t’s spring in the Midwest, and I’ve been walking in my neighborhood. Mid-May is the season of flowering trees, the return of loud yard equipment, and the end of the school year, either post-graduation for college or just short of the end for K-12 schools. And, as always, I find parallels between how our society regards nature and how we regard children.
In both, I see strange mistakes made in the last century. They have to do with confusions between ends and means, and with disregard of obvious ill effects, and with non-attainment of goals except by violence.
I want to compare lawns and a fixation on degrees and credentials.
Here’s some advice:
If the goal in a residential yard is a perfect green mat with no flaws, then put down a carpet instead of a lawn. You can skip the pesticides, herbicides, runoff, bee-destruction, water waste, labor, and noise pollution.
If the goal for schooling is a credential and a degree, then offer the degree for a fixed amount of money. You can skip the cramming, textbooks, cheating, anxiety, and labor.
If the goal is college admission for the poor, then offer a lottery. You can skip the application process, the unfortunate high student-advisor ratio, the sense of low self-esteem, the suspicion about affirmative action.
If the goal is college admission for the affluent, then offer a lottery. You can skip the college admission counselors, the test prep, the summer service abroad, the Adderall, the ghost writers, the false self pretending to like resume-padding activities, the adult puppeteers in science fairs beginning in elementary school, the system-gaming with early action, the applications to twenty colleges.
If the goal is good jobs for all….then make that happen. School won’t—hasn’t—done that.
We are pretty confused as a society between ends and processes.
We have images of peaceful landscapes where harmony soothes the spirit.
We have images of restful suburban lawns emulating British aristocratic manors and estates.
We have images of docile, productive, knowledgeable children—a sort-of noble goal. We have aspirations of educated, reflective citizens.
We have a need for effective workers.
We like the idea of both equality and equity, equal opportunity and equal outcomes.
We have ideals of equality, merit, and humaneness.
But we aren’t getting what we want. We are often getting ersatz versions of what we want (with exceptions), along with a lot of serious side-effects.
In lawns and education, a rethinking is in order.
Personally, I’d willingly take a few weeds, or a lot of weeds--bees love dandelions in the early spring, when there are few other sources of energy—over the destruction of the Gulf of Mexico.
I’d take a few students daydreaming and being inefficient over drugged, depressed, competitive zombies.
The correct and inevitable guilty verdict in the sad case of the “Atlanta Cheating Scandal” is a reminder that the current system of high-stakes testing drives all participants in schooling to their wits’ ends—and beyond. Surely parents want the best for their children, teachers want the best for their students, administrators want the best for their schools, superintendents want the best for their districts. But when it all boils down to a few numbers, and the numbers can, carefully, surreptitiously, and illegally, be changed, it should not surprise us that the temptation to do so becomes irresistible, in some cases.
[image source: http://www.featurepics.com/FI/Thumb300/20110801/Cheating-Test-1956141.jpg]
Rand Paul plagiarized, as did Fareed Zakaria, and Doris Kearns Goodwin, as have done some of my students and probably yours. Maybe you plagiarized, too. Survey statistics suggest that up to three-quarters of college students plagiarize, whatever that means to them.
But what is especially noteworthy in this week’s case, after a series of reports of Paul’s using others’ work as his own, is his response: “I will now footnote everything, just like in college.”
This is a signal. It signals that he will comply with the fussy norms of academic citation—but only because we are making him do it. He is exaggerating the expectation, in a kind of lampoon.
Read on....or read it on Huffington Post.
Just after the 2013 gaokao, Chinese parents in one small city complained, rioted, saying, "We want fairness. There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat."
There is a drama unfolding even as I write: thirty-five suspects have been indicted in a criminal conspiracy, and only a few of them have surrendered to authorities. They face decades in prison and millions of dollars in fines. The deadline for all to give themselves up is today.
Is this about drugs? Kidnapping? Treason? Securities fraud?
Nothing so alien as that; it is an everyday criminal context: It’s about administrators and teachers changing answers on standardized tests in order to boost their schools’ and districts’ scores
Learners Are People, Not Isolated Test-Taking Brains: