Virginia High School Says Barring Students From Doing Outside Research Helps Them 'Think For Themselves'

from the this-is-education? dept

A few folks have sent over this bizarre and slightly scary story of the the Westfield High School in Fairfax Virginia, which recently sent home a notice of "Expectations of Integrity" for the school's Advanced Placement (AP) World History class, which admonished students not to do any outside research at all:
"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.''
Internet? No, not allowed. Other books? Nope. Talking to anyone? No. Not other students, friends, family, experts or even strangers. The teacher made this clear:
"You may not discuss/mention/chat/hand signal/smoke signal/Facebook/IM/text/email to a complete stranger ANY answers/ideas/questions/thoughts/opinions/hints/instructions."
The school has suggested that the letter was "a little tongue-in-cheek," though that doesn't really make sense. Yes, I'm sure the bit about the smoke signals, etc. was "tongue in cheek," but it sounds like the general sentiment remains. But, the thing is, the school's defense of the policy doesn't make much sense either:
"The idea was to think for yourself," he said, "rather than to pick up something from somewhere else and parrot it back."
Huh? If you want people to "think for themselves" and not "parrot back" what they picked up from somewhere else, I can't think of any better way than encouraging students to find multiple sources and multiple viewpoints (including differing viewpoints) so that they learn to think through things from multiple perspectives, which really pushes people to "think for themselves" by weighing the different bits of information to decide what's credible and what's not. By requiring just a single resource, none of that happens.


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  1.  
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    John Doe, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:03am

    But I wasn't there!

    Since I wasn't there for most of the world's history, seems I have to look for outside knowledge as I can't possibly know it any other way.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:03am

    Wait what?

    "The idea was to think for yourself," he said, "rather than to pick up something from somewhere else and parrot it back."

    What the kind of hellhole of a school is this, that doesn't allow kids to learn from "somewhere else?" Do they just lock the kinds in sensory deprivation tanks all day? THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

     

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    Octothorpe, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:06am

    Science, or History?

    "The idea was to think for yourself," he said, "rather than to pick up something from somewhere else and parrot it back."

    I find this amusing, after all, isn't that what "learning" history is; picking up something to parrot later? In a science class this might possibly make some sense, but history? Obviously someone is a bit off their rocker.

     

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    A Dan (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:07am

    Plagiarism again

    You can tell they're trying to avoid plagiarism. They don't want people copying from other people (or textbooks, Wikipedia, etc) or getting answers from others. The question is, why does it even matter? This is an AP class, meaning there's a proctored, standardized test at the end, where the students will have none of these other resources anyway. So what's the big deal?

    This comes down to the same result as everywhere else. If the students need to accumulate information and use it during an in-class assignment, like a test or a timed writing assignment (which is common for AP prep), it doesn't even matter. The teachers just need to put in the effort to grade them, and there'll be no problem with cheating or parroting information. Any AP class worth taking shouldn't have problems with outside research.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:08am

    "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."

    and

    "The idea was to think for yourself," he said, "rather than to pick up something from somewhere else and parrot it back."

    Equal logic fail. The only way to make someone "think for himself" is to expose him to as many ideas and experiences as possible and let him determine what his opinion is.

    If the only point of view the students have is the one presented in classes, then they will effectively just "parrot talk" what they learned in classes. This will have the exact opposite effect.

     

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    Ben Doernberg, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:11am

    Why have a textbook then?

    This prohibition doesn't make any sense unless the teacher thinks that he and the textbook are infallible or unbiased in a way that other texts and experts are not. Fortunately, most groundbreaking research is done by high school history teachers, and published as an exclusive in a HS textbook.

     

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    RikuoAmero (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:11am

    Back when I was in school

    I did a history project back when I was in school about four years ago. To complete it, we had to include at least three different sources and note the strengths and weaknesses of each source (e.g. wikipedia having to be taken with a grain of salt).
    If this is legit, then whoever teaches that class should be fired. Every history student knows you need multiple sources, in order to back up what you're writing. What if The Earth and Its People textbook says Hitler was a tree-hugging hippy from Zimbabwe? (no offense intended to anyone from Zimbabwe) Are the students supposed to ignore all the evidence from every single other source out there?

     

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    Chris ODonnell (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:13am

    The school seems to be changing its story. When I first saw this last week they were claiming the purpose was to level the playing field, as not all kids had access to equal outside resources.

    Not that that is any more acceptable of an explanation.

