Mark makes an interesting point about the messages we send (it’s OK if you don’t do your own work) when we intend to send another (education is so important, we really want you to get good grades and get into a good college etc.). I had a rather bizarre take on this, extending his insight to the classroom itself:
When we lecture at students and they write down what we say, we are doing their thinking for them. When we give them an exam on which they are expected to repeat what we said, aren’t we sending the message that one is rewarded for reciting the words of others?–indeed, since the best score one can get is 100, that there’s no reward whatever for doing your own thinking? When the exam asks students to replay a recipe (such as plugging values into a formula), is it a lot higher-order thinking than just repeating official truths? Would the lesson be much different if they carefully footnoted the exam to the course lectures and the textbook?
When we spend hour upon hour listening to ourselves talk, therefore can’t really have any clue what the students are thinking or how they think, and demand they respect us for it, are we modeling a kind of behavior we want them to emulate, say, in the workplace? When, and how, do they figure out that while school mostly has them practice being in a room with someone who knows The Truth, no-one will ever pay them for that skill? How much being told truths does it take to make someone good at finding and telling truth on her own?