Saving Our Education System By Encouraging Cheating

from the rethinking-the-problem dept

What’s more important for education? Having a student memorize a huge list of facts or having that student know how to find the right facts if asked? It’s an ongoing debate, but there is still a belief among many that cramming kids’ heads full of facts amounts to education — but it would seem that teaching students how to learn is much more important than just teaching them facts. At least a few schools appear to be recognizing this, even if it seems to horrify the old guard. The first thing that some of these schools are doing is “legalizing cheating,” by letting students go ahead and look stuff up online as they take a test, or perhaps to communicate with others. While we’ve seen so many fear-mongering stories about just how horrible it is that students might use a mobile phone in class to cheat, others seem to recognize that, later on in life, these students will have mobile phones or other communications systems, and there’s nothing wrong with having them learn to use those tools when they come across some question they don’t know the answer to. While there are some quotes from people who disapprove of the practice, it would seem that a well written quiz or test should be able to take into account the fact that the students have all possible resources at their disposal. If the goal is teaching kids how to find the answers they need, rather than simply cramming a bunch of facts into their brains, perhaps allowing them to “cheat” makes a lot of sense.

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Comments on “Saving Our Education System By Encouraging Cheating”

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Jake (profile) says:

Re: Has Mike been to school lately?

The reason open book tests are mor difficult goes beyond the obvious, the book is sitting next to you. Teachers teach an entirely new lesson, that most students take a time or two to process, that yes you have the book if you need to verify information, or something to that effect, but to search for each answer will take longer than the alloted time. Most students arrive, having not studied, ready to use the book as a crutch, and fail the test due to time constraints. Furthermore, what should be noted here is that cramming facts in middle and high school, and college, unfortunately, prepares one to take certification exams, i. e. Cisco, Microsoft, Project Management Professional, because these exams expect one to answer forty to fifty questions from an answer pool of about one thousand. That is too much information to cram into one’s head.

Hmmm... says:

Re: Has Mike been to school lately?

I’ve been to school for the last 19 years of my life, and I’ve only had maybe 4 or 5 open book exams in that time. They were not optionally open or closed book. Have YOU been to school lately? If you’ve had a different experience, that’s fine, but it certainly wasn’t the norm in my “blue ribbon” elementary, middle, and high schools.

Clarification: I am now studying in humanities, so most of our exams are long analytical papers or research papers, so they are somewhat open book, but it’s grad level and probably not what I would refer to as an “open book exam.”

Anyway, I think this “cheating” does make a lot of sense for a number of areas, but it is somewhat missing the point of education. Part of education is finding out what you’re interested in, learning to love to learn, being able to participate in a conversation that is more sophisticated than the latest NASCAR race, and generally not sounding like a moron.

On the other hand…calculators, which are answer-machines like the Internet, weren’t allowed in several of my math classes–I always found this silly. Once you get basic math and a few tricks down, there’s no reason you should have to long-divide 3-digit numbers. No one should have to remember the exact distance in light years to Betelgeuse or the exact year the UN was established either.

Claire Rand says:

Open book

Naturally an ‘Open Book’ test, well at least a worthwhile one, is much harder to write and vastly harder to mark, specifically it requires the writer and marker to have a good knowledge of the subject.

Think I may have found a problem already

The trick is to write a question that doesn’t have a yes/no or ‘one of the following’ answer, but requires actual understanding to pass it, not just rote knowledge. Exams should be about understanding and implementation of knowledge not just the facts themselves.

Won’t happen while bean counters are in charge, though we may get multiple-guess questions as open book, bet the pass rates go up, making league tables look much better.

After all thats the point innit guv?

Paul says:

Re: Open book

multiple choice are favoured not because of the quality of testing, but because they are cheap to mark, AND, there’s no arguing about the grade.

If we don’t want this sort of casual testing, the it will cost a lot of money to have qualified examiners mark the papers… in which case I can see a time when exam marking is oursourced to developing nations – who would doubly benefit as the recipient of foreign money AND they would have to be educated to do the work.

