Re: grading ourselves to death

Jeffrey R Galin (galin+@PITT.EDU)
Wed, 4 Sep 1996 09:26:18 -0400

Eric Wrote:
> The hard questions Tom refers to might include: How does institutional
> education serve society? How does it serve students? Does it function as
> a site of learning, a place to pursue curiosity, to acquire skills and
> knowledge? Does it perform those functions in a way that society *of the
> next century* (not the previous) will find valuable?

Now these are questions. If we are going to try to take on the
institution as a whole, it makes some sense to start with questions like
these, ones that have been asked since th inception of liberal education.
Ultimately, however, such questions are a bit nebulous, hard to pin down.
At least the grades discussion grounded the conversation within a concrete
context. Perhaps both are necessary for discussing reform. Another way
to make this conversation concrete is to focus on other practices of
teaching. One of the assignments that all first year grads at Pitt had to
write when I first started teaching there required us to explain what our
"social mission" was for teaching. Seems to me this is the question that
lies behind Eric's series of questions, but on a larger scale. More like,
what is your social vision and why? How does it serve students, big
business, and the nation-state?
One difficulty with this question , however, is that it asks us to
project our teaching practices into the future. The assignment in the
grad seminar was grounded in the here and now. I like where this line of
questions is heading, but am not sure how to tackle it.
What do others think?

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