Thomas Jefferson was arguably one of the most well-educated Americans of his time. He was well-read, thoughtful, knowledgeable in a wide variety of topics from the arts to the sciences, and the founder of the University of Virginia. The same could probably be said of Ben Franklin, or James and Dolly Madison. On the larger world stage, we could credibly make such claims for René Descartes, William Shakespeare, Galileo, Michelangelo, and Plato.
But there is one thing unique about the education of all these people, which is different from that of you, me, and our children: none ever were given grades. All attended schools or had teachers who worked entirely on a pass/fail system.
Thus begins the article. Education in the United States, and perhaps much of the rest of the western world, has been reduced to an industrial process whereby cogs are produced to serve the same purposes or have the same qualities as every other cog; however, not all cogs are refined well in their processes and are graded based on periodic assessments of the worker’s ability to imbue said qualities in each cog.
For this article, the real meat of the argument against this system came in four bullet points (directly from the article):
- Grades did not make students smarter. In fact, they had the opposite effect: they made it harder for those children to succeed whose style of learning didn’t match the didactic, auditory form of lecture-teaching Farish used.
- Grades didn’t give students deeper insights into their topics of study. Instead, grades forced children to memorize by rote only those details necessary to pass the tests, without regard to true comprehension of the subject matter.
- Grades didn’t encourage critical thinking or insight skills, didn’t promote questioning minds. Such behaviors are useless in the graded classroom, and within a few generations were considered so irrelevant that today they’re no longer listed among the goals of public education.
- Grades didn’t stimulate the students, or share with them a contagious love for the subject being studied. The opposite happened, in fact, as the normative effect of grades acted as a muffling blanket to any eruptions of enthusiasm, any attempts to dig deeper into a topic, any discursions into larger significance or practical application of content.
Head over and read the rest of this article. It go me thinking about my future in the teaching profession (part of the ten year plan, perhaps, depending on many circumstances) and what I could do to improve the lives of any potential future students.