Teaching Children to be Useless

By that I mean the continued message given to pupils that they have no responsibility for looking after themselves, that if they screw up there will always be someone to bail them out.You might think that you don’t do that and maybe your school doesn’t but I’ll give you a couple of examples and be honest, do they not seem just a bit familiar?

Firstly, coursework. Deadlines should mean deadlines but they don’t. If pupils don’t hand their work in they get an extension, then an extension to the extension. When they get out in the workplace and the boss says “I want this done by the thirty-first” s/he means by the end of the month, not half-way through the next. Trouble is the office junior has been shown at school that deadlines are flexible, optional things and before s/he knows it s/he’s on a disciplinary.

Something at my school that is increasingly bugging me is the issue of calculators. Our Department bought some cheap ones, initially for emergency use in exams. Fair enough, candidates should not be penalised for unforseen circumstances.

Trouble is, when pupils turned up to class without calculators (a breach of their learning agreement) instead of putting them on report as they should, the teachers sent for the department calculators. Pretty soon they were booking a class set of them. Which meant they were not available for other classes so more were bought. Now we have three class sets and it is not enough.

And there has been “supply creep” too. Now pupils are issued with pencils and rulers in class because they do not bother to bring their own. Please spare me the “oh they can’t afford it” crap as well. We are talking about kids who can remember to bring their £100 camera-phone and when you see them outside of school they are wearing hundreds of pounds worth of designer clothes. You can get a really good scientific calculator for under a tenner.

These are 14, 15 and 16 year-olds I’m talking about. “Young adults” to use the pc term but they are being taught to be as incapable of self-reliance as primary school children.


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3 Responses to “Teaching Children to be Useless”

  1. draust Says:

    Well, those of them who get to Univ will get a wake-up call. No free widgets, except perhaps a LIMITED number available to pre-book, and actual deadlines.

    For assessed work our current system is NO extensions except in dire emergencies, and only granted by the Faculty “Head Tutor” (chief big stick), and mark penalties for lateness. The standard one is a 10% deduction (absolute) for every day or part of a day late. So if your report was graded at 65%, but was handed in three days late, you get 35%. Incidentally, part of a day counts as a day. So if the deadline is 4.00 pm, and you should up with your report at 4.03 pm, it’s 10% deduction. No exceptions.

  2. darthtater Says:

    Absolutely familiar scenarios and all directly attributable to the culture of defining school success by exam results and attributing all decline in results to the teachers, not the students. The coursework is something which we haev more influence over than the exam so we go out of our way to amke it as good as possible. IO assume it happens in all subject areas in your school too e.g. technology teachers giving quite a helping hand using the machine tools, Geographers setting the same project year after year so you can copy out your big broother’s …
    In theory the new coursework system inScience should be better tha the old one and deadlines should not exist, but rule bending appears to have happened already, uncomfortable though that makes some of us. I like Dr Aust’s description – but as long as studsents’ success is perceived as due to a wonderful education system and the kids’ own effort, while failure is all the fault of the teachers, then we’re on a hiding to nothing.
    End-of-term rant ends (somewhat bitterly as I go to face the prospect of a couple of weeks marking the damned drivel- and don’t get me started on the fact that we mark a third of the assessment in an exam for whivh we pay a substantial fee)

  3. coatgal Says:

    Many moons ago, I forgot my calculator for one of my A-Level Maths exams – I had to do the whole exam without a calculator… a valuable life lesson learnt.

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