     

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    Isocrates, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:17am

    If you want students to give their own thoughts instead of researching it, have them do the writing in class. Today students are used to researching everything, but there are some times when you want to see what a student is getting from the class and textbook to see if the teaching is getting across or if they're just doing work outside of class. But if that was the case then don't assign it for homework.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:17am

    I'm in a college class where we have to write an essay, the teacher mentions only four sources and says we have to pick only one of those four sources and write about it and include our opinions, analysis, and criticisms. We are not allowed to use any other source whatsoever except for the article that we chose and it must be from one of the four listed publications that he allows, no others. The alleged reason is to avoid plagiarism, supposedly he's had problems with people who plagiarize in the past.

    This doesn't make any sense. If I use another source and I cite that source as I'm using it and I list it in my bibliography then it's not plagiarism. If anything, telling us not to use other sources encourages plagiarism to the extent that it encourages people to use other sources and not list them. Plagiarism is using a source without citation, not allowing people to use other sources isn't going to avoid plagiarism because those who plagiarize won't list their sources whether you allow them to or not. People who plagiarize already know that they're not allowed to plagiarize, telling them that they're not allowed to use any other sources doesn't stop them from plagiarizing.

     

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    Free Capitalist (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:18am

    Required Learning

    I think it's time to require teachers and administrators to gain a basic understanding of espistemology

    Now, off topic, but of more importance...

    Does anyone know if the Giants victory parade will be (legitimately) streamed live anywhere?

    Anyone?

     

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    Free Capitalist (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:22am

    Re: Required Learning

    espistemology

    I- is for Irony.

     

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    RikuoAmero (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:24am

    Re:

    If I were you, I'd challenge him on the basis of only allowing four sources. Education requires a free mind, and openly disallowing other sources is NOT education. If he stands his grounds, report him to your school's Board of Governors, as what he's doing is clearly not how you're supposed to teach history.
    And for all our sakes, I hope one of the sources he is allowing isn't Mein Kampf...

     

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    Liquid (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:25am

    Instructor Fail

    I love this quote:

    "The idea was to think for yourself," he said, "rather than to pick up something from somewhere else and parrot it back."

    Isn't that exactly what he is doing teaching them? Parroting back exactly what materials he has. Not only that, but doesn't that seem like a completely biased history class. He could be teaching them his own thoughts, and opinions of "How Hitler wasn't all that bad of a guy, etc...". Teacher seems like a crack pot that needs their certifications pulled.

    To me things like this just make me wonder how much better our education system is compared to the rest of the world. Everyone says its the best but people like this make me wonder.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:29am

    Re: Required Learning

    "Does anyone know if the Giants victory parade will be (legitimately) streamed live anywhere?"

    Given the abysmal ratings for this year's World Series, it's entirely possible the Giants aren't yet aware that they've won....

     

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    BruceLD, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:29am

    Subject

    Education FAIL

     

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    David, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:29am

    Depends on the writing assignments

    If the purpose of the writing assignments is to demonstrate the student's knowledge and command of the materials presented in the course, I think limiting the sources to the actual course material makes perfect sense.

    While it would be nice for the AP History teacher to being teaching research and writing, I am not sure it a job requirement. I believe he is just trying to get his students to achieve the necessary scores on the AP History exam.

     

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    a13coach (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:32am

    I think they just want the students to parrot back what they taught them via lectures, the book they required, their class discussions. i.e. the teachers do not want to have to work any harder than they are.

     

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    Matt (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:33am

    Instructor Laziness

    I'd wager it's easier to grade papers when you limit the source material.

    The easy work around is study just claiming you had study a given source previous to the ban making it your own aqcuired knowledge.

     

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    Matt (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:35am

    Re: Why have a textbook then?

    Additionally, based on the age of the textbooks when I was in school this groundbreaking research was complete and never needing updates in the 1930s or 40s.

     

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    TriZz (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:36am

    Fairfax

    I live in Fairfax county...and trust me, this is Northern VA (the new Silicon Valley) -- no one is suffering from "lack of access" in this area.

    On the other hand, Fairfax County has one of the best school systems in the US (Including the highest ranking high school in the US)

    I'd say they're doing something right...

     

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    Bengie, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:38am

    hmmm

    I thought the idea of school is to get you ready for college.

    You know, a place there you have to find your own info. I know that most of my classes in college were open notes, and open book for tests. They weren't open neighbor though.

