Sunday, December 23, 2018

Testing and learning in school and out

Sometimes it comes as a shock that a person with good school grades doesn't do well in later life but someone with low grades does well.  

Just about every day, I hear a question or someone wondering about learning.  I rarely hear what, to me, is enough doubt.

The most basic approach to school testing is to ask the student what was said or written.  Doing that is supposed to be checking to see if the student was paying attention to the subject being taught.  So, if the teacher tells me that Columbus discovered America in 1492, I then seem to "know" what was taught when I repeat that statement back.  Normally, I might be asked to state it two or three months after hearing or reading it. So, the requirements are piling up. Now, I have to pay attention when listening or reading AND I have to remember.  It's no good remembering that it was Mrs. Walters was in a bad mood that day, or that I had a turkey sandwich for lunch. I need to remember Columbus's name and the deed and the date.

You might doubt that remembering and stating accurately what was taught would help students all that much.  There have indeed been many questions raised about the usefulness of school learning. Luckily, a good many high paying jobs expect job holders to have school credentials and those credentials are not given out unless tests are passed.  

A heavy emphasis on remembering what was taught generally morphs into more critical work as schooling proceeds.  What makes us believe that Columbus did what was stated, and when it is said to have happened? What do we know of the results of his discovery?  Was the existence of the Americas known to others before Columbus?

The power to tax is the power to destroy. ATTRIBUTION: This quotation comes from the words of DANIEL WEBSTER and those of JOHN MARSHALL in the Supreme Court case, McCulloch v. Maryland. Webster, in arguing the case, said: "An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy," 17 U.S. 327 (1819).

1798. Daniel Webster (1782-1852). Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary ...

When we ask a student to pay attention to the lesson, he pays us to label him "learned" with answers to our questions.  If we ask "Which page of the book describes Columbus's discovery?" or "What do the Navahos have to say about Columbus?", he might not be able to pay his learning tax. In that case, we can consign him to the debt house, or imprison him in a lower class.

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