So earlier this morning, I had a Facebook friend post this article to his Facebook profile:
What proceeded were a bunch of comments about how kids are now dumber then they used to be. (Of course everyone ignored the link someone posted further in the comments that this is probably a hoax: http://www.snopes.com/language/document/1895exam.asp)
Now I get really really irate when people say this about students for several reasons.
Memorization doesn’t equal intelligence.
I had a grammar teacher in 7th grade named Mrs. Gardner. I remember liking her but I do remember one odd thing vividly from her class: having to memorize all 150 prepositions… in alphabetical order.
Now I did at one point do this correctly enough to get an A in the class but I remember thinking, why are we doing this? Was it to teach us that sometimes you have to cram information into your brain quickly, prepping us for exams and college? Was it that sometimes you have to do something you think is pointless because it is important to a higher-up, teaching us humility?
I am still not sure of the lesson (unless it was really just about prepositions) but I am going to admit right here that I can no longer write all 150 prepositions in alphabetical order. This and other facts from school have been lost in my brain but I don’t think I am any dumber than I was 20 years ago when I knew them.
More information is being created to memorize.
So wars keep happening, countries borders keep changing, new laws are passing… are we expecting students to have to memorize more and each generation? I am sure the Suez Canal (to take an example from this ‘test’) was really important at the time but is it bad to say that building the largest building in Dubai is as important of an event to this generation they will similarly remember?
As the internet doubles every 20 something days too, we need to be mindful that a brain can only be so full… and what’s important to you in terms of knowledge might not be important to a 12 year old. Because that thing you are thinking about is part of your generation, not theirs.
We are now emphasizing different subjects in education.
You can tell by this exam that at some point there was a larger emphasis on history and geography then there was math and science. And that’s ok.
But we need to acknowledge we are training a work force that is decidedly different than even a generation ago. Understanding, using, problem solving, and creating with technology needs to go in the curriculum and, unless we want to make school days 14 hours long, something has to diminish respectively. We also see more and more the importance of learning about other cultures and our own culture in the way of art, music, and other disciplines.
So while older generations can wipe the floor with me related to locating countries on a map, I could create a map on a computer relatively quickly. I am not less intelligent, we just see here intelligence is relative.
Usually people making these comments don’t work with kids.
Have you met students today? Sure, just like back in the day there are some real slackers but lots of them are articulate, fun, smart, creative, thoughtful, involved in their community, and otherwise good people. Some over achievers have even done things like start their own non-profits, find cures for diseases, and become activists for causes that concern them. If you want to see an articulate young woman talking about her cause, check out this Youtube video.
Think about students you know. (Yes, people you actually know not a bunch of faceless stranger slackers.) For the most part, I bet you see them turning out ok and contributing positively to society? I’m betting the answer is yes, even if you don’t agree with their outfit choices or music taste.
So even though I’m old enough to theoretically have a student of my own, it really gets me going when people talk about kids today not knowing enough. They know plenty… and they can’t take some theoretical test from 1895 because they don’t live in 1895, not because they’re somehow dumber than their ancestors. And if you really want to make your kids smarter, praise them for their process not for their smarts: http://www.parentingscience.com/praise-and-intelligence.html
So instead of calling kids dumb or smart, let’s support their efforts. Who knows, maybe they’ll turn out even better than they’re planning.