    Nearly all my profs had this "silly" idea that in really life, you can't memorize everything, but you can prepare for something. You can prepare for a test by taking good notes and organizing your notes, just like when doing work in real life.

    Heck, most of the classes in my major even allowed internet access during tests.

     

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    Free Capitalist (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:39am

    Re: Re: Required Learning

    LOL

    Just hang in there DH, Cubbies will have their day.

    I find the sour grapes coming out of the east coast media quite humorous. East coast fans (most especially Yankees) will have nothing to do with anything that doesn't include the east coast.

    What was just CLASSIC was the "news" story they "broke" last Friday about Jose Guillen (story from July). Sports writers can tear their scrots too!

    No surprise ratings were low. Perhaps the east coast fans can help me figure out how long this affliction I have will last... my skin is actually glowing and my face is stuck in perma-grin.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:47am

    Re: But I wasn't there!

    Not true. In the US WWII single-handedly won by the tall powerful American liberators, destroyers of opression and defenders of freedom. "Russians fought in WWII?? yeah like a minor fight or something"

     

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    John Doe, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:50am

    Re:

    So this is just part of the dumbing down of America? Keep everyone at the lowest common denominator?

     

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    TheOldFart (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:53am

    Paging Mr. Loewen

    Mr. James Loewen, please come to white courtesy phone (and use the handset to beat some sense into an idiotic history teacher)

    http://sundown.afro.illinois.edu/liesmyteachertoldme.php

    (good read, if anyone is interested)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:53am

    Re: Depends on the writing assignments

    Yep, they're teaching the test.

    They're also teaching by example how to launch the assault on critical thinking.

     

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    JEDIDIAH, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 9:56am

    Re: Re: But I wasn't there!

    As the Russians and you will get a similar account, just with the roles reversed.

     

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    Will Sizemore (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:01am

    Some of you hit this on the nail...

    I imagine that by restricting the 'knowledge' allowable for use in this particular history class the instructor is able to:

    1) limit the number of answers that are inconsistent with the established curriculum
    2) create elitist drones who will vehemently enforce his personal opinions on history in the future
    3) and once the semester or school year is over, tell everyone that this was all an experiment to show them that by restricting access to information just how wrong an history education can be
    4) write about it in his doctoral friggin' thesis. Oh, wait, wouldn't this ALSO be an example of corruption in government? I mean, teachers are representatives of State Government, aren't they? But then again, Virginia isn't a state. Its a "Commonwealth" and so they can get around some of those rules the majority of the states have to follow.

     

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    Josef Anvil (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:04am

    The road to hell....

    Because the note was entitled "Expectations of Integrity" it does seem that this whole thing was an attempt to control plagiarism. It was well intentioned, if not well thought out.

    Seems that an easier way to control plagiarism would be for the school to purchase a tool the scours the web for copied work, or perhaps they could have brainstormed to find some other way to combat the problem. Limiting the students to one text book and only the opinions of the instructor seems a bit narrow for an AP class.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:08am

    Umm

    I do believe the intent of this was to show that people don't read anything they sign.

     

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    JTO (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:16am

    "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it" has thus been circumvented. Now kids don't even learn about it. How can they repeat it, since it never really happened.

    This isn't really as much an effort to reduce plagiarism as it's laziness on the part of the instructor. If I really do my homework and cite a dozen or so sources, he would be required to check all those sources before stating that my conclusions are wrong.

    I think it would be a much more interesting challenge to offer extra credit that find inaccuracies in the text....

     

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    Eileen, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:16am

    I'm 100% sure it's because teachers are tired of our lazy children turning in essays the copied from wikipedia.

    Miguided, maybe, but there are other was to encourage genuine scholarship and synthesis of your knowledge into e.g. term papers.

    Do it the way my teachers did in 8th grade: assign a paper, and demand that you use proper citations AND turn in all notes you used to write the work. The kid that has no notes, fails.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:20am

    Re:

    " i.e. the teachers do not want to have to work any harder than they are."

    Because of their Unions we have reached the LCD teacher moment in history.

     

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    crade (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re: Re: But I wasn't there!

    The US? Sure they joined right at the end after we'd already pretty much won and dropped a bomb and took all the glory.

     

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    Jake, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:34am

    Re: The road to hell....

    Who needs a special tool? Putting a few phrases from the essay into a search engine would probably nail anyone who hasn't gone to the trouble of going to the library and finding an actual textbook to copy from.

