Sunday, July 13, 2008

Seeing Knowledge Differently


This weekend's Baltimore Sun reprinted an article by Lisa Anderson entitled, "D'oh! We're Stumped in Knowledge Tests." The basic premise of the article is that American youth tends to fare poorly on examinations of memorized fact. For instance, we score terribly on civics and history tests and students simply cannot see the purpose of memorizing a poem. The author does a good job, I feel, of explaining that our students see knowledge differently in that it is something ephemeral, to be "found" and not necessarily "remembered." Anderson explains:
Ironically, Web sites demand that people read, but their information often
is more to be accessed than retained, more to be consumed than assessed and
more to be gulped than savored, unlike a book, a poem or a lengthy
article.
Later, she reminds us that older generations have almost always lamented the laziness of the young compared to themselves. It's true, the younger generation is almost always softer than the ones that came before--unless some hardship serves to shape them differently. Of course that is the case. I just wonder if that complacency toward remembering information makes this generation more likely to repeat the mistakes of the past. It calls to mind the Edmund Burke quote: "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it." And then there's another one of his famous quotes : “All that's necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.

3 comments:

Christian Beyer said...

Not just that but much of the information that they are retaining has been filtered through the icons of pop culture. I've found myself engaged in conversations with young people about what I thought was historical 'common knowledge' only to find out that they were only aware of the movie version, or even worse, how it was represented on the Simpsons.

Supposedly more people in their twenties and early thirties are getting their news from John Steward and Steven Colbert than they are from the news programs they parody. I'm not sure whether this I should be alarmed or not.

Alecia Berman-Dry said...

Yes, you should be worried. It's not such a big deal that they do not memorize information that can then be reguritated on a test. What's a big deal is that they are not being adequately taught how to sift through all of the gunk to get to truthful, authoritative first hand sources of information. In fact, I'm not even sure they are developmentally able to do so until they've already been bombarded so much that apathy sets in.

Christian Beyer said...

Actually, I think I should worry more about my poor grammar and sloppy spelling.