Sunday, 31 May 2015

Of Some Consequence

"You better think fast
Think fast
'Cause you never know
What's coming around the bend
You better not blink
The consequence is a bigger word than you think
It's bigger than you or me"

Ah, the sweet sounds, sights and smells of June.  The two major denominations of the One True Religion of Sport have dwindled to just a pair of teams each by the time school lets out, their numbers whittled away by the system of Natural Selection, otherwise known as the playoffs.  Lose and you go home, win and you earn yet another chance to prove your worthiness.  
     Final exams represent a similar mechanism that shapes young minds in our so called education system.  Pass your tests, ace your exams and you earn the right to continue to the next level.  Flunk your tests, stay up all night partying and forget to study and you'll most likely fail and be forced to re-do a course, a test or even a full year of school.  This process essentially works on the same principle as its sporting cousin, with the best and brightest moving on and the less bright and not so capable being left behind, in order to better themselves for the future.  
     Except the system is hardly being implemented as designed.  Rather than being rewarded for their lack of effort and academic mediocrity with litres of red ink and instruction to return to their desks to repeat their failed endeavour until they get it right, legions of dullards are now shuffled through the ranks, lest their fragile pride and self-esteem take a bruise.  I'm not sure where or when everyone started getting automatic passes, regardless of effort, but I know it this thinking has infected the hollowed grounds of academia from the lowly primary grades right up to the dog and pony show of graduate school.
     Grade schoolers can barely read the label on a can of soup, but the teachers and parents worry keeping the kids back will cause self-esteem issues, so on you go, you little illiterates.  High schoolers who don't hand in assignments, but due to school policy can't be given a zero and therefore pass and move up the ladder.  A former physics grad student I once knew told me as a teacher's assistant (TA), he was not allowed to mark with red ink because seeing the red was too traumatic for the would-be atom splitters.  I myself was scolded by a dinosaur of a prof for taking too many marks off a written assignment for spelling and grammar, forcing me to assign passing grades to illegible word salads.  Another tale of whoa(!) I've heard was about a student who didn't attend a single lecture all semester long, but as she had a doctor's note, was awarded the credit lest her depression worsen. Call me old fashioned, but I firmly believe you should have to actually show up to pass a course.  
     Personal anecdotes aside, the trend is clear and obvious.  The kids today are being taught that there are no negative consequences to their actions.  Everyone passes and gets credit, so why work hard when you can just make a bullshit excuse and get a rule change.  It's problematic, it's real and it's dangerous.  We're conditioning a generation of minds woefully prepared for reality.
     Would a hockey coach encourage his star forwards to carry the puck across the blue line, eyes firmly glued on their CCM Tacks?.  No, he wouldn't because the negative repercussion of such an act could be catastrophic.  Ask Eric Lindros or Paul Kariya
     Does an offensive coordinator tell his slot backs to run routes over the middle and not to worry about violence-loving middle linebackers and safeties who want to separate his head from his shoulders?  Highly doubt it, buddy.  
     By shuffling students though the Education Industrial Complex, we are doing an enormous disservice to all.  Kids are having their egos and self-esteem artificially inflated while simultaneously divorcing their little minds from the concept of negative consequences.  Let's do ourselves a real favour and start failing some people.  
     They'll be alright.   

1 comment:

  1. Sluggish Cognitive Tempo6 June 2015 at 12:57

    Tinkering around with negative reinforcement, okay, how about using more positive reinforcement where credit is due. Not everyone will excel in our sit around for 6-8hrs a day and remember what to write on a test curriculum but if you can't spell by university I hope you have around 40k sitting around you don't mind wasting away.