I know that, in America, teachers are demonized mostly for the wrong reasons and mostly by politicians on the left and right of the political spectrum who have fallen hopelessly in love with the “Standardized testing/Accountability” fad that has completely run our educational system into the ground……….
But folks, there are some terrible teachers out there who don’t fall into this category. They are called college professors, and some of them just really don’t have a clue what they’re doing and the worst part is their failure to realize that they don’t have a clue what they’re doing.
Take, for instance, my Intro to Psychology teacher. Our first and only test consisted of four short answer questions. They are as follows:
- What are the five steps of the Scientific Method? (25 Points)
- What are Psychology’s Six Main Perspectives? Mention theorists associated with three of those perspectives. (25 Points)
- Write an essay on Charles Darwin and his work. (25 Points)
- How does the body communicate internally? (25 Points)
Now there are so many things wrong with this test….just where should I begin???
1) The first question has nothing to do with psychology. For some strange and incomprehensible reason, I have been repeatedly bombarded with the steps of the scientific method since middle school: there was seventh grade life science, freshman biology, sophomore chemistry, junior year physics, college freshman biology, and college Junior Biology Seminar. I thought I had finally escaped the meaningless chore of having to list the steps of the scientific method ever again. Yes, I understand that psychology is a science. But our professor didn’t teach the scientific method in any special psychological context. We were never asked to perform any experiments or apply the scientific method in a practical sense. It was just another process we had to memorize
2) This was what I like to term a “regurgitation” test. Basically, our dear professor spits out random facts and we spit them back. In this case, he spits out the scientific method and we spit it back. He spits out the life and times and achievements of Charles Darwin (not sure what he has to do with psychology either and again someone I’ve been learning about since middle school) and we spit them back. Do I really need to point out the problems associated with this teaching method? In one of my previous posts, I highlighted the reasons why the multiple choice test, standardized or non-standardized, is the ultimate form of anti-learning
Well, the “regurgitation short answer” test is a close second on the anti-learning list. In and of themselves, facts have no value. Therefore, a test of facts has no value except in terms of my grade A, B, C, D, or F. This goes directly to the question of what it means to be well-educated. Am I smart because I know the five steps of the scientific method? Am I well-educated because I can tell you a brief history of Charles Darwin? Is my father, self-employed web domain developer and founder of ibn7.com, stupid because he can not tell you the five steps of the scientific method. Is my mother, adult basic education teacher in NYC, uneducated because she can not explain how the body communicates internally via the endocrine and nervous systems? Common sense would tell you that is not so. Humans are not mere passive receptacles to be filled with information, and I honestly do not know when some college professors are going to start realizing that basic fact.
3) If you need any more of how truly anti-learning this test was, our professor told us the questions before the exam. What message does this send to the student? This is how much I have to know to ace the test. That’s all I care about. That is the ultimate goal. Ignore all my other notes. Apparently, all that was all just a waste of my time. Regurgitation, regurgitation,regurgitation. No learning going on here folks. For god sakes, I haven’t listened to a word this man has been saying all semester, wikipediad all these answers, and still aced it. I’m not telling you this to be braggadocious. I’m telling you this to highlight the absurdities of this classroom and so many other classrooms across the America. I’m telling you this to express my frustration, but I’m also telling you this because I care. I care about the state of America’s schools. When I write this, I’m trying to get through to students who share a similar plight but perhaps do not think about their education in this manner. Perhaps you would like my professor, because I have painted the picture of an “easy A” class. But I challenge you to think beyond that selfish and narrow-minded perspective. That is a perspective which is conditioned upon you by this mindless way of teaching. That is a perspective you must rise above.
Consider these quotes my favorite American educational philosopher, John Dewey,
“Only by being true to the full growth of all the individuals who make it up, can society by any chance be true to itself.”
“Verbal memory can be trained in committing tasks, a certain discipline of the reasoning powers can be acquired through lessons in science and mathematics; but, after all, this is somewhat remote and shadowy compared with the training of attention and judgement that is acquired with having to do things with a real motive behind and a real outcome ahead.”
“The mere absorbing of facts and truths is so exclusively individual an affair that it tends very naturally to pass in to selfishness. There is no obvious social motive for the acquirement of mere learning, there is no clear social gain in success thereat.“
“Where the school work consists in simply learning lessons, mutual assistance, instead of being the most natural form of cooperation and association becomes a clandestine effort to relieve one’s neighbor of his proper duties.”
“In critical moments we all realize that the only discipline that stands by us, the only training that becomes intuition, is that got through life itself. That we learn from experience, and from books or the sayings of others only as they are related to experience, are not mere phrases.“
“But the school has been so set apart, so isolated from the ordinary conditions and motives of life, that the place where children are sent for discipline is the one place in the world where it is most difficult to get experience– the mother of all discipline worth the name.”