Ongoing Open Call: What Should Change About School?

I’ve just begun reading Nikhil Goyal’s One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School.  Goyal is an American high-school senior who has made a name for himself talking to the media about educational change, and although I’m not far into his book yet, I am already intrigued.  I’ll write more on his ideas later, but for now, I’d like to reopen a discussion on his pet subject: the need to hear from young people about what could make school better.

Last year, I asked for student responses to the question “What needs to change about school?” The answers that flowed in were diverse and enlightening, and I feel like there’s still lots more to be said on this subject.  So I would love to hear from more of you.  What have you encountered in your time in school that you think really needs to change?

You can go to the permanent page devoted to this open call  in order to get more details and to see some previous responses on the subject.  Most of the essays I received last year concerned the administration and requirements of school, things like the usefulness (or not) of Pell Grants and the over-emphasis on grades.  I would be delighted to hear more of your opinions on these and similar matters, but there’s another side of the question that is preying on my mind.

The seemingly endless current stream of cyberbullying scandals, a couple of personal teaching experiences over the last few days, and a second listen to This American Life’s fabulous podcast “Middle School” have combined to make me think more about the strange social environment that schools create.  We pile a bunch of people of approximately the same age together in one building, one classroom, one playground, and we ask them to negotiate so many things.  Is this working?  What are your personal experiences of the way “school society” works?  Is there anything we could change about it to make it work better?

To address this or any other topic on how “school” could be improved, please visit the open call page, or leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Image by Michal Zacharzewski

Willing to Read and Write: Reprise

Last week, this post – first published in September of last year – spiked in my blog stats.  It seemed a whole pile of people were reading it, but I couldn’t figure out who or why, although the search term “effort” had a corresponding spike.  Maybe now, at midterm, teachers and students are being hard hit by the reality of the reading and writing demands of college.  Or maybe it’s bots.  Regardless, I like this post, and am still asking myself these questions: is college the best place for students who find reading and writing a chore?  Is it a place where they can learn to love these activities, or at least see their value?

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Yesterday, I told my college students that they need to read the next 150 pages of the novel we are studying, Life of Pi, over the next seven days.  This is not news – they got a reading schedule on the first day of class, and were told to read ahead.  Nevertheless, there was a collective gasp and more than a little laughter.  A few moments later, during a close reading exercise, I asked them to talk about a passage with a group and come up with a point that they might focus on “if you had to write a couple hundred words about this piece.”  Around the room, students looked at each other with horrified amusement.  A couple hundred words?  About this?  What does she think we are, writing machines?  There were quiet snorts and groans, subtly and not-so-subtly rolled eyes.

It’s early in the semester, and I still have reserves of patience that I won’t have in a few weeks’ time.  By October, I may break down and say something like:

“If you’re not sure you can read one hundred fifty pages of clear, simple prose in a week, or if you’re not sure you can write two hundred words about a two-page passage, that’s ok.  It’s not a problem if you don’t know how to do it – you can learn.  However, if you don’t want to learn how to do these things – if you don’t want to practice and get feedback and meet that challenge, and if you resent me for asking you to – then college is not the place for you.”

The previous class, I’d asked students to interview each other about their reading habits, and write a paragraph about their partners’ reading lives.  A predictable number of students said that they don’t like to read, never read for enjoyment, and last read a novel in the ninth grade, because it was required.  (The number was predictable to me, that is – anyone who doesn’t teach college might be astonished by the number of college students who have absolutely no interest in reading.)

I would like at some point to ask similar questions about writing, but they seem redundant – surely people who don’t read also don’t write?  However, “writing” has become a much more complicated phenomenon in the age of digital communication, and many would argue that our students “write” all the time, although a middle-aged fuddy-duddy like me might be reluctant to call much of the texting, messaging and Facebook posting they do “writing,” any more than I’d call a to-do list “writing.”  Maybe what I’m talking about is long-form writing: long emails in the spirit of “letters,” diary entries that go on for pages and pages, poems and stories and even stabs at novels, blog posts.