     

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    Eponymous Coward, AKA Doug (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:50am

    I'll admit, I kinda like this.

    Where some people see an evil hand controlling our children, I have to admit that I see a teacher that is attempting to force some critical analysis and thought from the students.

    It's becoming increasingly easy to find a fully-formed, near-untraceable argument for or against anyting online these days. I would assume that, since this is an AP class, the work will lean more toward position papers than simple regurgitation of dates and names. If that's the case, and the teacher asks for a paper that critiques the US pre-Monroe Doctrine vs. post-Monroe Doctrine, any student can spend 15 minutes Googling, copying and pasting from blogs and informational sites, and editing for flow and tone, and be done. It's the path of least resistance, and any kid that can get into an AP History class should be smart enough to be able to pull it off.

    If, however, the kids are forced to use the information allowed and, gasp, think for themselves, whatever they come up with will have value because it will be born of their own analysis and thought, not based on the weighting and page priority of Google's search algorithm.

    The students most likely will not come up with anything original or earth-shaking, but whatever they come up with will be their own thoughts. Teaching kids how to think should be the primary concern of any school, as far as i'm concerned, so, yeah, I like this.

    Letting the internet do your thinking for you is not thinking for yourself, even if you would have come to the same conclusion.

     

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    Eponymous Coward, AKA Doug (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:55am

    Re: I'll admit, I kinda like this.

    Oh, and Mike, check out Formalist Literary Criticism if you want an example of an academic endeavor founded and based on limiting the outside sources to be used. It was always my favorite critical style because it was pure: I would read a text, and analyze it based on the text, and that's it.

     

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    Altaree, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:55am

    THIS IS AN AP TEST!

    The only correct answers to the test will be from the book designed to teach the test. If you go to other sources you might learn and incorrect but true fact that causes you to not get college credit. I am going to guess that a previous AP test said the slavery was the only cause of the Civil War and any other answers are wrong and cause points to be taken off.

     

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    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:58am

    Doesn't really matter

    Decades of Internet access have proven to us that it doesn't really matter how much access to different viewpoints people have, they're going to believe what fits their worldview and truth be damned.

     

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    Eponymous Coward, AKA Doug (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:02am

    Re:

    Have to disagree with you there, AC. You're not talking about thinking for oneself, you're talking about deciding which option among other people's thoughts you feel is best. If these students aren't given the option of choosing from among myriad sources, then they will have to suck it up and voice their own opinion, backed up by solid arguments.

    In time, if this is done right, these types of thoughts lead to the students' work being quoted by others too lazy to form and defend the thoughts themselves.

     

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    Eponymous Coward, AKA Doug (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:06am

    Re: Re:

    You Godwin-ed out there with the Mein Kampf reference.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:14am

    High School is a lot about handing students everything on a silver platter and having them repeat it back. The assignment here is to formulate your own opinion of the material presented in class and in the book. What's wrong with that?

    No one said, never, ever, under any circumstances use another source. I think what they said was for this assignment use the materials/info from class. No big deal, on harm done. If the kids in AP classes cannot understand or handle that then maybe they should not be in an AP class.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: But I wasn't there!

    Wait, didn't China win WW2 when they deployed laser catapults? (They throw lasers...or so I was told in Physics class).

    Or was it North-West Korea (one of the six Koreas we learned in Geography classes) when they launched their massive bowling ball airstrike on France (they were trying to knock down the Eiffel tower? (It always annoyed them that the thing looked like a giant pin).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:21am

    Just because the site's called TechDirt

    As much as anything it seems to be to be a fitting metaphor for copyright and patents as much as anything else. The guy seems to be trying to pretend that the system is closed and that closed is a valid state for leaning history. In actual fact as many people have pointed out you have to have several sources for history as each source is not truth it is opinion and to find anything approaching truth (i.e. your own opinion of truth!) you have to have lots and lots and lots of input that you collate, examine, weight and then build on.

    The same is true of every field of human knowledge - music and song writing is based on music you heard perhaps even as a child whether you are conciously aware of the connection or not. Invention is based on knowledge you gleaned elsewhere and a mind able to take the extra step of joining it in a new way.

    Every bit of knowledge the human race earns is used by everyone who knows it - that is the purpose of knowledge and it's the reason the human race advanced so much after the invention of the printing press.

