Re: The school game

Gretchen Rich (grich@HU1.HURON.EDU)
Mon, 12 Aug 1996 14:54:17 -0500

On Mon, 12 Aug 1996, Eric Crump wrote:

> Marcy,
> You've reminded me of one of my favorite bits from _Zen and the Art of
> Motorcycle Maintenance_:
> "The best students always are flunking. Every good teacher knows that."
> The same thread runs through a book I'm reading now by John Holt: _How
> Children Fail_. He observes that the best intellects are not always the
> best students, that some students really are more interested in learning
> for their own reasons and purposes and decline to cater to adults, refuse
> to pay for approval with obedience. And the 'successful' students are
> sometimes not so much more intelligent or creative as simply better at
> obeying.

I think perhaps the concept of learning needs some analysis. If it is
learning to creatively circle around the assignment and have fun with the
writing, then I would agree that the more creative approach is laudable.
If on the other hand the learning illustrates fulfilling the assignment,
then the creative approach avoids it. Or perhaps the problem isn't so
much that the student is "learning" but rather whether the student is
learning to work within the social structure or avoid it.

> I think the *best* thing students can do is turn the game to their advantage.
> Apologies to the well-behaved quiz-takers out there, but obedience is too
> often a gesture of concession to the seemingly monolithic authority of the
> teacher, of the school. Attempts to thwart it are understandable, maybe even
> laudable, but they often come in the form of disruptive and distructive
> behavior. I think we ought to appreciate students who thwart cleverly,
> creatively, and even productively.
> --Eric Crump

I would agree that the student who creatively and productively thwarts the
parameters of the assignment ought to receive credit for doing so. What I
disagree with is the idea of giving that student credit for thwarting the
assignment as a grade for that assignment. Usually when I find a student
who wants to play outside the structure, I allow the student extra credit
for that play. HOWEVER I still require that student to complete the
assignment as assigned. I know. I'm a grump.:-;