Saturday, October 16, 2010

My First Blog Rant

Inspired by Professor Gideon Burton's lecture on "the Rant" as a genre, I decided that it is high time that I tried my hand at it:

As humans, we have good days and bad days. Some days, it seems that everything goes right. You’re on the ball, quick, witty, and charming. On days like these, classes go well, tests are a breeze, and in athletic events you’re the star. I believe everyone knows what I am talking about and how great such days can be.

And then there are those not so good days... You see a cute girl (or guy...if you are a lady reading this) and you falter over your words. You’re in class and your hear nothing but gibberish from your professor. You’re at your intramural game and you drop every pass. You try desperately to get out of this "slump" but your efforts just make things worse. We have all had these days. They are miserable. When such a day starts, you almost can't wait for it to be over. This is just a part of life. "To error is human."

Perhaps my above assumptions are off, but I am fairly confident that I am not alone in this. And if this is the case, therefore, I pose this question: Why is our current academic system set up in a way to put a tremendous amount of pressure on a select few days? What do I mean by this? I have taken a lot of college classes and I have experienced a very common theme: that 50-70% of your grade falls on two days (sometimes three). That is it...two days! A midterm and a final (not to mention that all of these tests are administered in almost the exact same way— but that is another rant for another day).

I might ask how this is the most effective way to assess how well a student is learning the material? In athletics, even the best athletes in the world have horrible games, but they have anywhere from 15 to 161 more games to make up for it. In academics, good students are expected to get As, but if you have one bad day on one test, then that's it. At best, you might have one more chance to make it up, but even that is usually mathematically unlikely.

Our society has made unparalleled advances in technology, healthcare, science, etc. but our institutions of educations have remained almost fundamentally unchanged for more than a century. And please do not try to tell me that using a power point during a lecture is ground breaking… The fact is that we, as a society, really need to reconsider a lot, if not, all of our conventions of education.

Now after reading this, one could just say that I am a kid that is bitter after doing poorly on a mid-term exam. There may be some truth to this :) but I stand by what I have written….