Do you want to know what I dislike the most about “honors” students? It’s their whining insecurity surrounding the possibility that they might give an incorrect answer. Some people think that this is a good problem to have, but they’re wrong. I’ve come to understand that these “honors” students are no more interested in actually learning anything than any other student. They don’t particularly care what the lesson is, why they’re being asked to learn it, or whether or not it is important. They are solely concerned with getting the answer right.
These students tend to think of schooling as a game. If you are good at the game, then you get into the “right” college and then the “right” job will appear and you’ll have won at life. For these students there are no larger intellectual curiosities, no existential dilemmas, no ethical quandaries.
Most of my “honors” students are functionally illiterate. They have a hard time following my directions on investigative assignments because I want them to be creative. This isn’t what they signed up for. They signed up for the weighted GPA and the “A.” If they wanted to be creative they would have signed up for tap dance classes (OMG, do colleges look for that on applications now?! I need to sign up for that!).
I realize that this is hardly a new critique of students or our educational system. Maybe I’m just channeling Robert Pirsig today. Still, the question of how to solve this puzzle remains. Educational theorists have offered more possible solutions than there ever were educational theorists, but I think that they have all missed the mark because they have taken the subject too seriously. If students are going to treat education as a game, then let’s play a game.
Shakespearean students will receive nothing until or unless they are able to ask using iambic pentameter. Engineering students will be able to use the answer key to the test if they can figure out how to get it down from the ceiling using cotton swabs and dental floss. Agricultural students will only be able to eat what they have successfully grown.
Whatever happened to the confidence derived from actually accomplishing something of concrete value? Of failing at something and having it not be the end of the world? Why on earth are we raising our children this way?