Thursday, June 5, 2008

Blueberries, Oklahoma, and Monty Python

When it comes to education, I generally pay more attention myself to higher education, not so much K-12 education. Greg Francom recently posted about problems in higher ed, and I agree with his assessment of the state of affairs at the post-secondary level, especially for research-intensive schools.

The question that comes to mind is whether K-12 teachers use the same poor teaching methods, and if so, what is their excuse if they're not doing research? (Again, this is a real question, not being as familiar with the state of elementary and secondary ed, except from what I remember through my experience a long time ago or from what I see my first grader doing.)

Now that I've asked the question, I'll take a step back and comment that it's not likely that elementary students have to sit through lectures as much as college students do. The kids wouldn't stand for it. They have to have a variety of activities or they (and their teacher) will literally go crazy. (Of course, they may go crazy anyway and, for example, when a substitute teacher shows up the day the class is supposed to make fruit salad from various fruits that everyone brings, there might be some blueberry stains on the ceiling after the activity is over, in spite of it being a good, different, interesting, constructivist activity.)

So then, as we move into secondary education and students have learned to provide socially desirable responses (aka sit there and be quiet), are they just being groomed for college where they are supposed to sit there and be quieter, while paying a lot more money for the privilege to do so? Is high school is as bad as college, or at least moving in that direction?

I wonder if the amount of lecture/multiple choice testing depends on the extent to which we need to give students a grade. Elementary ed doesn't care about grades as much - they seem to be trying to give all students the same base of knowledge to work from and then start filtering them into honors, regular, or remedial classes by the time they hit secondary ed. The elementary filtering system worked for me anyway. I was labeled as dumb by my first grade teacher in New Jersey simply because I had just moved from Oklahoma. By about fourth or fifth grade, with help from my mom and some teachers that recognized I wasn't the idiot they were told I was, I filtered my way up and was positioned well enough going into middle school that I ended up taking quite a few honors and AP classes in high school. And here I am now, a doctoral student (who would still rather fling a blueberry across the room than eat it).

But really, I don't remember as much how lecture-filled high school was. I do remember blowing things up in physics, dissecting sharks in biology, sleeping through boring chemistry lectures, writing poems and creative essays in English, sleeping through videos in health, learning to juggle in calculus, watching Monty Python in AP European history, writing songs in my guitar class, eating fried bananas in Spanish, singing in the Tabernacle for choir, and playing Doom during my business technology class. So I remember some boring-ness, but mostly I remember the interesting things. Maybe I've forgotten most of the boring stuff. Now, how many fun, exciting things do I remember from college classes? Let's see, my volleyball, racquetball, billiards, and golf classes were interesting. Um, what else...I programmed a tic-tac-toe game in my Java class. The only other thing I can think of is watching part of The Mask in psychology.

So maybe the real question to my throngs of loyal readers should be - what interesting things do you remember from high school, compared to the interesting things you remember from college (actual classes, not extracurricular or social activities)?


Greg said...

Here are a few of my experiences:

High School
-Dissecting a frog
-Singing in San Francisco
-Watching a 1960's era bloody car accident video
-Doing driving simulations
-Changing my truck's oil

College Undergrad
-Watching tons of movies (film degree)
-Making very few movies
-Writing about a lot of stuff (do I write about a lot of similar stuff at work? No.)
-Designing a mobile
-Discovering that I did not want to do what I studied professionally

Larson Family said...

Here are my two cents
High School:
-Watching Hamlet with Mel Gibson all in the name of Shakespeare
-Getting out of dissecting a pig fetus
-Building the area under the curve out of cardboard boxes for calculus

-Contemplating the omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence of God in Philosophy 101
-Writing my first computer program in C++ "Hello World!"
-Spending alot of money on all the parts that I fried on my circuit board in my EE classes,good thing I graduated in Marketing :)
-Skipping a lot of lectures because I could just read the textbook
-Learning about all the subliminal messaging in advertising (does it really work?)