Thursday, June 10, 2004

Education Freedom

I thought I needed a break from endless Book of Mormon commentary. Luckily today’s math class gave me some motivation for another topic.

We are entering into the last two weeks of regular classes. This is the time all teachers start reviewing for their final exams. I give daily assignments and simple quizzes during this week to force students to do at least some review for their exams. In the past I have found that not taking this work in for marks meant that very few students would actually study for their exams.

The question raised by a number of students was “why do we need to spend time reviewing if we are going to get tested on it at the end anyways”. Basically some students thought that this would create a double penalty for those that didn’t feel like doing any work. They would get penalized this last week, and then penalized again during the exam. On the other hand, students that worked hard this week would, in effect, get a double bonus. In other words, all that this review week would do is to accentuate the value of the final exam.

Being the good teacher I am, I said something to the effect “ Yes, that is the way it works. You need to learn to work around the rules that have been set up”. As much as some would say this is nothing but forcing pupils to conform to the established hegemony, I think it is quite different. I next explained that I was doing this because in the past review that wasn’t marked meant that students became noisier making it impossible to do effective review, few students studied when marks weren’t taken, making the class average drop. In effect, I said I was making up for lack of motivation and a natural tendency to procrastinate in an effort to raise their marks. Of course I didn’t use those exact words. Of course a number of students still wondered why they weren’t being given the freedom to choose to do what they wanted with their grade. I responded with the most honest answer I could give them, “the whole idea of freedom that you have is an illusion. There is no freedom in the real world”.

I think that sums up why so many students see the world as unfair. Their idea of freedom requires an ability to create the consequences they see as appropriate for any given set of actions. Thus their idea of freedom gets mixed with experience, expectation , and idealism. I think in general, people tend to live in an idealistic world. If you don’t like the way things are, change it. In other words, people believe that they can change the consequences to most any set of actions. If you don’t like the idea of getting run over by a train at the station, set up so many gates and safety precautions that it becomes an impossibility. If you don’t like people being homeless, get some taxes that everyone has to pay that can be used to try and solve the problem.

The problem as I see it with this thinking is that this idea of freedom is way to individualistic. In order for you to be free, many people around you have to change. I think this is the big problem with liberalism; it only works if most people buy into it.

From a religious point of view, do the daily interactions of God in our life actually limit our freedom? Are they equivalent to the double review before the exam? Does God’s influence only affect our freedom if we take note of it? Personally I tend to not worry about changing anyone else’s beliefs or behaviour. I would rather just go out and do something, rather than worrying about getting everyone to buy into it. Thus you could say relative to some of my students, I create my own reality. To me the big question is, why do so many people expect everything around them to change instead of vice versa?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a wise approach to helping the students and class as a whole. I probably would have been one of those complaining students years ago though. But I was never very enthusiastic about math.