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Taylor Hoover Professor Gridley English 1B Staking a Claim Essay October 31, 2012 Educational Discourse Education, thought

by many to be the backbone of any society, is, in my opinion, the search for learning, thought, and understanding of complex situations that may present themselves throughout ones life. Education today, however, has lost its direction, and become a system of learning how to jump through hoops, avoid difficulty, and scrape by with the bare minimum. Over time, as the monetary value of education began to reach its all-time high, the personal value directed itself from intellectual aspirations, to the search for the highest grade. Having gone through school for 14 years of my life, I feel that school has never been viewed by my peers as an opportunity to learn, but in fact, it is typically viewed as more of a chore. As any other chore, an adolescent will find the quickest, easiest route to finish with adequate success. To what can we attribute this chore based thought process of students? The problem is derived from the implications of standardized testing and all that is associated with it; from teaching strategies like those of Jane Schaffers method, to the demand of high grade point averages at the university level. Standardized testing was introduced during the nineteenth-century in europe and was not brought to the United States until the early to mid twentieth-century. It was not required by public schools until the approval of the Elementary and Secondary

Education Act of 1965. As time passed, more emphasis was put on the importance of standardized testing until the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which began the war for school funding. Within the No Child Left Behind Act is a contract describing the relationship between the amount of money given to specific schools based on their schoolwide average test score. Thus began the start of a downhill slope of education for students. Although there is much to be said about government aid to schools, it is imperative that I address the problems caused by directly correlating students test scores to the amount of money the government gives to that school. From 2001 on, schools began to put much more emphasis on preparation for standardized tests, rather than educating students. One may assume that test preparation and learning are the same; however, this is not the case. As said by Alfie Kohn in her article The Case Against Grades, collecting information doesnt require tests, and sharing that information doesnt require grades. The point Kohn is trying to make is that education differs greatly with the pursuit of knowledge versus the pursuit of getting the highest score. With such a high emphasis on test scores, teachers began to veer far from what benefits the student, in order to focus on what benefits the schools finances. Methods such as Jane Schaffers method to formulaic writing is among just one of the methods produced to help improve writing scores of students. Although methods like this can appeal to both students and teachers due to its simplistic approach to writing and organizing an essay, it rapidly suppresses students creativity. As a result of the teacher focusing less on students critical thoughts, they begin to grade based on the application of the formulaic pattern; the same pattern that will result in a good

standardized test score. This makes it easier for students to fulfill the assignments requirement with minimum critical thinking, thus limiting their ability and challenging very few. Methods like these reinforce the idea that grade oriented education is more important than a learning oriented education. This, in turn, causes acceptance of the idea that obtaining a good grade is all that is needed in order to satisfy education, when in reality, students are learning nothing more than how to fill out a document. Mark Wiley, a composition coordinator at a metropolitan university, responded to Jane Schaffers method in his article The Popularity of Formulaic Writing (and Why We Need to Resist). He says, Formulaic writing of the kind that Schaffer advocates forces premature closure on complicated interpretive issues and stifles ongoing exploration. In attempting to take the mystery away from writing and make it more accessible, the formulaic approach winds up hindering students from exploring their ideas, reactions, and interpretations---the rich chaotic mess from which true insight and thoughtfulness can emerge. (64) What Wiley is trying to convey, is that writing in this manner suppresses a lot of creativity and thought that should be put into writing, something that students often overlook. I am not fully criticizing Schaffers method, as it is a good way to help struggling students grasp the idea of writing. The problem with it is, as implied by Wiley, preaching the method to students as a way to get better grades. This issue is later addressed in Kohns article:

Grades tend to reduce the quality of students thinking. They may skim books for what theyll need to know. Theyre less likely to wonder, say, How can we be sure thats true? than to ask Is this going to be on the test? In one experiment, students told theyd be graded on how well they learned a social studies lesson had more trouble understanding the main point of the text than did students who were told that no grades would be involved. Even on a measure of rote recall, the graded group remembered fewer facts a week later. (qtd. in Kohn) Instead of challenging students to actually learning and therefore retaining the material they have been presented with, they choose to memorize what is thought to be on the test, proving to learn nothing but how to memorize words (or numbers). With this in mind, let us momentarily redirect our focus to the psychology behind the motivation of students. Within all of us, there is considered to be two types of motivation: Extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation, or external motivation, describes motivation that comes from outside an individual. For our purposes, we will say that extrinsic motivation is the desire for the better grade. Intrinsic motivation, in contrast, is motivation that comes from within an individual; which we will assume to be the pursuit of greater knowledge. Recently, there has been an overwhelming increase of extrinsic motivation in students as a result of increased pressures by teachers to increase test scores. This constant reinforcement of extrinsic motivational values of teachers results in the reduction, if not, total loss of intrinsic motivation of students. In other words, as teachers continue to enforce the importance of test scores and grades, students begin to believe and apply this to their entire educational career. This mistake can be detrimental to those students who continue to apply this extrinsic motivation at a

