Cheating at Highly Competitive High Schools, Cont.

Following up on last week's conversation a recent Stuyvesant alum referred to this interesting editorial from the school's paper, in which the editors attempt to understand why cheating happens at the school:


Academic dishonesty stems from a profound lack of respect in our school community, as well as a sense of combative division between students and the faculty and administration. We are a school that puts far more emphasis on the quantitative value of numbers and statistics than on the importance of learning and knowledge. The work assigned in many classes reflects this approach to education. Busywork assignments asking students to perform onerous tasks, such as copying down physics problems verbatim from a Regents review book, send a clear message that deep, conceptual understanding of material is worthless when compared to high scores on a standardized test. 

This type of assignment completely disrespects the material being taught, and ultimately insults students' academic skills. The same can be said of pop-quizzes given in English classes--the administration of which shows that the teacher does not respect or trust his or her students. These quizzes encourage students to read books through alternate sources such as Spark Notes because of the implicit message sent by the quiz: it is more valuable to memorize facts about the book like the names of characters or important events than to actually read and form one's own interpretations of the text. 

Some teachers will even go so far to disrespect the subject they are teaching by reading their classes questions from the departmental finals in order to "prepare" their students. This devalues the material being taught in the course, and essentially an entire semester of study. We are some of the best and most capable students in New York City, and we deserve assignments that challenge us to think critically and analytically as opposed to ones that simply test our mental endurance and ability to regurgitate facts.

I bolded that point on busywork because I remember getting assignments like that in elementary school. If I had point to a single experience which told me school was not for me, it was the copying of text-books. It was just soul-draining.

At any rate, read the entire piece. It's interesting hearing about this from a student perspective. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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