[troll ahead!]
Meanwhile, we in the “civilised west” will decline in skills to the level of cavemen, cavemen who carry PDAs and 3G phones, but unable to communicate and make ourselves understood!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Paul's Open Book

Paul, I do agree with you on your points – such that in order to have a progressive conversation, both parties need to be knowledgeable in said subject. For without intelligence of this “higher education”, conversations would be quite boring.

For, the main definition of a conversation is that of to communicate to share ideas.

Now if there was a “pause button” in each conversation where if a question comes up and you are unable to answer it, you could “press” pause or simply say, “excuse me while I look that up on my PDA w/WiFi… then what would be the point of communicating. I for one, would be bored and just walk away from that individual.

People who are knowledgeable in several topics are more likely to succeed in this HUMAN interactive world we still live in.

side note – open book tests are nice, since it not only teaches the student that an answer is someplace inside that book, but it helps them to comprehend the topic/subject being asked. I believe that it not necessarily the open book question that could be called “cheating”, it is the manor in which the professor presents his questions which are answered this said book — because open book quizzes are more useful when the questions are also open ended.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Paul's Open Book

Right, and it also educates the instructor as well. I have found that many secondary educators are in a rut and teach the same things year after year. Using the same tests and resources is not a real good idea since the materials often get out and are sold openly to ther students. This would require them to branch out and require more from their students as well as themselves.

There should be a standard though. The minimum allowed grade for passing should be 90% and above. There is no reason a student with all of the tools and knowledge to use them should get less than a 90%.

Jack Shadow says:

All comes down to the basic question

Do we want the children to come out of school full of facts but with little understanding or comprehension (or as my dear mother calls it “cop-on”)or light in the facts but with large amounts of understanding and comprehension?

Nearly every education system worldwide is currently designed for the former because it is easyer to design, control, measure and most importantly is the least affected by individual teacher performance

The ideal would be the latter though, but i honestly doubt we will ever see it without massive investments in education systems and the teachers in them that allow schools to pick the best of the best from the total workforce, not just the best of the best from those small few with a vocation calling or those who just want long holidays

Steven says:

Re: All comes down to the basic question

Why do we have to decide between knowing facts and understanding the the topic?

You have to give kids both. You can’t survive long in any field if you don’t understand the material and are able to do research to expand your knowledge, but you won’t last long if you have to go access your resources (phone, web, pda…) every time a problem presents itself.

anonymous says:

The web is NOT an encyclopedia

Allowing students (particularly middle schoolers as mentioned in this article) to rely on the web for their information is not a good idea. Who knows whether the information they get is going to come from a legit source. We all know that the web is full of at least as much (if not more)crap as good stuff. And even many of the legit information may contain a bias in the context of whatever is being discussed on a particular site. Controlled learning from class/ assigned information sources also help students to understand and deal with subtle differences in information in a particular context.

There are some basic facts and information that should still be memorized.

Not until students learn to critically review web sources, should they be allowed (or encouraged) to utilize them in place of studying/memorization.

Wolfger (profile) says:

Re: The web is NOT an encyclopedia

Well that’s just the point, isn’t it? This isn’t about learning how to look up a website containing all the answers, this is about learning how to find information. A good part of which is learning how to tell fact from crap. This skill is very useful in later life. Much more so, I dare say, than “who was the first president of the United States?”. Rote memorization is useless, because it falls into the “if you don’t use it, you lose it” domain. While I don’t remember who signed the Magna Carta, I do remember being “taught” that. What’s of more significance, though, is that I know how to find the answer if I ever actually need it, and that is a much better allocation of brain cells than memorizing the answer.

anonymous says:

Re: Re: The web is NOT an encyclopedia

I have to laugh because I think we are in more agreement than not on this subject. My original comment was meant to emphasize that we need to train students to critically review information. And that I really don’t think that this is done by middle school. I have seen evidence that high schoolers are learning this, but not much before.

I also have to laugh because of your comment regarding the “first president of the US?” If you look this up on the internet, you will find that it was John Hanson, first president of the US under the articles of confederation, and that Washington was the first president under the constitution. This is what I meant by contextual information (articles of confederation or the constitution?). If you listed Hanson, I bet 99.9% of the teachers out there would say you were wrong.

Andrew Strasser (user link) says:

Re: The web is NOT an encyclopedia

Not until students learn to critically review web sources, should they be allowed (or encouraged) to utilize them in place of studying/memorization.