university level, because the more students are led to focus on how well theyre doing, the less engaged they tend to be with what theyre doing (Kohn). It is in this way that students often find themselves having graduated from the school of their dreams with excellent grades, but having only learned as much effort as they put in; the bare minimum. As a college student at Saddleback Community College, I meet many students who search for the professors that grade the easiest, rather than the ones known to be a good mentor, but this should go as no surprise to hear. More than ever, students are being pushed by society to achieve the highest grades which, in turn, will get them into the best schools, resulting in a higher salary. This fallacy created by society that going to a good college will get you the best future, has caused many students to veer even further from their intrinsic motivations. In reality, it is necessary for students to remain reliant on their intrinsic motivations for college in order to succeed after college. For example, Ken Saxon, a graduate of Princeton and Stanford's Graduate School of Business, gave a speech in 2010 to the freshman class of the University of California, Santa Barbara shedding light on what he perceived to be the purpose of a college education. In his speech, he says: I think our society does many young people a disservice. Kids constantly get the message that if they want to get at what life has to offer, they need to go to college. Supposedly, according to the data, your income will be higher, youll be more likely to have a successful marriage, and more likely to live a happy life. But then tons of young people head off to college---record numbers in the last decade---without really thinking about why, and what they want out of it. (521)

Saxon is pointing out the common mistake of students who fall into the belief that they will be able to do anything they want, so long as they graduate from a good school in the field they think they desire. In many cases, this has been proven to be true; however, it is the students who have extrinsic motivations to pass classes that have something to worry about. The problem is, when these extrinsically motivated students graduate college and begin to search for a job, they do not have the applicable skills that graduates of that field are assumed to have, because they have done nothing but memorize study guides and look up answers to their homework on online search engines like Bing or Google. In some cases, students will be hired straight out of college only to find themselves fired soon after because they cannot apply all that they learned throughout their education to the job they were hired to do. This phenomenon is surely to be caused by the lack of effort to learn, and the loss of all the information students simply memorize. Since these kids lost touch with their intrinsic motivations years before as a result of standardized testing, they never got the chance to become involved in the subject enough to really think about whether they enjoy it or not. The only focus of the student has been extrinsic, because this is the way they have been conditioned to think. As a result of this, students often choose a subject they seem to be best at, and pursue an occupation that seems to be making the most money at the time. Therein lies the problem with pre-professional choices based on monetary value that Saxon later points out: Even if you wanted to, how could you know the best fields for making money in the future? Even pre-med students today cant be sure of what the career path

of a doctor will look like in the more than the decade it will take to finish their residency. (523) So, these typically young students, who decide on a major because the market seems good for it, usually end up in trouble. Not only do they find themselves going through the motions to get the best grade without really paying attention to the subject, they can find themselves unhappy with their career choice, because they are either uninterested, or simply unskilled. So what is the overall educational objective of prospective students? The answer seems simple: a successful career and a happy life. Unfortunately students that are conditioned to achieve success by extrinsic motivational means, have learned nothing more than how to take a test. This can be attributed to the years of teachers motivating students to get high standardized test scores. It is a result of the current social norm that the test score is all that matters, not uncovering a true passion, or discovering who you really are; as both Ken Saxon and I preach . As we have learned, students that go to school for the grade and the piece of paper at graduation, usually find it to become a waste of their time, as they do not have intrinsic motivations that allow a pursuit for the greater knowledge. In education, we get out what we put in, so the less effort, the less benefit. It seems like I tell my peers every day: Just because you can pass a class on paper, and did so without trying, doesnt mean you learned what was necessary to deserve the grade. Theres always something more to learn; whether it be a theory or outside opinion to consider, there is always something to be taken from a discussion, especially a lecture. So, always try, always put out the most possible effort. When you have finished the required work (assuming it was

approached with the pursuit of knowledge over grade), read more, research more; because there is always more to be learned. This is our one chance at a youthful, virtually stress free college career. So let us make the most worth out of what we can, because it will be twice as difficult the second time through. As Alec Bourne, a pro-life activist and writer, once said in his book A Doctors Creed: The Memoirs of a Gynecologist, It is possible to store the minds with a million facts, and still be entirely uneducated (5).

Works Cited Bourne, Alec. A Doctor's Creed: The Memoirs of a Gynaecologist London. England: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1962. Print. Kohn, Alfie. The Case Against Grades. Educational Leadership 69.3 (2011): 28-33. ASCD. Web. 9 Nov. 2012. Saxon, Ken. What Do You Do with a B.A. in History? Writing Arguments: A Rhetoric with Readings. 9th ed. John D. Ramage, John C. Bean, and June Johnson. Boston: Pearson, 2012. 520-27. Print.

Wiley, Mark. The Popularity of Formulaic Writing (and Why We Need to Resist). The English Journal 90.1 (2000): 61-67. JSTOR. Web. 5 Sept. 2012.