A few weeks ago, an article appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education called “We Can’t Teach Students to Love Reading.”  In it, Alan Jacobs explains that

“‘deep attention’ reading has always been and will always be a minority pursuit, a fact that has been obscured in the past half-century, especially in the United States, by the dramatic increase in the percentage of the population attending college, and by the idea (only about 150 years old) that modern literature in vernacular languages should be taught at the university level.”

Jacobs points to the American GI bill, and the influx of soldiers into American universities after WWII.  From then until now,

“far more people than ever before in human history were expected to read, understand, appreciate, and even enjoy books.”

Once, only a tiny minority of people were expected to get a post-secondary education; now almost everybody is.  However, it is still unreasonable to expect everyone to enjoy reading, even though a university education – at least a traditional one – is difficult to pursue if you don’t.

Jacobs divides people into those who love reading, those who like reading, and those who don’t.  Universities, he says, are full of

“…often really smart people for whom the prospect of several hours attending to words on pages (pages of a single text) is not attractive. For lovers of books and reading, and especially for those of us who become teachers, this fact can be painful and frustrating.”

Jacobs says this is genetic – such people are “mostly born and only a little made.”  A furor has arisen around this assertion – here’s one post that takes it on – but I think he may in part be right.  But if readers and writers are at least “a little made,” what can teachers do to help make them?

According to Jacobs, maybe nothing.

“[The] idea that many teachers hold today, that one of the purposes of education is to teach students to love reading—or at least to appreciate and enjoy whole books—is largely alien to the history of education.”

Now, I’m ok with the fact that a lot of people don’t like reading and writing.  I think they’d be better off if they did, but I also think I’d be better off if I liked playing team sports, going to parties full of strangers, and drinking wheatgrass.  And I’ve written before about the wisdom or lack thereof of pushing your children to love writing.  If it’s possible for me to help my students like reading and writing more than they do, I’d love that – and I dedicate a lot of thought and time to this end.  But if not – if many students will never like to read or write no matter what I do – I can accept this reality.

I do, however, want and expect my students to be willing to read and write.  I want and expect them to see college as an opportunity to practice these activities, and to even be open to enjoying them.  I know that teenagers are not usually “open” by any measure.  Much of their energy goes into defining themselves as “this not that” – athlete, not reader; gamer, not writer.  However, I’m irritated at the prospect of another semester of complaints about being expected to read a lot and write a lot in English class.

Are there things we can do to make our students willing, if not eager, to read and write?  We can try to give them “books that interest them,” but in an extremely diverse class of 42 students, coming up with books that will please everyone is not possible.  We can give them choices about what they’ll read and what they’ll write about, but if reading and writing are themselves the problem, even making such choices can be difficult and frustrating.  By the time they get to college, is it too late?  Do I just have to grit my teeth and say, “I know you don’t like it, but you’re in college”?  Or is it time to start asking less of them?

Jacob believes that we should ask, if not less, then at least different.

“Education is and should be primarily about intellectual navigation, about…skimming well, and reading carefully for information in order to upload content. Slow and patient reading, by contrast, properly belongs to our leisure hours.”

If this is true, then there is no place for the study of literature at college, at least not as core curriculum for readers and non-readers alike.  Can we extrapolate from this that there is no need for “deep writing” either?  That asking students to write longer pieces – which is not to say two hundred words, which they would call long, but perhaps one-thousand-word essays – is asking too much of most, that the ability to do such a thing can only “arise from within,” as Jacobs puts it, and cannot be explicitly taught to anyone?

I would argue that the skills of deep reading and deep writing can be taught to anyone.  The caveat is that students must be, not necessarily enamoured of these activities, but simply willing to engage in them.  They must open to the possibility that they may enjoy them more than they expect, but also to the possibility that they may not.  They need to be prepared to keep stabbing away at them even if they find them difficult, boring or even infuriating, in the hope that they will get better, and with the faith that they will learn something.

