Sunday, March 12, 2006

The State of MY Education

I recently received a B on a presentation I did for class. The assignment was to give a ten minute presentation about a book or article and write a one page summary of your presentation. I received a B because my professor wanted more analysis.

I am not angry about the B, but it should be noted that in any other class, the effort I put in would have been a sure A. Which is sad. I am in a Masters program that allows me to complete papers and assignments the morning they are due and still achieve an A. Now I am in a class in which I put some real time and effort into the assignment, (being aware that the teacher had such high expectations,) and I received the B that I deserved.

I am constantly analyzing the state of education in America, and in New York City in particular. I am worried about the achievement of my students, the curricula used to teach students nationwide, and the political pressures in education that rarely result in the use of “best practices” in the classroom.

Yet, I rarely take a look at my own education. I have had some phenomenal teachers in my lifetime, mentors who really pushed me to question and reach a higher level of thinking. Yet even in higher level courses, many of the instructional methods were formulaic ways in which to achieve on a test. My senior year in English was spent learning how to be given a topic and be able to produce a five point essay in 50 minutes so I could achieve the coveted 4 on an AP exam. And that same method is what I typically use in my life now: on graduate school papers, on my blog, anywhere I can make it fit. Because it was how I was trained. There was not a strong push to be analytical, to form my own opinion about what I was reading and learning, and be able to back it up.

I look back at what I turned into my professor, and realize that it was all summary. I have strong opinions about the subject I presented, but I did not express them. It did not even occur to me to express them. And my classmates who have presented before me, have each earned a B for the same reason.

The worst part is that I am fully capable of analysis, but rarely pushed to do so. It seems that just showing up and doing some of the reading is enough, and has been enough, for most classes since I started college. Why aren't we learning how to think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've gotta agree w/ you. It seems like most of the schooling in the U.S. consists of following directions and expressing what the teacher's thinking in an articulate manner. Personally, I believe anyone can make a summary, but the writer's interpretation is what makes an essay interesting.

I was fortunate enough to have this hippy english professor who stressed analysis and wouldn't pass you until you thoroughly analyzed the reading for the class (i.e.Kurt Vonnegut's "Welcome to the Monkey House" and John Hughes films). He still insisted on a sensible format w/ topic sentences, specific examples, etc., but getting his students to articulate their opions and really dig into the story was what made his job so fun.