    I don't care if it's a school or a company, any argument that less knowledge is good is moronic. There's no such thing as useless knowledge ever and there's no such thing as new knowledge that doesn't rely on existing knowledge.

    Sure, copyright, patent if it help - sometimes people need money too - but knowledge has to pass into the public domain soon to benefit all because you never know who's going to take that next step.

    To encourage the learning of any other lesson about the uses of knowledge for school children by suggesting somehow that getting more knowledge is bad is nothing short of criminal.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:25am

    Re: Umm

    Heh. Fifth grade, Mrs. Brown, circa 1975, handed out a 10 question quiz and told us repeatedly to read through all the questions first before beginning to answer any questions. Even wrote it on the board.

    10. Do not answer any of the above questions or you will fail this quiz.

    To our credit (?), only about half the class failed.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:27am

    Re: Re:

    But how can they back up their flawed opinion if given an erroneous or one sided fact? How will they determine if its flawed for that matter?

    It like the papers of today, no need to fact check. Just take what we give you and spew it back.

     

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    RikuoAmero (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:29am

    Re: Re: Re:

    What? If the essay of the guy I'm replying to is say "Discuss the Post World War I Germanic State" and one of the sources is Mein Kampf, then what he'll come up will be a little skewed, to say the least, what with all the "It was the Jews, those Jesus-murdering interest-charging heathens!"

     

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    Freak, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:30am

    Re: I'll admit, I kinda like this.

    Any AP student should be smart enough to know that copying only gives marks, not intelligence.

    Do you mistrust students enough to think that we should downgrade their teaching in order to stop plagiarism? I would think the harm of teaching students in a much less helpful manner is overall much more damaging than one or two students per year deciding to cheat.

    Besides that, they still have to go through tests where they do not have these resources.



    Separately, if I can ask, are you suggesting Formalist Literary Criticism as a good way to learn history?

     

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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:31am

    Re:

    I saw that as well.

     

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    Eponymous Coward, AKA Doug (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:39am

    Re: Just because the site's called TechDirt

    Nope, I still don't see it that way.

    You see control, a teacher limiting a student's options. I see a teacher forcing students {students who will seek herd approval via facebook before buying shoes and will not deviate from the concensus opinion} to take an intellectual stand and say "this is what I think" without tent-poling it to hell and back with outside references or checking with BFF's to see if they got the same answer. If the student has a well-formed idea/argument, they get good marks, and if they don't, they don't.

    You see less knowledge, students somehow diminished by the inability to quote Brittanica Online. I see a class full of kids quite possibly scared shitless at the prospect of having to make up their mind and stand by their decision, and then I see those kids growing more confident in the idea that they can make something that is their own, and liking the feeling of creating new knowledge instead of quoting others' words.

    The more I defend this, the more I like it.

     

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  52.  
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    Eponymous Coward, AKA Doug (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:45am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I think we're seeing this class differently. I don't see it as indoctrination in one party's view of history, I see it as an introduction to critical thought and analysis. History is only the sandbox they play in. This is a college-level course, so I'm assuming the coursework is more advanced and focused on analysis and argument rather than name and date regurge.

    In a closed system, you can argue convincingly for an erroneous fact. That doesn't make it true, it just means that you can argue well. It's not about the stance you take, it's about how well you can defend the stance you take. If these kids can learn how to defend a point in this sandbox, then they will be better equipped to defend good points, as well as to expose bullshit, in the real world.

     

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  53.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:46am

    Re: Some of you hit this on the nail...

    Some others have the simple way out of the problem.

    An in class essay. You have one hour to write it and your only allowable source(s) is your text book.

    In either case, the historical analysis will be quite foul.

     

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  54.  
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    Eponymous Coward, AKA Doug (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:47am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The entire history of Human civilization to draw from, and you went the Nazi route. I'm just saying that Godwin's law struck again, and this time, you were its agent.

     

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  55.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:54am

    Re: Re:

    "Have to disagree with you there, AC. You're not talking about thinking for oneself, you're talking about deciding which option among other people's thoughts you feel is best."

    This goes to the whole 'nothing occurs in a vacuum' thing that Nina Paley wrote an article about some time ago. No matter what your thinking is, you will have at least one input that will influence you. This may mean that you end up parroting the input but the more inputs you have the less likely this is to happen. Sure, you may just end up parroting a different input back, but more likely you will take the inputs and form your own opinion, distinct from any one of the inputs.

    "If these students aren't given the option of choosing from among myriad sources, then they will have to suck it up and voice their own opinion, backed up by solid arguments."