Is this skill – openness, or gameness, even in the face of obstacles and possible failure – something that can be taught?  Because if we can teach our students (and ourselves, for that matter) how to be willing, how to relish trying, then we will all truly be learners.

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Go to Siobhan’s Facebook page and hit “Like”!  Follow Siobhan on Twitter!  And if you’d like to know more about Siobhan’s life and thoughts outside the classroom, follow her Tumblr blog.

Image by Peter Galbraith

Plagiarism: What Do Students Think?

It is only a week and a half into the semester, and already my office mate and I are talking about plagiarism.  There are hangovers from last semester – cases that never quite got resolved – and our college has a new plagiarism policy that requires, among other things, that we submit any plagiarism accusations to the dean within 15 business days.  (This is good to know; sending off those letters often falls to the bottom of my to-do list.)  So we’ve been wondering what instances will rear their heads this semester, and what we can do to head them off, beyond the myriad precautions we already take.

In discussing it, an old question from a friend and reader, Gen X, emerged for me: if you asked students, what would they say about plagiarism?  Why do they do it?  Why do they continue to do it even though they know it a) may get them into trouble, b) does not help them learn, and c) is both cheating and stealing?  Do they see it some other way?  Are they desperate?  Do they (as I suspect) really feel it’s no big deal as long as they don’t get caught (and sometimes even if they do)?

I would be very interested in anyone’s take on this; I’d be especially interested to hear from students, but we’ve all been students at one time or another.  Have you ever plagiarized?  Why?  Did it seem justifiable, or did you not understand the problem, or did you know you wouldn’t get caught, or did you feel it was your last best resort?  If you did get caught, what were the consequences?

(I did it on minor assignments in high school all the time.  If my biology teacher asked me to answer five short questions about the beluga, I knew he wasn’t asking me to copy information out of the encyclopedia, but I was never, ever reprimanded for doing so.  I never plagiarized anything in university, from what I remember, but I had friends who did, shamelessly.)

Why do students plagiarize?  What can be done to prevent them from doing so? Is it really such a big problem?  Gen X wants to know, and so do I.

Image by  Michal Zacharzewski

Five Purposes of Higher Education

What do you think higher education is for?

Back in September, Richard Kahlenberg gave a convocation speech in which he outlined five “Purposes of Higher Education.”  I don’t entirely buy them.  Kahlenberg, in his speech, is critical of the extent to which higher education has accomplished these things; I wonder whether they should be our goals at all.

1.  To ensure that every student, no matter the wealth of her parents, has a chance to enjoy the American Dream.

2. To educate leaders in our democracy.

3. To advance learning and knowledge through faculty research and by giving students the opportunity to broaden their minds even when learning does not seem immediately relevant to their careers.

4. To teach students to interact with people different than themselves.

5. To help students find a passionand even a purpose in life.

“4” and “5” work for me as ideals.  How often are they accomplished?  As Kahlenberg says, not very well.  Every time I walk through my school’s cafeteria, I notice that, even after a year or two or three in college, students are still choosing to interact with people very much like themselves.  And a few hours in a few classrooms will show anyone that many college students feel passionate about very little that school has to offer them.

Where “2” is concerned: educating “leaders” is overrated.  We can’t all be leaders, and the world needs educated, successful followers, too.  Kahlenberg seems to be suggesting that those who go to university should be the leaders; this is an outmoded view.  Nowadays, plenty of people who go to university will be employees in large companies, or civil servants.  There’s no reason that higher education can’t provide for them, too.  Kahlenberg is worried that universities are perpetuating old norms by giving preferential admissions to the wealthy and other “legacy admissions”; I think there is a greater problem with the idea that a university education needs to be focused on leadership.  A university education needs to be focused on learning, in all its forms.

Which brings us to “3,” which seems like two different things to me, and neither mentions “learning how to learn,” the most relevant skill to any career or life.  In fact, “3” doesn’t seem concerned with student learning, per se, but with the “advancement of learning” in an abstract sense.  If higher education is to be “education,” it needs to put the concrete, day-to-day learning of students at its center.  “Giving students the opportunity” to “broaden their minds” suggests that faculty are spouting wisdom that students are welcome to partake of if they wish – this view of “education” sits very poorly with me.

And as for “1”…well, I’m not American, so maybe I don’t know from American Dreams, but the concept has always seemed like a great big fraud to me.

Take a hop over to the article, and then come back here and tell me what you think.

Image by Carlos Alberto Brandão

How to Cheat

So I came across this Wikihow site the other day.  It details 120 ways to cheat on a test.

Does this say something about:

a) kids these days?

b) human nature?

c) the inevitable descent into absolute amorality/immorality for which the internet will prove responsible?

d) a revolution in human thinking that I’m too old and prissy to understand?

e) all of the above?

My favourite part is the introduction:

Cheating is considered dishonest. It counts as stealing and lying. There are some cases, however, where cheating on a test might be argued to be acceptable. Sometimes there are tests that are the result of politics, rather than practicality.

The wiki is in fact helpful for teachers, whose minds will pop at some of the instructions.  Write on your hands with skin-coloured gel ink?  Use a compass to scratch answers into the cover of a metal binder?  Tape a paper inside your hood and then put your hoodie on backwards? (Seriously? Like no one will notice?) Score an eraser down the middle and write notes on the inside?  Wouldn’t studying be easier?

Many of the methods involve using a cell phone.  This brings up the inevitable question: in a world where everyone has a cell phone with them at all times (everyone except, ahem, me, as I would prefer to save my money and NOT be reachable every second of the day, thank you), does it make sense to give tests for which a quick internet search or a text to a friend will turn up an answer?

I know that if I cared to look, I’d find plenty of things online that would horrify me more than this wiki.  I know there’s no use in being morally outraged about school cheating – students who cheat find this outrage amusing.  I hear students in the hallways all the time saying things like, “Why didn’t you just cheat, you idiot?” or “This calculator is perfect for cheating – the bottom slides right out.”

What’s a teacher to do?  Is cheating more rampant than ever, or is it something that always has been and always will be?  I – most of us, I think – approach cheating as a moral problem, as if we could solve it by teaching students right from wrong.  This clearly isn’t working.  Is it school, and tests, that have to change?

Image by David Hartman

University Isn’t Everything

This is the final post in our series “What Students Think Should Change About School.”  In today’s post, Ruth explains that our fixation on getting everyone to university means a poorer education for everyone.

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Society has this idea that certain levels of education are necessary for a person to have any worth. I think this is a ridiculous idea that is harming students today. In many circles, a person is told they must at least have a college bachelor’s degree in order to get a job or be respected in society. Just going to a technical school or learning a trade is not enough anymore. And yet, if everyone is getting a college degree, then soon even that will not be enough. How far will we push those outrageous expectations?

Because of those expectations and the increased attendance rate at universities and colleges, it seems that our value of education is lowering dramatically. With increased class sizes and more and more fees everywhere a student turns it is so difficult for the average student to get a good education. I know so many students (including myself) who have to take a packed class load while working one or two jobs on the side just to get by without starving. How is a student to get a quality education while stressed to the max?

The thing that has frustrated me the most in my college career has been the useless classes I have had to take. I realize that part of this is because I am going to a liberal arts Bible college. However, I do not think a student should be forced to take (and PAY for!) classes that they do not need. That part of the system is definitely messed up. College is not the place for high school students to play catch-up at the expense of their fellow students.

