Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs

Washington Post: Top High School Prevents Curiosity in Learning

CJ Westerberg, October 19, 2010 8:22 PM


"Is that the best way to encourage learning? Are we so stuck on managing classroom competition that we can't let students explore libraries, or the Internet,
and make connections between the textbook and the real world?"
 --Jay Mathews, The Washington Post

"Curiosity Discouraged at Competitive High School"
(Ed. Note:  This struck me as a bell-ringer because it just didn't feel like the typical Jay Mathews post.  Learning, curiosity?  In any event, veddy interesting.  - C.J. Westerberg)

Excerpts from The Washington Post's education columnist, Jay Mathews' Class Struggle column titled, "Curiosity discouraged at competitive high school":

Westfield High School in Fairfax County is one of the largest and most competitive public schools in America. It is not unusual that 180 sophomores enrolled in Advanced Placement World History this year, more students than most U.S. high schools have taking AP courses of any kind.

What did surprise some Westfield students and their parents was a sheet titled "Expectations of Integrity" included in the materials handed out by the three
AP World History teachers. Their number one rule discouraged random
outbreaks of curiosity:

"You are only allowed to use your OWN knowledge, your OWN class notes, class handouts, your OWN class homework, or The Earth and Its Peoples textbook to complete assignments and assessments UNLESS specifically informed
otherwise by your instructor.
. . ."

. . . .That was not all. Students could not use anything they found on the Internet. They were not permitted even to discuss their assignments with friends, classmates, neighbors, parents, relatives or siblings. . .

And Mathews' conclusion:

If the teachers are worried about cheating, there are Web sites and applications to catch plagiarists. I wish there were also an app to unleash curiosity, which in this class is locked up for the rest of the school year.

Read full article here.   It appears that the educational system has created such a curious lot of students that our best action is offense, or do we just call it offensive?   So much for "lighting a fire" to inspire curiosity which is the precursor to life-long learning.  Even if these actions were in response to cheating, as expressed by one of the commentators to Mathews' post below, it is a no win either way:

My guess is that there is- or has been in the recent past - a serious problem with cheating. And that gets at another problem with AP; students are so intent on making themselves "look good" - which is derived from parental pressure(s) and the endless promotion of AP as "better" by such writers as Jay Mathews - that they sign up for all the AP courses they can, find themselves stressed and time-constrained, and they look to cut corners. It isn't really about learning.  

Guess we've come a long way in the learning arena, folks.

For two very timely videos related to this post:

 "Sir Ken Robinson - Changing the Education Paradigm"

"Race to Nowhere: A must-watch documentary - Are we creating a generation of unprepared high achievers?"      A different look at AP courses:  Video clip

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It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
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