    Your argument here ignores the fact that they already have one input. If you believe that a useful opinion can better form in a vacuum then you should be arguing for them not to be taught at all.

     

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  56.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:55am

    Re: Re: Just because the site's called TechDirt

    I'll respectfully disagree.

    There may, just may, be a case for this but if that's what the teacher wants then pass out paper at the start of the class, tell them to turn their laptops, smart phones and everything else off and start writing using pen and paper.

    No advance warning, of course, because if the idea is to test what they kids have learned and their skills at critical thinking then to warn them blows that out of the water.

    As for an essay written outside of a classroom a history essay does need sources, footnotes and all the rest of that ugly stuff that also tests critical thinking and ought to point out plagiarism right from the get go.

    Remember, a historical paper has to back up it's analysis of the sources not just parrot them.

     

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  57.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "The entire history of Human civilization to draw from, and you went the Nazi route. I'm just saying that Godwin's law struck again, and this time, you were its agent."

    You know what is more disrupting to a discussion than mentioning Hitler? Godwin's law.

     

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  58.  
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    Eponymous Coward, AKA Doug (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:59am

    Re: Re: I'll admit, I kinda like this.

    Formalism might be a solid way to go if we could get a decent source text (I kid).

    I still don't think that this is a downgrading of teaching, I think it's just a shift in what is being taught. I'm a liberal arts guy, so I love to argue, and I guess that's what I'm imagining this course to be. Teacher gives assignment "What do you think about this?", and student has to tell the teacher what they think about it, as opposed to quoting what others think about it.

    I think that, since we're dealing with high school sophomores in this case, I am right to distrust a fair number of the kids this would influence. I remember me at 15, and I was a bastard.

     

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  59.  
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    Eponymous Coward, AKA Doug (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Your argument here ignores the fact that they already have one input."

    No, my argument is that, if a student is given an input, and asked to react to that input, then a reaction based on that input and no other sources will truly be the student's reaction. One response to one stimulus, enabling a teacher to see how well a student structures an argument when the ground rules are firmly established and followed, and also how well the student understands the subject matter, in and of itself.

    The vacuum doesn't exist here because what I'm talking about is a conversation between teacher and pupil, the subject of which is the textbook.

     

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  60.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:10pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "This goes to the whole 'nothing occurs in a vacuum'"

    Which is exactly my point. You cannot create a "thought" without any input. You opinions are based on your emotions + what you know about any given topic. If you know nothing and don't seek knowledge, you have no inputs. You cannot decide, so you will shoot randomly. If this is true, then, how is your opinion be any better (or more valid) than rolling a dice or flipping a coin?

     

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  61.  
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    Eponymous Coward, AKA Doug (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That may be true, but it's not a chicken/egg conundrum. It's always Hitler first, then Godwin.

    Nicely put, though.

     

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  62.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Fairfax

    No matter how highly the school is rated, limiting resources is never a good idea.

     

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  63.  
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    nasch (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    One response to one stimulus, enabling a teacher to see how well a student structures an argument when the ground rules are firmly established and followed, and also how well the student understands the subject matter, in and of itself.

    So having multiple sources of information makes the rules less established or followed? And the best way to understand a subject is to study only one account of it? I'm not buying it.

     

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  64.  
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    Freak, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: I'll admit, I kinda like this.

    Fair enough, but then, what the students would be taught wouldn't be history.

    Somehow, I suspect that's a shift in what is being taught that probably shouldn't be done under the title of "AP history"

    You could teach a class using formalist literary criticism with a physics book, but then it would be a literature class much moreso than a physics class.

     

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  65.  
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    Bengie, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:37pm

    Other points of view

    I see a lot of above people mentioning how having one source means in order for the student to be original, they must think for themselves in order to answer the questions.

    This would mean the teacher has a controlled input and can use this to gage the quality of the student's response.

    This is good for critical analysis.

    Here comes the issue I do have with this. This is a history class. The main point of a history class is to learn history and validate your sources. If you want to mainly learn critical analysis, take debate.

    Critical analysis is still part of the class, but research is more important.

    If I went to college, took a history course and only learned one point of view of history but really honed my critical analysis skill, I would think I didn't learn history. I had plenty of communications and debate classes for honing critical analysis.

     

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  66.  
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    Freak, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    . . . this is a chat about history. Godwin's law does not apply if the topic is on history in which Hitler is relevant.

