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kbrown's picture

Education as application

As I was thinking back to our discussion last week on education as it is involved with emotion, I found it particularly interesting with respect to the readings that children and adults who suffer from emotional disorders were said to be impaired academically. However, numerous times in the articles it was mentioned that as far as test scores went, these students were comparable to other students in the class, and did not seem to suffer from a lack of intelligence or test taking ability. This teased out an important distinction for me that, although an obvious one, was not something I had really contamplated before. While beginning the readings, it did not seem obvious to me why a concept of morality or emotionality was so intrinsically connected to academic performance. Surely math skills are not linked to a concept of right and wrong. However, as I thought about the issue longer and in our discussion in class, it became clear that emotionality, while perhaps not intrinsic in the accumulation of skill, is rather completely connected to the application of those skills. One may not need a sense of emotion to learn theorems, but it is much more likely that emotion could be used in the application of those skills. However, this still does not explain the average test scores of students with emotional problems.

Perhaps it is not ability itself which is being altered by a lack of emotion, but rather the motivation. As was discussed in class, people have a multitude of reasons to acquire and perform academic skills well, from pleasing parents to getting in to a good college, all of which seem tied to some emotional base. It seems that skills which are acquired passively, or maybe even intelligence, requires little motivation, and therefor even people who have little emotional motivation to perform well may do so on tests of these types of abilities. However, when it comes to real world application and decision making skills, these students are sorely lacking.

Although, after thinking this through, this concept seemed obvious, it points to a crucial problem in our assessment of students and in our education system. I think most would agree that the basic idea of education is to increase a student's ability to think through problems and make choices of all kinds, mathematic as well as ethical. However, how is it that when testing students who perform poorly on rational decision making skills, they still perform at an average level. Perhaps our education system, by putting emphasis on acquiring and "spitting back" equations, facts and figures, is really testing the wrong thing, and that instead we should be modifying our assessments and teaching styles to encompass a more broad, theoretical, decision making focus. This is not to say that the basic fundamentals of every discipline are not important, but rather that we should be using these fundamentals in more application-based ways from an early age, rather than emphasizing the "cramming" that seems to dominate middle and high school education today.


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