How do you learn something other than by doing it? Also I do agree with everyone that retaining facts is important though I do have to say retention is only half the battle there. There are many ways of learning to retain that are not taught in schools that should be as well. We don’t send kids to school to learn. We send them there to teach them what their life will most likely be. You’re going to spend the rest of it going in someplace everyday and spending your whole day there with people. You are going to have to work all day and do the same repetitive bull**** over and over again. Sound like any jobs out there in the world.

The best reason for retention to be taught is the fact that stuff disappears sometimes and then you don’t have that information. Many would call me nuts if I made a list of everything I’ve seen disappear in the last year from the web. Some would say yeah we saw 🙁 It isn’t taught however, they are told to memorize not teach themselves to retain. Yes there is a differance. Most teachers don’t bther to teach kids to use association when memorizing or to connect the data with other things that you can recall easily. Schools have a lot that needs to be approved, but how can you expect teachers with 30-40 kids per class to teach all the kids for 30k a year and expect to get teachers that can and will do that when you have doctors who make hundreds of thousands of dollars who on the average. 40% of american doctors can do basic computer skills according to a July of 2005 survey of the Medical field.

Teach a man to fish.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The web is NOT an encyclopedia

So Make only certain credible sites accessible during these tests. This will limit the amount of erroneous information the student has access to.

On the other side of it, during some lab/lecture sessions, allow the students access to erroneous information and use it to offer up discussions about why tis information is not what they are looking for and why. This will assist them to be more critical of the sites they use. As they grasp the concepts of being critical, then let them have more access and see what data they come up with. This will teach them how to think critically and that information can be subjective and relative, rather than static and absolute.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: The web is NOT an encyclopedia

So Make only certain credible sites accessible during these tests. This will limit the amount of erroneous information the student has access to.

Actually, that completely defeats the purpose. Part of the goal should be having the students learn credible from non-credible.

The fact that there’s a lot of bogus info out there is part of what they should be learning.

As for other commenters, the idea of learning facts and learning how to find info are not mutually exclusive, and I never intended to imply it was. However, learning how to accurately find and judge info seems a lot more relevant. The facts come with that.

anonymous says:

Re: The web is NOT an encyclopedia

I’m sorry to say i dissagree with you. In the public school system you are learning what the “government” wants/thinks you need to know. Who chooses the books that are allowed to be taught? Guess what the gvernment. these books do tend to be out of date and even bias. i do agree though there is untrue iformation on the net, but if students were made to cite thier work on the test teachers could easily find out if the information is from a ligitamnet source. As is done in the higher education system.

Jim Gorski (user link) says:

Cheating Knowledge

I am currently trying to wean myself from my internet knowledge addiction. Rather than memorizing a function call in the language of the month I simply google it. This works fine (a little slowly) until the chips are down – then I am out of luck. Teach children facts AND comprehension. Swinging wildly in one direction or the other is just pushing troubles to a later date.

Wolfger (profile) says:

Learn to regurgitate, or learn to think?

I think many opponents of this are fearful of teaching people to think for themselves. Public education is currently the epitome of brainwashing, where children are taught the facts du jour, but rarely encouraged to actually think. The concept that looking up the answer is “cheating” only holds in grade school. In real life, you are expected to look up answers all of the time. Lawyers do it. Doctors do it. Engineers do it. The only people who don’t look up answers are the people who don’t need any.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Learn to regurgitate, or learn to think?

It is true that looking up the answer is expected in your daily job. I work as a programmer for a small IT company. Nearly every day I have to look up answers to things I don’t know. But in my job, I am expected to have a large body of knowledge about my field memorized. I would never get anything done if I had to look up every last line of syntax. I also would never get anything done if I didn’t know how to look up information I didn’t have.
Doctors, lawyers, and engineers have to look up information every day, but they also have to memorize a lot of information. Forcing students to memorize a lot of rote facts, and then testing them on it isn’t a bad thing. It only becomes a bad thing if they are not also taught to search for information when they don’t have it memorized. That is what research projects are for. Sadly most schools don’t impliment solid research projects. So, yes schools need to teach more research skills, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t teach kids to memorize facts.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Learn to regurgitate, or learn to think?