    FURTHER, it is the COMPARISON to hitler or to a nazi that is Godwin's law. No comparision was made; merely one person invoking, correctly, a paradoxical choice of sources.

    Would you make "Mein Kampf" one of four sources? Would you exclude "Mein Kampf" from being a potential source? Regardless of your agreement with it, it is an important source. But because of its very strong bias, making it the primary source for a history paper would generally be ill-advised unless you're talking about Hitler's obsession with Jews, or similar.

     

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  67.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Other points of view

    This would mean the teacher has a controlled input and can use this to gage the quality of the student's response.

    This is good for critical analysis.

    I would argue a homogenized method of teaching is better for the teacher's critical analysis skills than the student's.

    Tell me, how can one develop a critical opinion of a text if their knowledge of the text's subject is limited entirely to the work they are analyzing?

    Reading comprehension is not critical analysis, nor is it history. It is, however, all you need to graduate high school with a 3.0+ gpa.

     

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  68.  
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    nasch (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:47pm

    Re: I'll admit, I kinda like this.

    If that's the case, and the teacher asks for a paper that critiques the US pre-Monroe Doctrine vs. post-Monroe Doctrine, any student can spend 15 minutes Googling, copying and pasting from blogs and informational sites, and editing for flow and tone, and be done.

    Any student really determined to do that can still do it. If they want to stop plagiarism, they need to check for plagiarism, not make a rule that's nearly impossible to enforce and probably has unintended conequences.

    If, however, the kids are forced to use the information allowed and, gasp, think for themselves,

    I don't think you can ever force someone to think for themselves.

     

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  69.  
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    nasch (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:51pm

    Think for yourself?

    "The idea was to think for yourself," he said,

    "...then maybe later the students can teach us how to do it."

     

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  70.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 1:27pm

    Re: Re:

    It's not a history class, it's a logic class.

     

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  71.  
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    Sneeje (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Wait what?

    I happen to live near this school and am friends with parents with kids at the school. This school and nearly all others in Fairfax are excellent schools. This is probably just an aberration, but certainly worth examination. As a parent, I'd want to speak with the teacher and I'd be explaining that I'd be teaching my son/daughter to treat this as a narrow thought experiment and nothing more.

     

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  72.  
    identicon
    Bengie, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 2:09pm

    Re: Re: Wait what?

    If the majority of the class is taught this way, I should hope it doesn't count for a college credit.

    I'm very bad at learning names an dates, so history tests/quizes were my crux in college and I had to retake it 6 times. I took 6 different classes instead of the same one.

    Each class I had, taught history from multiple sources and view points. The teachers even compared/contrasted each source to each other. And there were very stark differences between sources. Not the facts, but the view points could easily make things seem different.

    I learned A LOT on how history formed todays world. I doubt teaching from a single source would have that affect.

     

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  73.  
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    ASTROBOI, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 2:40pm

    So if your dad asks......

    "Are you in that class I keep reading about on the internet?" and you tell him the truth you have no integrity and will fail the course if you are found out. If you lie and say "no" you are dissing your folks. Apparently the kids would have to do a "I could tell you but I'd have to kill you" sorta thing. I get the feeling they are learning from one of those revisionist books that doesn't include slavery or government corruption in its contents. To prevent embarrassing discussions or essays, the school forbids materials that might confuse the students.

     

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  74.  
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    nasch (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 2:58pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "AP History Students in Virginia High School Forbidden to Research Outside Classroom"

    If you are correct then it's ABC's error, not TechDirt's. Given the numerous references to a history course and especially a quote from a parent mentioning history, I think it more likely ABC is right. Or I've been trolled.

     

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  75.  
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    nasch (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 3:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Wait what?

    How are you at learning vocabulary? (hint, might want to check on "crux" and "affect") ;-)

    /language Nazi oops Godwin again

     

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  76.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 3:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No, no, no, in my situation it's a history class, not in the situation regarding the OP.

     

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  77.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 3:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    (errr .... sorry, in my situation it's a logic class, not in the situation regarding the OP)

     

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  78.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 3:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Wait what?

    If he means that the tests and quizzes required a retention of names and dates, crux would be appropriate usage, as in, "something that torments by its puzzling nature; a perplexing difficulty."

     

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  79.  
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    Kaotik4266 (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 4:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Wait what?

    I'm *pretty* sure it's not incorrect. It's a weird and obscure way to put it, though.

