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A concerned member of the human race

Monday, March 23, 2015

What Do You Say When a Student Asks, "Why We Gotta Learn This?"

"In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General."
It doesn't happen as much as you might think, but occasionally some kid asks, "So, why do we have to learn this?"  I don't mind the question.  Sometimes, I wonder the very same thing myself.

Come May when teachers are asked to commence their month-and-a-half long trudge through Regents test prep, it is clear to me that my students must learn certain things for the sake of the test.  The Regents have deemed some material noteworthy and other material less so.  Sometimes, I don't understand why students need to know one thing and not the other.  If there is a logic to it, it eludes me.

Instead of saying they need to know it for the Regents, I would prefer to tell students we are learning because

1.  it is current events.  
2.  it relates to current events.
3.  it is a foundation for the principles that guide us today.
4.  we can learn from past mistakes.
5.  you need to know how to evaluate information to understand biases, including your own.
6.  we need to consider other options people had at points in time.
7.  we need to be well-rounded individuals.
8.  we need to learn how to listen to other people.
9.  we need to learn how to voice our views and offer constructive criticism.
10.  we need to appreciate differences. 

But tests don't really care for much of that.  Given the current climate and for the sake of honesty, let them know they must learn stuff to pass a test designed to fail the majority.  They'll need to learn this stuff to graduate, protect the jobs of their teachers and save our school from closing!  Then, they can quickly forget it.  They will have little, if any, use for it in the future.  

So, tell them not to feel too pressured, but gently remind them if they don't bake their brains, we'll all be sitting on the street in cardboard boxes!

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