Hold up… Knowledge != memorization. The goal of educators is not to “force them to memorize a lot of rote facts”, but to TEACH students what those facts represent. Students that only memorize facts will learn little more than how to memorize facts. I would rather have my kid look up details on a subject online rather than see him mentally go over some meaningless list in his head, mentally mining the correct response.

Ever learned a foreign language? If you have, you know that you cannot become fluent (knowledgable) if you must mentally translate or conjugate every word verbatim. You become fully competent in the language only when you learn to think in the language without regurgitatiing meaningless “facts” that have no value beyond face value data.

MikeM says:

Re: Re: Re: Learn to regurgitate, or learn to think?

Rote memorization is usually valuable in a narrow area of expertise. Any given professional is not completely conversant in every aspect of his or her field. The most used info gets remembered, lesser used info tends to be forgotten over a period of time. This applies to school work as well as professional work. You remember what you need, not what you’re told.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Learn to regurgitate, or learn to think?

“Hold up… Knowledge != memorization. The goal of educators is not to “force them to memorize a lot of rote facts”, but to TEACH students what those facts represent.”

You are right knowledge doesn’t equal memorization. And the goal of teachers IS to teach students what the facts represent. The problem here is that if students don’t memorize some basic facts, they won’t be able to understandthe more advanced concepts(what those facts represent). Just beacuse the teacher is trying to teach the student what the facts represent rather than the facts themselves, doesn’t mean that the student doesn’t need to know the facts themselves.
The problem here is that we are talking about different levels of education. take programming for example. Before you can start teaching advanced pointer arithmetic and complex algorithms, you need to teach the student the basics of how pointers work. They need to understand what pointers represent, but they also need to memorize the usage and rules of pointers. Then you can teach them the advanced algoriths. That isn’t to say that they should only memorize those facts, they also need to understand them. If they don’t memorize the “facts” of the first step, they will never be able to learn the concepts of the second step. You as a teacher will be bogged down explaining again the basic concepts and rules of the first step.
Again, BOTH approaches are needed in concert. The students need to understand the facts, and understand how to find out the facts, but they also need to “memorize” at least some of the facts. Both the memorization and the understanding need to be tested.

giafly says:

Re: Don't look up answers

Re: In real life, you are expected to look up answers all of the time. Lawyers do it. Doctors do it. Engineers do it. The only people who don’t look up answers are the people who don’t need any.

Unfortunately, if an engineer “looks up answers”, he runs the risk of becoming “tainted” by learning copyrighted techniques and solutions. If you’ve researched a competitor’s IP, you’re on very weak ground if anyone sues you for plagiarism etc. It’s often safer to rely on your own knowledge.

Copycat says:

Re: Re: Don't look up answers

RE: “Unfortunately, if an engineer “looks up answers”, he runs the risk of becoming “tainted” by learning copyrighted techniques and solutions. If you’ve researched a competitor’s IP, you’re on very weak ground if anyone sues you for plagiarism etc. It’s often safer to rely on your own knowledge.”

BS! Every single technology-based company, from engineering to chemical sciences to you name it, has entire PROGRAMS and departments built around competitive research. You are only on shaky ground for IP-battles if you are stupid enough to go into court without a lawyer, lazy enough to completely CLONE your competitors product (that’s why you study their IP…so you DONT clone it) and arrogant enough to think you can do all the above and not face repercussions.

There are few original designs/products left…just remakes of older models implemented utilizing new mediums/technologies.

giafly says:

Re: Re: Re: Computer Associates International, Inc. v. Altai,

Re: Unfortunately, if an engineer “looks up answers”, he runs the risk of becoming “tainted” by learning copyrighted techniques and solutions. Here’s a real case to demonstrate the principle.

