The best tests will not only find out what students know but also stimulate thinking in novel ways. This is much more than regurgitating memorized facts. The test itself becomes a learning experience – where the very act of taking it leads to a deeper understanding of the subject.
Is the take-home message, then, that cheating is good? Well…no. Although by conventional test-taking rules, the students were cheating, they actually weren’t in this case. Instead, they were changing their goal in the Education Game from “Get a higher grade than my classmates” to “Get to the best answer.” This also required them to make new rules for test taking. Obviously, when you make the rules there is no reason to cheat. Furthermore, being the rule-makers let students behave in a way that makes us a quintessentially unique species. We recognize when we are in a game, and more so than just playing along, we always try to bend the rules to our advantage.
My point is that books “for children” can speak to people of all ages and backgrounds — if we are ready to listen. It’s hard to predict when or why we will be ready to listen. It is indeed dangerous to assume that recommended age-ranges on the backs of books will tell us anything about who may read those books.
For years we have been talking about the education bubble and the problem that colleges charge tons of money and then graduates are unemployable and in debt. Colleges are responding by becoming job preparation centers. And Frank Bruni, opinion editor for the New York Times, says this is a waste of time and resources. Here’s what’s better:
But here’s the big takeaway. A fundamental shift is taking place, where the path to getting a job is massively circumventing college credentials. And, at the same time, the American public is fed up with the insane debt that college are expecting new grads to take on in order to graduate. (Good essay: How College Ruined My Life.)
If you are not going to school in order to “fit” into the adult world, then why are you going to school? The love of learning, presumably. But school reform pundits are 100% sure that kids will choose to learn if you put no constraints on them. They will just learn what they want. Best example: The MIT program that gave iPads to illiterate kids in Ethiopia, and they taught themselves to use it, program it, and read it in English. No teacher. No curriculum.
The biggest barrier to accepting the radical new nature of the job hunt is the reverberations throughout the rest of life. If you don’t need school for work, and you don’t need school for learning, then all you need school for is so parents can go to work and not worry about taking care of their kids.
It takes bravery to go against the grain. It’s difficult to say that the great learning and the great jobs come from leaning out, doing things in a nonlinear, non standard way, and playing only by the rules that fit your own style for personal learning and growth.
Students today can choose courses on prostitutes or “queer gardens”; on brain science or ancient democracies. But how is a freshman supposed to figure out whether it’s better to take the class on women in the European Union or the one on the Korean War — to know which is most important, which will be of lasting value and which would form a good foundation for the study of other subjects?
As Mark Bauerlein of Emory University notes, “You’re handing the choice to people who don’t know what to choose. They don’t think five years ahead and say, This will be better for me when I’m 25. The kind of discretion that the student-centered progressives want to give is actually damaging to students.”
It’s “a catastrophe,” says Peter Berkowitz of the Hoover Institution. “On the one hand, colleges have abandoned any actual structure,” so kids need help figuring out how to put together a serious plan for graduating. “But the faculty aren’t there. They’re off studying ‘queer gardens.’” He calls it a maze — and one where “those who come from poor academic backgrounds will do even less well.”
For all the lip service our colleges pay to giving the less-advantaged a leg up, the mission these schools seem more focused on is just raking the money in.