The last comment I have to make is about how prepared college students are to actually face the world. My biggest complaint is with the Teacher Licensure programs around the country. I had so many teachers in high school fresh out of college that had no idea how to actually function in a classroom and deal with students. When a carpenter learns his trade, he does not spend the majority of his time sitting on his backside learning theories of carpentry. He also does not spend only a few months doing actual hands-on carpentry. If such a method would not work for a carpenter, then how can we expect it to work for a teacher? Teaching really is a skill that cannot be learned sitting in a room learning theories and making cut-outs. Students of teaching need to BE teachers and spend most of their time practicing in order to become skilled. Most Teacher Licensure students at my college spend three and a half years in the classroom with a practicum thrown here or there and only one semester actually teaching. Even though it is not my personal goal to become a teacher, I have spent almost every summer for the past seven years working in a summer school classroom. Comparing my experience with what some of my friends are learning in a classroom shows a major discrepancy in ability and skill level. My exposure and experience actually being in the classroom have prepared me more than years of sitting in class have prepared them.

It seems that the push for a college education has caused schools to create degrees for things that do not need a conventional college degree. Students are then forced to sit through boring and unnecessary classes in order to achieve their goals.

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What do you think of Ruth’s perspective?  Is it true that pushing everyone to go to university makes for useless degrees, boring classes and an inadequate education?  Please leave your thoughts below!

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Previous posts in this series:

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I’ll be taking a hiatus next week to take care of some other matters, so I’ll see you again on October 24.

Image by Piotr Lewandowski

Students Need To Know Why They’re In School

It seems that there are a lot of things students would change about school if they could.  For example,  MaplesAndMerriment thinks that students need a clearer understanding of why they are in school at all.

This is Post #4 in a 5-part series on what students think should change about school.

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If I could change one thing about school, it would be motivation.

What I mean is that so often, we students lose sight of why we’re in school. It’s easy to say “because we have to be; because our parents are forcing us to,” even up to and through an undergraduate education. But I believe this is a terrible perspective on school and it’s a sure way to make the least out of our opportunities.

For some, school is a logical and important step on the road to a career, and nothing more. That’s fine! For others, school is a place to find oneself and to meet new people. Also fine! For some, school is the chance to learn about a wide variety of fascinating topics. Groovy! Others use school to dive into the things that they are passionate about, and to make their life work the work of learning. Rock on.

There’s a wide variety of ways in which we can use and appreciate our education. I may personally disagree with a few, but the only explanation that I really want to challenge students on is “I don’t know.” If you don’t know, why not sit down and think about it? Maybe it will give you a fresh insight or some much-needed motivation.

So, how could we change this issue of identifying student motivations in schools? I think it falls into the work of counselors and advisors. I admire both of these professions and I wish every school, at every level of education, could have a lower advisor-to-student ratio. It would be so helpful if each counseling session began with a discussion that promoted self-reflection in the student and asked the question: “Why are you here? What are your educational goals?” We students need to be reminded of this often. It’s easy to lose track and get bogged down by assignments and the semester schedule. But being asked to step back and look at the larger picture of our education could be extremely beneficial to individual students and to the education system as a whole.

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Do you agree with MaplesAndMerriment?  Is it true that students are unclear about their reasons for being in school?  If so, how can we help them?  Leave your thoughts below.

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The final post in this series will appear tomorrow: According to Ruth, pushing everyone to go to university is making university less useful.

Previous posts in this series:

Yesterday’s post: Katy believes that we need to change our attitude toward grades.

Tuesday’s post: Aewl thinks college should be reserved for those who can pay for it.

Monday’s post: Emily thinks school is too easy.

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Are you a student?  What do you think should change about school?  Go to this post to leave your thoughts, or write me a message.

Image by Eduardo Schafer

Lighten Up About My Grades

What else should change about school as we know it?  This is Post #3 in my series on what students would change about school, if they could.

Today’s post is from Katy George, who believes that we need to change our attitude toward grades.

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I am currently a senior in college majoring in journalism and Spanish, though I’ll be taking a fifth year to finish my studies. I have had a fairly unconventional educational life, with private schooling until I graduated high school followed by two terms of community college and then two years of university at a large public school, and I’m now studying abroad in Spain for the year. My younger sister, who is 13, goes to the same small, independent, vaguely religiousish private school I went to and is trying to decide whether to switch for high school, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the educational system in the US recently.

