What a former college instructor really thinks…

Posts tagged “short attention span

Can Heroin and Vodka Help Students Learn?

Imagine for a moment that you are a kindergarten teacher.  Today you are going to begin an educational assistance program for your students and they’re going to love it.  (As we all know, “they’re going to love it” is the best way to judge the effectiveness of pedagogical techniques.)  It’s even easier than all the hard stuff associated with memorizing and learning.

Here is the plan: you are going to shoot each student up three times with heroin.  Although you know that this won’t help them developmentally, your professors told you that heroin is the best way to motivate student learning.  As long as the kids’ teachers continue to give them heroin through the years, students will learn anything you give them.  If you stop injecting the heroin, they won’t learn anything.

Let’s have an honest show of hands: how many of you wish school had really been like this?  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?  (Legal Disclaimer: don’t try this at home.)

Unfortunately, we all know that heroin does not assist learning even though withdrawal from any drug (including alcohol) can cause a person to lose knowledge or skills gained while under the influence.  The same goes for the incessant boosting of the students’ self-esteem and curricular dumbing-down.  It starts early, so teachers of older kids run the risk of losing their students’ cooperation if they don’t coddle them.  These teachers are informed that the student audience has changed; this is coupled with demands that teachers change their methods to “adapt” to the new student shortcomings.  I don’t mean to imply that everything was perfect in Education Land 75 years ago, but these demands miss the mark.  To see why, let’s go back to Kindergarten:

You just gave your kindergartener a shot of vodka today and he’s a little dizzy.  What’s the solution?  Correct!  You give him another shot of vodka.

Now he’s throwing up, but he likes the taste and wants more vodka.  What do you do?  You guessed it!  Two more shots!

And the little boy passes out in a puddle of his own vomit.   When he wakes up in the morning, you tell him that you’re proud of him because he handled the vodka very well.  He asks for more, so of course you’re supposed to give it to him.  You might as well hand him the whole bottle because he’s just so talented.

An hour later, his liver has decided that this isn’t funny and it’s no longer functioning.  Junior is now a dazzling shade of yellow.  (It makes him look so handsome!)  Unfortunately, you’re out of vodka so you decide to go see a doctor to ask about Junior’s lack of hand-eye coordination.  But you’re not looking for real medical help because you already know the right answer: a prescription for vodka!

And so it goes with inflating students’ grades and self-esteem while ignoring their reduced skills and ever-shortening attention spans.  The solution parents demand, the one colleges demand of professors, and the one students expect is MORE VODKA!  Um… I mean more dumbing down and more fueling of students’ self-esteem.

I think we can all see how that turns out.  In the end, the self-esteem addicts face the same results as the heroin addicts and alcoholics: their brains are fried.

Why I Don’t Use Photos in this Blog

If you’ve spent much time reading my blog, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t use any pictures.  Sure, I have the image in my header but that one’s not exactly designed to be an eye-catcher.  There’s a reason for my spartan layout.

During my time in teaching, I noticed that student attention spans shrunk considerably.  It became daunting for them too look at a page of text without a huge block of color to break it up.  You can see this trend in popular newspapers and magazines as well.  (If you’d like to read about this from someone who has done a little research on the topic, take a look through Mark Bauerlein’s blog entries over at the Chronicle of Higher Education.  He blogs about this sometimes.) All too often, photography and pictures help dumb down the educational materials our students are given and it seems profoundly hypocritical to use those same tactics in a blog that is devoted to mocking what’s wrong in higher education and the effects these shortcomings have on graduates.

But I have to admit that I’m not completely opposed to photos or pictures in blogs. Sometimes, the photos or pictures are the main attraction and sometimes they help explain what the blogger has written. But in case you can’t live without your daily photo fix, I’d like to share a blog that has some really neat pictures:

Don’t click here if you hate spiders, insects, or fish.

I really do like those photos…