Re: authenticity

Dave Lewis (dkl@IWAYNET.NET)
Tue, 20 Aug 1996 01:30:24 -0400

Monday, Darlene wrote:

>>something that is important in the creative atmosphere that
>>should be cultivated in a writing class: a class without the
>>kind of definite "right" answers of math and biology.

Somewhat earlier, Marcy had written:

>Grades may make sense for some things; I thinkthere are a lot
>of subjects where you could argue convincingly that grades are
>important and valuable (they never bothered me in math class,

Perhaps it would be more appropriate to post this on CCAC-L, but they
haven't been having these neat discussions. =8-)

There are science and math classes in which students are actually
*learning* science and math, but in those classes the questions being asked
are "real" (yeah, I know, here we go again =8-) and do *not* have 'definite
"right" answers.' RL is messy!

While it may possibly be true that it's _easier_ to organize math and
science classes so that there are "right" answers, the accumulation of
which determines a grade, I don't see why that is any more desirable than
organizing writing classes the same way.

I'd contend that in *any* class which is structured in such a way that the
student is supposed to know that there are right answers to be found and to
see the 'teacher' as the unimpeachable source of the right answers,
students will merely submit the right answers, arrived at following the
teacher's prescriptions without question. Most will never *learn* to ask
the right questions, let alone *learn* to solve problems that don't fit
into the neatly structured examples provided by the textbook and/or by the

Life is a word problem that may not have any answers -- and kids surely
won't find the "right answer" by rigorously following a set of rules laid
down by a teacher of math or science or writing.

I don't see why grades in any class are not destructive, why they don't
promote false notions of what *learning* is and why they don't help to
force students into ways of "learning" that are unlike any they will
encounter IRL!

Hate to say it, but we're all (math-, science-, writing-, german-,
history-teachers) in the same boat. And it may well be in the same old tub
and bathwater that needed to be thrown out last week (reserving the baby,
of course.)


Dave Lewis | Don't be afraid to take a big step.
Educational Technology Specialist | You can't cross a chasm in two small | jumps. -David Lloyd George