My high school is top-notch in my state. They grade HARD, with less than 45 students graduating with a 4.0 GPA (meaning an A average) in the school’s 150+ year history. I always thought this was a good thing, until it came time for me to apply to college. The year I graduated from high school (2008) saw the most seniors looking to head to college in the history of the United States, and competition for decent universities was the fiercest it’s ever been. While GPA isn’t everything when applying to college, it certainly means a good deal. So even though I scored a 2100/2400 on my SATs, had won national awards for my writing throughout high school, was a varsity athlete, had acted in every play but two during my high school career, edited the literary arts magazine, volunteered extensively, and had excellent recommendations from my teachers, my mediocre GPA caused me to be weeded out of the admissions pools from the start. I literally did not get into college PERIOD that year. Whereas my friends who went to public schools, who often had far fewer extracurriculars, got into the schools I was rejected from because it was easier to earn As at their schools, plus with weighted grades (A+ counting as higher than a 4.0, meaning better than perfect) they could make up for any Bs or even Cs on their transcripts.

Fast forward three years. I am a nationally recognized student journalist. I speak fluent Spanish, write for 2 award-winning magazines at my home university plus a bilingual magazine here in Spain, am a successful member of the equestrian team, and maintain a 3.7 GPA at a top-15 journalism program. I’ve held down a prestigious job at my university for a year and been offered a promotion when I get back from study abroad. And my friends from the public schools with the 4.0 high school GPAs? Many of them struggled dismally the first two years. A few have dropped out completely.

I’m not trying to say I’m any better than them. A good number of them have done very well in school – better than I have, at times. What I am trying to say is that our grade point averages were in no way predictors of our future success – they were reflections of the very different expectations at our high schools. Many secondary schools (and, to be fair, universities) reward the bare minimum of effort with the highest grades. Mine didn’t – if you wanted an A, you had to be as close to perfection as humanly possible. We put in the same effort, but were given different evaluations.

Grade inflation is everywhere in the US, and more importantly, grades are seen as the end-all, be-all of school. This completely misses the point of education – which is, of course, to LEARN. I want grades to start actually reflecting the amount of work put in, but I also want grades to be less important in the world. As I watch my sister (who, like I was at that age, is very precocious but not necessarily a good STUDENT in the traditional sense) decide between our local public school, which is famous for churning out graduates with high GPAs and very little actual knowledge, and my old private school, I worry a lot about the consequences. And at the same time, I’m thinking about graduate school – another application process that puts a ton of emphasis on grades. I’m a more competitive applicant this time, but only because I’ve obsessed so much over my GPA in college – at times to the detriment of my actual education.

So to make a long story short, the educational system needs to CALM DOWN about grades. If people put less emphasis on 4.0 GPAs, grade inflation would be much less of a problem, and students could focus on actually learning the material and taking challenging, interesting classes.

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What do you think of Katy’s perspective?  Do you agree that we need to put less emphasis on grades?  Leave a comment!

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Tomorrow’s post: MaplesAndMerriment  thinks students need help to understand WHY they’re in school.

Yesterday’s post: Aewl thinks college should be reserved for those who can pay for it.

Monday’s post: Emily thinks school is too easy.

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Are you a student?  What do you think should change about school?  Go to this post to leave your thoughts, or write me a message.

Image by Clinton Cardozo

If You Can’t Pay for College, Don’t Go

What would students like to change about school?  Our series continues.

Today’s post is from Aewl.  His perspective?  College should be reserved for those who can pay for it.

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I’m currently a Freshman at a local Junior College. All my classes are online classes as I work during the day full time as a Carpenter for the local school district. Yes, I’m a bit older than most students as I graduated from High School 28 years ago. I did a semester of college right after High School, but didn’t do well as I was more focused on partying than studying. Times have changed and I’ve matured just a bit.

One thing that I can’t get over about college today is all the remedial and prep classes that are not only offered but usually pretty full. 28 years ago, there were few if any remedial courses offered that I remembered. I’ve never had to take a remedial course, so I can’t comment on whether they are a help to students or not.

