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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mid Year Report 2013


Normally this is not a topic worthy of mention, but this year, with these groups, it is.  I eschewed the classic midterm format long ago.  We all remember the classic midterm / final exam format.  Some multiple choice questions, followed by some reading comprehension, some vocabulary and then a composition or an essay.  As these tasks, all at the same time, were too much for the average American (although it used to not be this way) so exams were dumbed down and made shorter.  The usual 'midterm' at my school is usually a 25 question bunch of multiple choice questions about literature and / or literary terms.  This is followed by an essay - on a dull and unimaginative 'regents based' concept.

My exam is quite simple.  I give seven thematic / reason based questions that have to be answered in a minimum of a paragraph.  There will be ten questions in total and the student must choose seven.  Why no multiple choice?  Because life doesn't provide you with multiple choices at critical junctures.  The top schools don't use much (if any) multiple choice exams because those at the top realize they have no real world usefulness.

The students' reactions were eye opening.  Most were unaware that the exam had started.  Some were thinking that the questions were part of a 'review' and that the test would come the next day.  Even though I had announced in advance the start date of the exam, and I had labeled it thusly on the chalkboard (yes, chalk and slate is the order of the day in my place), and I had announced the beginning of the exam, there was chatter and bafflement at the exam itself.  It was as if it wasn't to be understood.  I even had a student, 20 minutes into class exclaim in surprise "This is the midterm?!"  It wasn't what was expected, it wasn't the norm, and it involved a lot of writing - active literacy.

Not Their Fault

My students are not inherently limited.  They've been taught to be that way.  They've been taught that there really isn't such thing as hard and fast truth.  Relativism rules the day.  Things are what you perceive them to be, and there isn't really any reason or logic to anything.  I routinely (and most public school teachers will tell you the same thing) have students ask me why they failed, and when I tell them they have missed many assignments they retort "but I do all of my work!"  This is the creation of reality on the fly - if the image exists in ones' mind, then it must be so in reality.  How can things not be what I perceive them to be?  Things just happen, and there is no reason for those things, they were just meant to be and they are 'right'.

We are witnessing this philosophic corruption every day.  We have an entity (the State) that has ravaged and disemboweled a once proud public educations system.  We say nothing and accept the "Core Curriculum" it has produced to solve the problems it has created.  The country witnessed a tragedy in CT, and the response is to track behavior through the health care system.  The story behind the tragedy, as presented by the media, is so full of holes that one can't help but suspect that the idea of "you must never let a crisis go to waste" is in full effect.  The cause and effect is ignored, as are discrepancies in the story, yet a "solution", one that doesn't at all fit the problem, is ready - as if it had been written in advance.

Cognitive Dissonance is defined as: "the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, esp. as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change."  This inability to reason, to use the trivium or any logic whatsoever is corrupting society.  We see this most prominently in our political process / dialogue, where there is no reason or analysis - just "my team must win at all costs" and the "other team is bad."  My student who walked out of my class because I "was saying bad things about Obama" is indicative, not of a young mind, but one that is incapable of sound, flexible, reasoned thought.

This podcast, by the folks at Tragedy and Hope Communications, is one of the best sources of this phenomenon.  How do you make an entire nation sick, stupid, broke and afraid?  How do you control the herd and eliminate reason and logic from their lives?  Most of the answers are here.  I found the information fascinating:

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