    Crux, Latin for "cross", in this context referencing Jesus carrying the cross to his crucifixion to describe a heavy burden that is difficult to carry.

    There you go. Having religious relatives *does* come in handy once in a while!

    *THE MORE YOU KNOW!*

     

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  80.  
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    nasch (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 4:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Most confusing clarification ever!! ;-)

     

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  81.  
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    nasch (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 4:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Wait what?

    Ha, I needed to look it up! I had never heard that definition of it before, I was only familiar with this one:

    a vital, basic, decisive, or pivotal point: The crux of the trial was his whereabouts at the time of the murder.

    Cool. Pretty sure I'm right about "affect" though, unless he meant "emotion", in which case the sentence makes no sense. ;-)

     

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  82.  
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    nasch (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 4:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Wait what?

    Nicely done, but I think I have to give it to Mr. Wilson who, as usual, knows everything. No wait, that's Wilson.

     

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  83.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 4:50pm

    Re: Re: Just because the site's called TechDirt

    You see control, a teacher limiting a student's options. I see a teacher forcing students {students who will seek herd approval via facebook before buying shoes and will not deviate from the concensus opinion} to take an intellectual stand and say "this is what I think" without tent-poling it to hell and back with outside references or checking with BFF's to see if they got the same answer.

    Well OK, sort of. I wanted to keep my post short(ish) since I do have a tendancy to go on, but one of the bits I didn't include was, well as you pointed out it's a college course. In theory they should have learnt independant thought based on "factal" opinions before this. If they haven't it's probably way too late but if that's really what the teacher was trying to teach then I suppose it has some vailidity, though I'd still expect at least 3 "approved" sources to compare and contrast.
    But if the children really haven't had any other input on history other than the "approved" text by college age then Oh Boy, is your country's education in trouble. I thought British education was cr*p (and it is in some cases), but that's actually kinda scary if true!

     

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  84.  
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    Kit, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 6:09pm

    Silly me...

    ... I always thought way to teach someone to think for themselves was to encourage them to explore as many sources as possible and make up their own minds about what they've discovered... not simply "parrot back" whatever their teacher or history book teaches. Unless their teacher lives under the delusion that they are infallible.

     

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  85.  
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    Jesse, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 10:26pm

    But they CAN use the textbook the teacher chose, and the teacher's opinion. And the bible.

    Yay I like being told how to think for myself.

     

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  86.  
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    Christopher (profile), Nov 3rd, 2010 @ 4:11am

    Re: Plagiarism again

    Actually, in a lot of these AP classes today, they are open book and open notes. There was a lot of complaint from the parents of children who were intelligent enough for these classes, but had poor memories, so in our school 12 years ago they switched to open book everything.

     

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  87.  
    identicon
    Daryl, Nov 3rd, 2010 @ 9:41am

    Re: Required Learning

    Actually do you have an Xbox with a Gold Account? If so, they will be streaming the parade on the ESPN3 area.

     

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  88.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Nov 3rd, 2010 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re: Required Learning

    Wow.. thanks Daryl

     

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  89.  
    identicon
    Daryl, Nov 3rd, 2010 @ 11:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Required Learning

    No prob, the only reason why i knew is because i downloaded the new update and was messing around and noticed it under their upcoming live events. I'm a cubs fan, we never get any championship parades. :)

     

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  90.  
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    vivaelamor (profile), Nov 5th, 2010 @ 8:07am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "No, my argument is that, if a student is given an input, and asked to react to that input, then a reaction based on that input and no other sources will truly be the student's reaction. One response to one stimulus, enabling a teacher to see how well a student structures an argument when the ground rules are firmly established and followed, and also how well the student understands the subject matter, in and of itself."

    Firstly, while that is a sound argument it doesn't remotely resemble the one that I responded to.

    Secondly, if it were applicable in this case then why wouldn't they just say that instead of coming out with crazy talk (like you did) which implied that they had no understanding of the potential benefits of their own methods. Having a valid reason for doing something isn't very compelling if you claim to have done it for a completely different reason.

     

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  91.  
    identicon
    Kevin, Nov 21st, 2010 @ 5:18pm

    Re:

    As a teacher, I agree that the only way to completely control the assessments is to do them in class. The second a teacher lets an assignment out the door, s/he relinquishes all control over it. That said, I wholeheartedly believe that any student who relies solely on the content given in class is doing her/himself a great injustice.

     

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