September 6th, 2015. 14:33
This post has a couple of inspirations. The first is from the required reading for my Honors Orientation Seminar class, the most useless class I’ve ever taken. The book’s called What the Best College Students Do, and you can already tell it’s complete bogus because not once does it mention starting a conservative blog. Besides that, while I’ve only read the first chunk of it, I’m not too impressed with the stance the author seems to be taking on education. I say “seems to be” because thus far the book is 90% made of anecdotes about somebody named Paul Baker who apparently taught some creative theater class. I dunno.
What did all those letters and symbols tell you? Quite often, not much. … It’s pretty difficult to get inside someone’s head and discover what they understand, let alone anticipate what they will be able to do with that understanding. As a result, grades have often been lousy predictors of future success or failure. Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, received a C in public speaking.
The second inspiration for this post comes to us from that cesspit of the internet, that sewer of the teenage mind, that (to borrow the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi) wretched hive of scum and villainy. I speak of course, of Tumblr, which I’ll have to get to in a later post. Or, more accurately, series of posts, since it’ll take a lot to sum it up. At any rate, here’s what the post said, verbatim:
ALL TEACHERS NEED TO KNOW THIS
DO NOT FORCE SHY KIDS TO TALK.
DO NOT TELL SHY KIDS THEY NEED TO PARTICIPATE MORE.
DO NOT MAKE PARTICIPATION A GRADE.
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW HARD IT IS FOR SOME STUDENTS TO JUST RAISE THEIR HANDS?
FORCING THEM INTO GROUP PROJECTS AND MAKING THEM TALK DOES NOT “TEACH THEM TO BE SOCIAL AND DEVELOP INTO WELL-ROUNDED INDIVIDUALS”
IT SCARES THE SHIT OUT OF THEM.
AND MAKES THEM HATE SCHOOL.
It goes on in that vain for quite some more, but that’s the general gist of it. There may have been more to that post, but I saw only a snippet of it that was posted on Twitter, since I stopped using Tumblr years ago because it’s literally the worst.
I guess I just wanted to talk a little bit about grades and why I think they’re important. Or, at least, do my best to talk through it.
In reference to the first source, I think it’s by and large a load of baloney. I’ve yet to meet or hear about one person whose grades aren’t an accurate representation of how effective they are as students. I’ve met incredibly clever, intelligent, and hard-working students, and their grades reflect that. I’ve met lazy, underachieving, unintelligent students who don’t bother with school, and their grades reflect that. I’ve met unintelligent people who still work really hard, perhaps harder than any of their classmates, and, so long as their teacher’s not a total idiot, their grades reflect that, too. I believe my grades in high school were a perfectly accurate representation of the various categories in which I was being evaluated, and I’d say the same for everyone I graduated with, and anyone else I know.
This being said, I graduated high school with pretty good grades. They weren’t perfect, but that was because I was a little too lazy in the first couple years. And my grades reflected that. Oddly enough, you never hear people who get good grades complaining about their grades, or saying that grades aren’t an accurate metric of a person’s achievement or willingness to learn. That’s because, outliers excepted, those who get good grades get them because they earned them. Those who expect good grades without doing the necessary work and complain when they don’t get them are probably used to being handed things. And it’s this sort of entitlement that forms this idea that grades are an inaccurate way to tell if someone’s a good student. Because, to them, a world in which their own opinion of themselves isn’t reflected by the evaluations handed down by their superiors isn’t the right kind of world to live in.
Whenever I received poor grades in school, I knew it was my own fault, and that the grade I had been given was an accurate representation of the work I had done. I didn’t take that to mean that the system should be changed, I took it to mean I needed to get myself together and do what was required of me. The book cites that Martin Luther King, Jr. got a C in his public speaking class. I mean no disrespect to Dr. King, but have you heard that speech? Or read the original manuscript? I have. The first half is really not that great. He remains monotonous, relies heavily on metaphor, and isn’t holding the audience’s attention too well. It’s a popular story, and one I’m inclined to believe, that Mahalia Jackson, who was onstage with King, urged him to improvise and “start preaching”, as he was losing the audience. It was then that he started to gain some traction and deliver the lines that the speech is best known for, falling on his experience as a preacher and completely going away from the material he’d written. I’m not trying to disparage the man, or the speech, I’m just saying that, in general, it seems like the kind of work a C-student would do.
Of course, this can change depending on the strictness of teachers or the nature of the class, but as a general rule I tend to think grades are a pretty accurate summation of all the parts that make a good student. My high school was strange. They graded you on things such as “depth of inquiry” or “sense of wonder”. I had no clue what those meant, but I damn well felt like I was inquiring and wonderful. My grades reflected that. One of the most important things my teachers graded was participation.
I’m really just in awe of the stupidity of the above Tumblr post. The point of school is, at its core, to prepare people for the real world. Whatever that means to you, be it attending college, getting a job, starting a family, traveling, etc. The central concept of the schooling systems all around the world is the same: preparation for what lies ahead. And, as a general rule, shyness isn’t something that fits in a world in which people have to actually do things with other, real people. Sure, not everybody has to be extroverted and outgoing, but being too afraid to even raise your hand in a setting where it literally makes no difference to the rest of your life? That’s not a healthy way to live, and there’s no way teachers should be promoting or aiding that kind of lifestyle. There’s a reason teachers call on the shy kids. It’s the same reason they make the more talkative ones shut up occasionally. You need to learn how to talk to other people, regardless of what you want to do with yourself.
Do you think you’re going to be able to make it through a job interview if you can’t even be bothered to answer a question in math class? Are you ever going to meet a potential partner to spend your life with if you never speak to another human being? Being shy to the point of paralysis every time a person asks you what two plus five is isn’t going to get you where you want to be, unless that place is sitting in a dark room arguing on Tumblr about whether or not there’s some unresolved homosexual tension between Dean and Cas on Supernatural (there’s not).
Also, the point of school isn’t to constantly be unafraid and love the fact that you’re there. Hate to break it to you, emo kid, but hardly any teenager loves school until they try to see reasons why they should. I started to, as we all eventually did, but those of you who have your minds set on being perpetually silent, unwilling to be a member of the class, are doomed to hate it and pretty much everything else you’re going to do for the rest of your life. The post goes on to say that it applies to colleges as well, and that a student dong their work well should be able to get an A regardless of if they participate. And I disagree.
For one thing, if colleges promote this kind of behavior (and I guarantee you they’re going to start), students could potentially never learn how to have a real live conversation with an actual human being. And the ability to share opposing ideas and converse about them in an understandable language is one of the things that sets us apart from our animal counterparts. That and our lack of an effective way to fling our own feces. And no, you shouldn’t be able to get an A without ever talking in class, at least in general. I understand that opportunities to participate don’t always manifest themselves, especially in large-form college lecture courses. But in high school, all bets are off. You don’t have to talk all the time, but if your teacher asks you a question, you damn well better have something to say.
That’s the thing about most teachers. They’re there to help you. They’re not asking you questions to trigger you and make you retreat inside yourself to your safespace until you can go home and rant about it to your 25 Tumblr followers. They’re doing precisely the opposite. They notice your refusal to participate in group settings and unwillingness to converse with your peers, and they’re throwing you a lifeline. They’re basically giving you an artificial opportunity to boost that participation grade since you won’t do it yourself. And you better believe that there’s going to come a time when they decide you’re a lost cause.
Which, let’s face it, if you have a Tumblr account where you rant about things like this, you probably are.