The activities exposed by Chronicle of Higher Education in the article “The Shadow Scholar
” and the revelation of widespread cheating at the University of Central Florida
are manifestations of values gone awry in our society. These are the values we have embraced and passed on. We talk about how important education is to society, our kids and ourselves. Yet our real beliefs are displayed by our actions, which are quite different.
I wonder how many children, during the course of a year, get asked “what did you learn” followed by talking about the topic vs. “what grade did you get.” I wonder how many times a child’s grades, as interpreted by parents as not up to expectations, leads to a discussion with their child on how to work together to learn more which improve the grades vs. a confrontation with administrators and educators about making the grade higher. I wonder how much time is spent teaching children about how to learn vs. how to get better grades. I wonder how many times we teach children about learning to add value and rewards will follow vs reinforcing the message that obtaining credentials, like grades and degrees, will lead to a well paid lifestyle.
As an economist, I am always amazed at how many individuals pay for this good called education and then want to consume as little as possible (as long as they get the credit and target grade.) Yes, we would like to have the knowledge and understanding, provided it doesn’t take much effort, time and sacrifice that is.
If you think I am off, go into most any section and ask if they would like to have a class off (without penalty), an assignment dropped or the amount of material reduced. This size of the response is an indication of the true values prevalent today.
We need to recapture and demonstrate the pleasure and satisfaction in learning.
The challenge is to show that learning can provide satisfaction, not only in progressing towards a better life, but also as something on its own. The world is changing at exponential speed and the illusion of credentials will fall away faster and faster. We need to show that those who really learn and add value are the ones who will be more satisfied with their lives as well as the ones who increasingly will rise in our society to reap the better lifestyles. These will be the ones who are good at learning and those that continue to learn. Most likely, it will be those who find pleasure in learning. Those who find learning a negative experience will be hard pressed to continue doing so at the ongoing rates that will be required in the future. Society at large really doesn’t comprehend how critical this facet of our being is going forward.
So if we really want to have impact on the future state of our students, communities and world, now more than ever, we need to teach the pleasure and satisfaction of learning and do it in such a way that this feeling is transferred to those who pass through our classrooms. This will be one of the core attitudes of the successful in the 21st century.
Originally published in my Blog Shifting into 21st Century Education