Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer? | Wired Science�| Wired.com.

Education is work.  Hard work.  It is so hard that it is often played like a game that can be won or lost.  In fact, this happens, right?  People who are good students win the game.  They don’t, necessarily, know how to think well, but they know how to play the game well.  The two are not the same, not similar, in fact are often on opposite sides of the continuum of learning.  I went to school with and graduated with lots of folks who were good at the game.  In my graduating class I knew a guy who in his senior year took as many AP courses as he could so that he would have a good shot at testing out of many college courses.  He was trying to better himself.  He got an A- or a B+ (don’t remember which) in one of those AP courses.  Prior to this he was in the running for valedictorian.  Two other students in my class took AP classes as Juniors but once they realized the valedictorian spot was up for grabs, they took really easy courses as seniors and easily coasted into their positions.  They played the game better.  I would argue, and taking nothing away from the two students (they were very bright and decently good friends of mine), that the one student who challenged himself with as many AP courses as he could take was in a better situation.  He challenged himself and didn’t just try to play the game well.

This is my personal history into this article.  My professional entry was in teaching science for 6 years to high school students.  The question, “What’s the answer?” in it’s many varieties was a staple every lab day and nearly every other day.  Students were obsessed with just knowing what to put in the blank.  They didn’t necessarily care if they understood (which would show up later in their lab reports, other papers, or on their exams).  I would fight this, tooth and nail, class in and class out.  My last year in the classroom I felt like I had most of my techniques figured out but there was one more that I’ll share.  This was to refuse to answer questions that were related to directions or information that the students had on the handouts in front of them.  I refused to enable them to be lazy students or to subsidize their apathy.  I would look for ways to encourage them to take ownership.  So when a student asked, “Mr. Ingman, what do we do next?”  I would say, “Let’s look at your lab directions?” or “Take a minute and think it through.”

Mr. Allain is clearly a thoughtful educator who has the best interest of his students in mind.  Our educational system needs to be more than about helping students do well on tests, quizzes, and worksheets.  It should take them beyond bad PowerPoint presentations, and bland poster boards detailing science experiments that they did while reading off of a paper.  It must teach them to be good, critical thinkers.  As Dr. Roseanne Fortner, a professor of mine once said, “Educate those children well, because some day soon their vote will equal yours.”  We owe it to ourselves, our community, and our future.

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