Re: The school game

Marcy Bauman (marcyb@UMD.UMICH.EDU)
Tue, 13 Aug 1996 11:01:12 -0400

On Tue, 13 Aug 1996, Eric Crump wrote:

> Hyper-thwarting. Coool term. And I agree. There's a diff btw the
> desperate and the perverse. The conditions that provoke both might be the
> same, though. Different reactions, different styles, similar conditions.

Yup, exactly what I was trying to say. And if we want to change
conditions so that they no longer tyrannize the desperate, I hope they'll
also no longer accommodate the perverse (at least not in the same way).

I think it's essential that we make a distinction between
desperation and perversity, and that we learn to look carefully at
desperation in particular to understand what it reveals to us about
particular students' motives and understandings of the task at hand.
We oughta do a whole lot more observation and a whole lot less evaluation
in general, in my opinion.

> How come we (as a group) tend to be so offended by the
> 'cleverer-than-thou' student but sympathetic to the desperate drudging
> quiz-taking masses?

Well, I'm not sure I agree that we generally all are offended by
the cleverer-than-thou student; I think the call has been fairly evenly
divided on that one, myself. Personally, I'm disturbed by that kind of
behavior because I think it's synonymous with ass-kissing (it certainly
was when _I_ did it): it's a way to say, "Look, I not only understand
your game, I can play it as well as you. Am I not precocious?" That
sort of attitude gets in the way of real learning just as effectively as
desperate avoidance measures do. I speak from experience, here: I was
twenty-eight years old before I knew what kind of books I liked to read
without a teacher telling me what kind _to_ read.

But at the same time, I think I see what you're getting at,
Eric. The desperate drudging quiz-taking masses aren't necessarily
learning anything worthwhile simply because they're keeping quiet and doing
what they're told. But there's a real temptation to confuse compliance
with learning.

However, just as perversity doesn't always equate with
not-learning, neither does compliance. I'd be real interested to hear
what people think that learning _does_ look like: how do you know if
someone's learning something? I most often look for a certain kind of
enthusiasm that I term engagement, and which takes many forms. Anyone else?


Marcy Bauman
Writing Program
University of Michigan-Dearborn
4901 Evergreen Rd.
Dearborn, MI 48128

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