. There is no context for learning this information."
How is this education? Information is useless without context.


Cathy said...

I once read a comment from a mainstream educator -- not a homeschool / unschool parent, but a fellow who writes books about education and schools and teacher prep and so forth -- and the author opined that, if a test is so simple-minded that students can achieve high scores by "cheating" --then they should just go for it. Instead of having multiple-choice tests on facts such as state capitals and the name of the fourteenth and sixteenth and eighteenth presidents, teachers should use essay tests (or other non-cheatable evaluation tools) to see what changes in perspective, knowledge, or skills each student had undergone...

beatrice ekoko said...

@Cathy-good point but schools still have to address the issue of kids wasting huge amounts of life because they are doing things that are just of no interest to them.

Karen said...

As I think you might know, my youngest started school for the first time ever this year, too (eighth grade). He doesn't really seem too interested in jumping through hoops to get certain grades as of yet. The subjects he is more interested in, he naturally does better at and gets average to slightly above average grades. The subject he cares about the least (history) he got his lowest grade in. After looking at what they've been covering in history class, I can't blame him for being totally uninterested - it's completely dry, irrelevant material. He now says he "hates history" even though last year when he was still home we did an amazing War of 1812 unit study with a bunch of other homeschoolers and had a lot of fun, went to Fort George etc. ::sigh:: I'm sure by mid-high school he will have perfected the "study for the test" mentality that is so pervasive in the school system. I remember even in university all most people cared about was what would be on the midterm/final and endlessly asking the profs "will this be on the exam?"

beatrice ekoko said...

@Karen-I hear that all the time from professors-"just tell me what I need to know so I can study for that piece." I can hardly blame students-the goal being to get the damned degree and a job!

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