“Altai hired a programmer from CAI. Unbeknownst to Altai, its new employee brought CAI source code with him and used it to develop an Altai program. CAI discovered its former employee’s actions and promptly brought suit … Altai [then] developed a second version of the program, which was written by programmers who had never seen either the misappropriated CAI software or the software written by the former CAI employee that included the CAI code…

The trial court awarded CAI $364,000 in damages for the admittedly infringing program. However, the trial judge held that Altai’s clean room version of the program did not infringe CAI copyrights. –

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Don't look up answers

“And if a surgeon routinely has to “look up the answer” *during* a procedure, his license is likely to be revoked pretty darn quickly.”

ever been in an operating room during a procedure? i can tell you first hand, they have repeated the procedure so many times on cadavers that they carry on conversations, answer calls, and in the case of teaching hospitals, they teach classes all while operating.

if you ask me, that’s what causes malpractice.

AlphaNerd says:

Speaking as an educator

I am an IT instructor for a small college. Due to the nature of the material, I routinely allow some sort of “cheating”, as it has been put, during final exams. Granted, I make these exams much more difficult than a standard multiple-choice / True-False / Fill in the Blanks exam.

In the “real world” – if I have a problem with a SQL Server, or if I needed to know how to how to do something in SQL – there are a number of tools available to me. Why shouldn’t I allow my students to search Books online or the Microsoft Knowledge Base? I certainly don’t know everything about the subject, nor would I pretend to.

I do know a lot about a lot of things related to various operating systems, database servers, and programming languages – but more importantly if I don’t know the answer to a question or problem, I do know where to look.

If there is one thing that I wish to teach to my students beyond the rote memorization of some facts (The minimum system requirements blah blah blah) is to know where to find an answer when they need one. It is far easier for a student to memorize facts and figures, than it is for them to learn good research skills.

Andrew Strasser (user link) says:


I can’t write good. Plain and simple. I have had seizures my whole life and dropped out of school when I was younger because they told me in order to graduate even though I barely slid through junior and senior english I still had to re-take freshman english for my diploma. I missed 2 questions on my GED scoring within the top 1% making it an Honors GED which really made me happy because even though my english teachers couldn’t find it in them to tell me I was smart even though my hands shook I proved it myself. I was graded on my handwriting skills in English my entire life.

We all know my standpoint on the issue at hand. It’s as simple as teaching a man to fish or cook, or did they really just want to give their kids one meal and leave em to fend for themselves out in the world.

I had to go out and figure out my own illness in my life because Doctor’s weren’t even able to do it. It took a month of me steadily searching everything everywhere in the search engines, but the Doctor’s can’t tell me “It’s all in my head!” anymore. If we take the time to teach our children right today. Then the children of tomorrow won’t have to worry about healing themselves because less than half of doctors know how to sucessfully use a search engine.

I’d rather have a 20 yr. old Doctor that knows how to use a search engine than any doctor that can’t turn on a computer. I personally think that if you as one of the highest paid professions don’t keep up with your ability to learn you should be fired and gotten rid of. There is no question you should teach a man how to find knowledge not just shove it in his head.

I am a certified Genius according to my I.Q. done professionally, however that hasn’t kept me from being limited in my abilities to be taught by people who are knowledgeable. If it wasn’t for Google I would still be suffering today and most likely since I had just started to have grand mals last year. I’d be suffering badly. I’m glad I was taught to teach myself, of course then again what else do you have left when physics is as simple as a thought that takes 5 seconds.

Max says:

Education - my two cents.

I believe Lord Alfred Tennyson said “Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.” It could be said that Knowledge comes in two parts, “gaining facts” and “retaining facts”, ie knowing how to get information and retaining information. Wisdom could be defined as the proper application of knowledge. I believe that education should teach both knowledge and wisdom. Unfortunately, much of the current educational system relies too much on memorization. Therefore research and application go by the wayside.

MD says:

Skills vs. Knowledge

I believe it was Harlan Ellison who said “It’s not ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion’. You’re only entitled to an INFORMED opinion.” So, yes, critical thinking and analysis is an important part of education, as is gathering the facts to perform those acts.
There are certain basics that MUST be taught by rote. This includes basic reading, basic math, and grammar.
As an analogy: You can’t be a musician without knowing how to play, and the symphony can’t wait while you look up notes, or count to A,C, or E-sharp. It’s a skill that you need to do without thinking. We have so many of these – (most) people seem to learn to drive a car, too, so that they become comfortable with their tool, it becomes an extension of themselves, and they steer, signal, and accelerate/brake without thinking.
Sure, some gifted people (i.e. McCartney and Lennon?) managed to learn music without learning to read written music – but don’t kid yourself! They practiced day in, day out throughout their formative years. They looked up (!) one way or another, different guitar chords and other techniques to mimic and then surpass the blues and rock’n’roll musicians they wanted to emulate. Along the way they also learned about song structure, bridges, hooks, harmony, etc.
I suppose the “progressive education” advocates would say this proves their point – this is how to encourage people to learn. I say, yes, it works for the 1% who are seriously motivated, for a narrow field of interest. The purpose of schools is to force-feed as many pupils as possible the basic skills needed to manage in today’s world. After that, students can start to explore their own horizons on their own. (Especially manual skills, like music or even, say, bricklaying – you not only have to know, you have to DO over and over until you can do it without thinking… That’s how most of us drive.)
Primary schools must teach the basics – Readin’, writin’, ‘rithmetic; beyond that, say grade 6 to high school, students must be fed the basic facts of how the world works at progressively more abstract levels, from grammar to poetry, from basic physics to the periodic table and chemical reactions. If there’s a way to instill critical thinking and analysis over this time, by all means take it.
The problem with “progressive” education is the assumption that students will have the burning motivation and persistence to develop on their own. You need only show the path, and they will gleefully run down it! Not so! Playstation is not “the path less taken”. Rarely is “joy of learning” a motivation that overcomes laziness. It is painful to watch someone – possibly very smart, with strong analytical skills – who is so obviously lacking in basic knowledge that they take hours to work around to a textbook solution.
Is the internet a help or a hinderance? No more so than a manual or textbook. As previous posts noted, a well-designed open-book test will demand much more familiarity with the subject matter, not just regurgitation. During the test will not be the time to start learning the material – it ill test whether you have already done the repetitive application of that skill that constitutes “knowledge”.

Mansack says:

Why even go to school?

I mean, seriously. You’re just Googling your education – anyone can do that at home. I have a computer technology course where the professor tells us nothing and we have to rely on Google to find out what we need. Is he a good professor for doing it? Nah, I think he’s just a lazy bastard who doesn’t want to do anything.

Craig (user link) says:

Damned if we do, damned if we don't

I’m a university professor and I am faced with this issue every day I teach. If I ask questions on exams (which a majority of students WANT, much to my surprise) that are based largely on memorization (which is something I hate to do), then students are generally happier in that they perceive my expectations of them to be more reasonable and the grading to be less subjective and more “fair.”

However, if I do what I prefer to do (and actually did almost exclusively earlier in my career) and ask questions primarily requiring less memorization and more synthesis and analysis (which is harder to “Google”), then I’m faced with students who complain (sometimes to our dean, even) that I’m being unreasonable in asking them to what amounts to “thinking” and that the grading is too subjective (which is inherent in answering unstructured questions).

So, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t — there’s no winning.

Ultimately, I think you overestimate the willingness of undergraduate students in general to think (i.e., process and come up with insightful, original conclusions), which is something they’re being required to do less and less in life all the time.

Rikko says:

Re: Damned if we do, damned if we don't

Ultimately, I think you overestimate the willingness of undergraduate students in general to think (i.e., process and come up with insightful, original conclusions), which is something they’re being required to do less and less in life all the time.

Craig’s got a point here.. People just want to get to point B with the least effort expended. Memorizing facts is faster and easier than learning concepts.
I would say students shouldn’t have the choice – learn the damn material or don’t and fail. The only complaints that should go to a professor or above should be professors refusing to assist/explain rather than making students think.

CS says:

Re: Re: Damned if we do, damned if we don't

“Memorizing facts is faster and easier than learning concepts.”.

No. It is much more efficient, or “easy”, to learn the concepts. If more people understood this they wouldn’t need to spend endless hours filling their poor little brains with a myriard of facts they wouldn’t need to remember if only they knew the concepts behind the facts. What would you rather do, spend 10 hours of hard concentration to learn a concept such as integration in calculus, or 100 hours memorizing the integration formulas that can be deduced from a thorough understanding of integration? I am certainly way to lazy to do that…

Bart says:

Me Personally

I have a problem “remembering” unintersting suff. Our chemistry classes were full of students (like 500 or so) so all the tests were fill in the circle that required me to do stupid shit like memorize the periodic table. I made it through 2 courses in chemistry in college with a B. Just because i would cram all sorts of info in my head 10-15 minutes before class then dump it all on the back of my test before i forgot it. I know absolutly no more about chemisty now than i did before i took 2 semesters worth in college.

