Miscellany 39: Education, Propaganda, and Books
Thinking about education this week.
Are schools failing to challenge students? Is school too easy? A recent study suggest that is indeed the case. A key quote: “But when you see most students say math work is too easy but are not doing math at grade level, that seems quite troubling.” That seems paradoxical, but speaking from having worked a number of years in the trenches of teaching writing, I can assure you it’s not the case. In order to have high standards, and genuinely challenge students, it is necessary that students fail if their work does not meet the standard. However, there is very little tolerance for failure in the current American educational system. So: if you are getting pressured to have students pass, then the natural end result (usually occurring in slow stages) is that expectations get lowered; the work gets easier and easier, so that every student who shows up and does minimal work can pass.
However, there are a couple of problems with this: one is that lowering expectations reduces student motivation; bored students who know they’re going to pass pretty much no matter what, are students who don’t work very hard (and I don’t blame them). The other is that there’s a limit to how much the presentation of the material can be tailored to make it easier; at a certain point, the way to make a subject easier is to cut back on the number of concepts taught and reduce the depth of the engagement with the material. The result? Students recognize that their classes are too easy… and yet they still perform below expectations on tests.
Here is an article on “Vintage Propaganda Posters for Books.” The colorful posters, obviously intended for schools and libraries, instruct students to, for instance, use bookmarks instead of placing a book face-down, not to dog-ear pages, and not to leave books out in the rain.
What interests me is the article’s tone: these posters are “propagandistic” and “peculiar.” The implication is that somehow the Establishment is oppressing young people, brainwashing them to… to… treat books (especially library books, which are shared) with care so that they will last and be able to be re-read. Hm. Where did we go wrong, that teaching good stewardship and good manners is propagandistic?
Here’s a good piece on why Christians should read fiction.
And just for fun: have you ever wondered why old books smell so good? Here’s why.