December 16, 2008
A Rant about Education
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
With all the time I have, I have began pseudo philosophizing and I have come to certain realizations, especially about our education system. Kids out there that have had their curiosity repressed and never fit in because you always wondered why the hell grades should matter–this is for you.
1) Grades will affect the rest of life and how I will live in the ‘real’ world.
One of the greatest lies a kid is fed for the first 18 years of his/her life is that grades mean everything. THEY. DO. NOT. If you are a Muslim, one thing you would know is that four things are predetermined for you since you before you were born. One of them is how much money you’ll have/how much God will provide for you. So get this: No matter if you flunk school or not, no matter if you become a doctor or truck driver (EC shout out) if God wanted you to live on a certain amount a money, He’ll make sure you do. If you are worried that if you get an ‘F,’ you’ll die, well guess what–God predetermined your death too, so you would die at the time, F or not. And if you are worried about going to a good college and think that one ‘B’ or ‘C’ will end everything, then guess what–that college is a piece of trash because it won’t let someone in for one LETTER on a SHEET OF PAPER and I have gotten Bs and Cs, and I got into a pretty good college.
2) Grades reflect how much I learn and whether or not I am smart or not.
Two words to the above statement: BIG LIE. Grades do not reflect a person’s intelligence. They are only used so it can give the government an unsubstantiated way of figuring out where to place you in society’s jobs, which are rigged into a faulted system called capitalism. Grades are only used to try to evaluate something that cannot be evaluated by letters. Tests can only test one thing–how good you are at taking tests. (I misquoted one of my professors) Learning is through thinking, questioning, experimenting, wondering, talking it out, writing it out, reading and really–learning is in your mind. Only YOU can let yourself learn. Teachers, tests, other kids in the classroom–they are *supposed* to help you do that, but the American education system has deteriorated itself in that regard. A teacher is not supposed to *teach* you what is in a textbook; you can read it yourself. A teacher is supposed to be a resource for learning more, to help if you are struggling and if the teacher doesn’t know, then help learn it with you. A teacher is meant to inspire a kid to learn and grades are just there to give something to the government to make them shut up.
I want people to wake up for once. I want people to tell their parents, their teachers, their schools and everyone one of the greatest philosophical questions of our time: WHAT THE HELL? If we know grades don’t mean a single thing, that schools don’t help us learn, that schools don’t help us learn how to be productive members of a (dys)functional society, THEN WHY AREN’T WE DOING ANYTHING TO CHANGE IT? Why is it that if a school district doesn’t get straight A’s on rigged standardized tests that don’t assess a person’s knowledge, that the government will kick their budget? Why is it that if a person asks questions in class or struggles to learn, a teacher gets upset and likes kids that simply listen and ace tests without a single bit of interest in subject material? Why is it that we have POINTLESS textbooks to learn things that have no real relevance to personal knowledge or how to live life? I want people to be like–students aren’t learning, teachers aren’t teaching and schools aren’t helping–we need to do something about it.
So I figured it would be wrong to rant about how screwed up grades and schools are without provided some solutions (granted, I am not a teacher, but I do have some experience as a sub, TA, secretary and studying education):
I understand you can’t have a school without grades, if anything, to shut the government up. But there are better ways to help assess knowledge in a meaningful way (even though grades WILL NEVER do justice to any individual) and to get by the system.
Scantron tests, MCQs (multiple choice question) tests, fill in the blanks, matching and crossword tests/quizzes are #^&@% excuses to fill in grade books. Any teachers who use this to assess their students are insulting students as human beings to think that their knowledge can be assessed that way and an insult to the teaching profession because that is NO WAY to help student learn.
What works: To help kids learn and fill in grade books, make students engage material by making them think. (Yes, dare I say it? THINK.) For example (depends on class/situation):
- Essay tests. This can included informative or persuasive. The teacher has to ask how/why, not just what/explain….
- Oral tests. (Teacher asks a student questions and the student responses will be graded) Not 2+2, but something that requires a more than a sentence answer.
- Projects (individual, partner, or group). A project would not only help a student learn material, but help lern real life skills on how to work with people, manage time, be organized, etc. etc. But don’t overload this one. Kids hate too many projects.
- Debates (don’t grade on who wins, but how each side is articulated/research and understanding) And teachers, don’t make the debate topic loaded (i.e. one side is obviously better or it is a stupid topic)
- Design charts, graphs, and diagrams
- Experiments–none of that following a lab manual/lab report trash. A teacher should walk through the person(s) into understanding the logic and reasoning behind the experiment. The experiment is not done for the result, but for the process both in physical method and logic.
- Reading logs (*Shriek*) I HATED reading logs, but I probably learned a lot from them. Don’t ask kids to read and summarize what they read, but ask what the reading meant or more thought provoking questions for kids to think while doing these. It helps them think critically and articulate themselves in writing.
- Competitions. I don’t like this one for ethical reasons, but splitting the class into teams to test their knowledge forces groups to work together and learn material to *beat* another team. Another lesson on capitalism.
Now for math (and somewhat science), it may be hard to pull the above stuff off. Math is ultimately logic. (I would argue that, but for sake of this post, it is logic.) I mean yeah, worksheets can work, but it should not be a primary tool of assessment. Giving real life situations (without resorting to a textbook word problem) can really do wonders for kids. Like in geometry, make kids actually build something mathematically accurate (like a birdhouse), or algebra by studying real statistics that affect them and making their own with algebraic functions. (I’ll figure calculus out later.) Competitions can also work in math, but I would really hate to resort to that. I would also like to see math teachers to actually have oral tests to make kids explain why a math formula works or how it can affect them in the real world because for those kids that ask why the hell does learning math matters–you are right, why does it matter? And a teacher should address that in the class room and a student should really know why it does matter.
….Okay, I think I am done ranting, but I may rant about other subjects later. I guess I should add that the second half of the post really applies more to the middle/high school (secondary) education. There is a whole other psychology behind primary education.
And I will have a separate post series on Islamic Studies, Arabic and Quran. I haven’t even started how learning that at school needs serious renovating….