If I could change just one thing about college, it would be to get rid of Pell Grants. That may seem a bit outlandish, but let me explain. By making college affordable to many people that years ago would not have been able to go to college, it basically makes it an extension to High School. There are quite a few people that if they had to work to pay for their college would not go. These are the same students that do poorly in college and really have no business being in college. Colleges are obligated to try to teach students that are not prepared and are also under pressure to show decent graduation rates. To achieve this, they have to hire more faculty member to teach remedial courses and also to lower the bar of expectation. There is a real danger of grade inflation going on throughout the nation. Today an “A” doesn’t mean near as much as it did a few decades back.

As I do the work for my classes, I have an incentive to do well which has only come from years of working hard and learning from life’s experiences. Unfortunately, even though I do well in my classes, due to grade inflation, it is not seen as much of a big deal as it used to be.

In my day job at the school district, I get brief glimpses of students from K-12 in classes. I also get to interact and develop friendships with various teachers. For the most part, most are motivated to teach well, but of course there are the bad apples in the system that have forgotten why they are there. The lack of parental involvement is a clear indicator of a student’s future failure in the academic world. Consequentially when these students go on to college because the government is subsidizing their education, they have to go to remedial classes which take up resources from the college that in my opinion could be put to better use for the students that are prepared for college.

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What do you think of Aewl’s perspective?  Do you agree that students should hold off on college until they have the means to pay for it themselves?

Tomorrow’s post: Katy thinks we should lighten up about grades.

Yesterday’s post: Emily thinks school is too easy.

Are you a student?  What do you think should change about school?  Go to this post to leave your thoughts, or write me a message.

Image by jitheshvv

School Is Too Easy

This week, I’m featuring posts from five students who have shared their thoughts on what they would, if they could, change about school.

Today’s post is from Emily.  Her take?  School should be more of a challenge.

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I’m a high school student at a nationally acclaimed magnet school. I go there because my home school wouldn’t offer me the kind of education I’m after. So a nationally ranked school that promises college prep and world readiness should offer some sort of challenge to an intelligent, determined, hard working student, right?

Wrong.

School is EASY. And I know, I know, not everyone thinks so. A lot of my friends don’t think so. And I also know that I am not the majority. I was in gifted classes all through middle and elementary school, so I’m used to having someone say: This is the minimum. If you do this, you will a C. I don’t want C work, I want A work. I want you to give me all you’ve got. I’m used to being expected to produce work that I’m proud of, not work that passes under minimum inspection.

So now I’m at a supposedly challenging high school, and I can scrape by with barely any effort. I’m bored out of my skull. I’m two years ahead in math and in AP history and it’s NOT ENOUGH. Teachers don’t expect anything of us, and we’re the cream of the crop! So they say, anyhow. My problem with school is that I am a student who wants to give everything I have. I want someone to tell me that it isn’t enough just to try. I want a teacher who will stimulate me intellectually, creatively, and emotionally. I want people to stop telling me that I’m the best of the best and start treating me like I am. If I turn in an essay that took me five hours to perfect and get the same grade as someone who did it that morning on the bus, I’m not going to be spending five hours on my next essay, I promise you that much.

My realization has been that the problem with my slacker friends didn’t start with them. They didn’t have the classes I had early in life. They never got pushed to do their best. So they think that their best is giving up. They think their best is what they can do before they get bored. They never had someone tell them that they were capable of great things, that they had it in them, that their minimum effort was not acceptable. I feel like my fellow students have almost been… punished.

Instead of preparing us for a standardized test, prepare us to be intelligent, educated, informed adults. Turn us into scholars, not drones. If you expect the minimum out of us… we’ll give it to you.

I’m sick and tired of being treated like a teenager. Treat me like a student. I want to LEARN.

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What do you think of Emily’s perspective?  Do you agree that schools need to change to accommodate more gifted students?  Please leave your thoughts.

Tomorrow’s post:  Aewl thinks that we shouldn’t go to college until we can pay for it.

Image by Horton Group