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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nothing can be learned through standardized crafts

A student cannot learn about the origins of Thanksgiving through making pilgram hats and macaroni necklaces. China cannot be better understood through making a paper mache panda bear (a real eighth grade assignment at a local middle school). No insight into Italy can be gleaned through cooking spaghetti. Construction paper snowflakes are not educational. Pipe cleaners and popsickle sticks do not shed light on anything.

Parents in the system are trapped by this busy work. They have to praise them as artifacts of their childrens' hands. But even given that, a note to principals: endless walls of identical standardized caterpillar art projects on display for parents may be pushing this manipulation - it does not establish your school as a hotbed incubator for future naturalists or artists - it is just creepy.

While experiments, physical projects, and self-directed creations and expressions of self are critical, standardized crafts are, well, not.

It is up to you to decide into which category high school chemistry falls.


  1. Your last line is devastating!

    I was always so upset in my high school science classes when my teacher would demonstrate the whole experiment before we started, or give us a worksheet detailing what was supposed to happen.

    If you already know what is supposed to happen, the rest is just busywork.

  2. Thanks. Or sorry! Yours is a great, terrible example!

  3. I remember being penalized because I couldn't make the compounds react like they were supposed to in order to demonstrate the concept. ("Just copy from the notes".)

    It's not that "nothing" is learned. It's that what is learned is not positive -
    follow instructions blindly, rely on other people for validation, textbooks/teacher as omnipotent, science is confusing, art is pointless, I'm not creative, keep or at least look busy.

    I wrote something about this issue in the past:

  4. Got you beat. The local school dist. in our town had the 6th graders color a worksheet of Garfield in a Sombrero when learning about Cinco Da Mayo.
    So sad.