Now my Calculus teacher (Yes i took the same one for 4 semesters of calculus,DE and Linear Alg) would give the worlds
easiest problem. Ask you to solve it, then ask 10 questions about what you just did, making sure you
knew what it was you were doing and not just memorizing a formula and seeing if you could do all the elementary math in between…Most people failed and hated this guy but i loved him because he thought like i did. If you forgot an equation, he’d tell you but he wouldnt do open book so that you could teach yourself during the test, he wanted to make sure you knew what you needed to do.

Justice (user link) says:

Using their Resources

In the real world, not many people know their entire field by heart. They do, however, know how to get the information. Take for example doctors. They know the basics, they understand the field. But what they don’t know is every single detail of every single disease in the world.

If we teach the next generation how to act like when they are adults, then the world my mature a bit faster than it currently does. It is unrealistic for anyone to say, “Go memorize this” instead of saying “Understand this material, research your sources, and come up with your own conclusion.”

John Stuttler (user link) says:

Military Schools

? Before you criticize this reply, please read it in its entirety and take time to think about what is being discussed, as well as the results that are obtained from this type of education.

? The U.S. Army has done this for quite some time. All of the NCOES (Non-Commissioned Officer Education Schools) teach you how to find the information you need to know, as well as memorize the more important things you need to succeed as a NCO.

? BNCOC (Basic Non-Commissioned Officers Course), for example, is a 2-week course for phase one, in which you receive 15 or more military manuals that you are tested on. It would simply be impossible to memorize all of the information in these manuals, as most are several hundred pages long and there simply isn’t enough time to memorize every possible bit of information contained within the manuals.

? The Military does not consider this as “cheating”, as it is much more important to know where to find the information than it is to have all of the information memorized. There is certain information that does need to be memorized, however, such as which manuals cover what information. Obviously, without that knowledge, finding information would be much more time consuming and difficult.

? During testing, we are given all of the manuals we have covered, as well as all of the notes that we take to use for the tests. As stated before, the Military does not consider this as cheating, but more of the ability to use all of the assets available to us. Cheating on a Military test can be done (and punished) if you have assistance from another student, though. This helps to teach independence from other people, as NCOs need to be able to think for themselves and make decisions.

? Although many of you who are reading this may think that this is a weakness of our Military, consider this: the United States is the ONLY Super-Power in the world right now and even though we hardly have the largest Military Force, we certainly have the strongest.

? Here is another thing to consider. In my civilian life, I am a web designer. I was never formally taught how to build a web site. The first web site I built was created with FrontPage. Using the knowledge that I learned in the Military, I quickly started developing HTML without the assistance of a WYSIWYG editor such as FrontPage. I now strictly use notepad to develop all of my web sites, some of which contain literally millions of lines of code to create. Many of the web sites that I now create are written in PHP, which isn’t even taught at many Universities. Because the Military has taught me how to research the answers to my questions versus memorizing everything, I am able to be self-employed as a web site designer. I would never be where I am today if I strictly gained knowledge like I did in High School and College.

? Due to my knowledge and abilities as a web designer, I am now on the Board of Advisors at one of the local Technical Colleges in Erie, PA. Most of the other people on this board are professors at that school and often ask me where I learned how to develop web sites using PHP. They are usually quite surprised when I tell them that I taught myself this complicated language using the internet to for reference when I run into problems. It took me about 2 years to gain the knowledge that I have now regarding PHP, which is considerably more than I would have learned in a classroom trying to memorize everything.

? Let me get to my final point. Most people do not completely realize the whole idea behind the internet. Many people that I have come across have no idea how to tap the potential of the internet, not because they have problems finding information, but because they often fail to understand that the internet is the largest source of information in the world right now. Let me stress this again; the internet is the largest source of information in the world! The internet is completely dynamic, constantly being updated with new information every second of every day.

? You may remember the days of door-to-door encyclopedia sales people. These days are hopefully gone! How many of you purchased a set of encyclopedias only to have them collect dust and become obsolete. In this reply, I have already posted a couple of references to If you visit that web site (opens in a new window), you will see that it is a true online encyclopedia. Unlike the hard copy encyclopedia set that you may own, the WikiPedia contains links to other related topics so you may easily find the information you are looking for. In addition, if you want to add to the WikiPedia, you can! Yeah, you may get a few nut cases putting up garbage information (although this is theoretical and I have not yet come across any bogus information), but think of the potential for subject-matter experts adding their comments and notes for everyone to see. The flow of information continues daily with the latest information getting to the masses.

? I hope that this reply has shed some light on a few things. Personally, I wish the Internet was available when I was growing up and going to school. I would probably be a lot smarter than I am now. Let’s face it; our education system in the United States needs many changes. The internet will hopefully never replace educators, but it certainly is a powerful tool that should not be ignored.

John Stuttler (user link) says:

Re: Military Schools

P.S. – I forgot to include this in my original post. Critical tasks do require memorization. As a Combat Soldier, it is NOT likely that the battle field will get a “time-out” while the leaders on the field take time to look up information and the soldiers take time to figure out what to do next. I know some idiot out there would have made a stupid comment about this if I didn’t add it in now.

? Military schools do teach the basics of the subject matter that are supposed to be taught at those schools. There are educators leading the course, and students do still attend class, have discussions, and participate in practical exercises just as you would expect from any formal education. My whole point was that in addition to learning the subject matter, we also learn how to get more information regarding it because it is unlikely that every student will retain the knowledge learned at the school for the rest of their life.

jim says:

Re: Military Schools

Good information. I would add that under stress people sink to their level of training. They don’t miraculasly do better, they do as well as what has been drilled into them. This is why the military trains on the basics a lot. Under fire soldiers have to know what to do by “instinct” by their training.

Blitz_Monkey says:

Re: Re: Military Schools

I strongly agree. I feel that many people underestimate the ability of trained soldiers to think and act in an intelligent manner when in battle. Having lived with veterans from the world’s most harsh wars, I know that instinct is taught in training, and that what they are taught is what saves lives. Instinct vs. intelligence? No, training combines them to help soldiers do what is right and what works in their given situation.

Greg Andrew says:

No Subject Given

Obviously, there needs to be a balance. You can’t, for example, learn a foreign language unless you memorize a lot of words. If you try and talk to someone using that foreign language and have to look up the definition of every 3 words, you are not going to get far. It depends on the subject involved.

It also depends on the level of education. Young kids need to learn a lot of facts. Older kids need to learn more analytical thinking.

a_pseudonym*ira says:

Re: What!? no!

Other way around there.
I was stretched hard on how to think by a self employed ex military do it yourself father.
The day I started school I knew how to utilise base 10, count accurately in the thousands by using “ten one hundred and 1”.

The YOUNG mind should be taught to synthesize, solve, flex, extract data from the world.

When specialization comes along, start memorizing contextual facts as pertains to that subjecty thingy.

Search Me says:

Google in class

Hold on… I don’t know what to post in reply to this topic. Gimme a sec to search Google…
My sampling of some of the top returns:
“I Google my memory now.”
“Oh Yikes, to[sic] bad I can’t google my memory.”
“Since having constant access to Google my memory has deteriorated.”
“Hoo, I really can’t wait until the moment
I can google my memory for keywords.”
“But thank’s to Google my memory was refreshed…”
It seems like a good thing. It probably helps if you can recognize the right answer…
because you might get a thousand different answers to your question.

You can take it with a grain of salt… or a salt lick.

mansoor khan (user link) says:

still camra

“And if a surgeon routinely has to “look up the answer” *during* a procedure, his license is likely to be revoked pretty darn quickly.”

ever been in an operating room during a procedure? i can tell you first hand, they have repeated the procedure so many times on cadavers that they carry on conversations, answer calls, and in the case of teaching hospitals, they teach classes all while operating.

if you ask me, that’s what causes malpractice.

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