Friday, May 20, 2016

I did not call my students stupid.

Yesterday my students took their (short) Post-Test for the year.  It included some questions dealing with the big concepts we've studied throughout the year, although they weren't "higher level thinking questions" themselves.  Mostly just vocabulary/ factual recall...

Most students scored 100%.

Then, we looked back through at some of the answers they gave at the beginning of the year.  At that point, students did NOT earn a 100%.  Most didn't even earn a 10%.  And their answers were often hilarious.  Students were calling North America China, labeling the Pacific Ocean as the Red Sea.  (I should add, that this was a continents and oceans test... not a nations and seas test...)

One gave the date Columbus discovered America as 1997.

One said that to increase human capital, we needed to get more people pregnant.

Along those lines, "the increasing growth and spread of cities all over the planet" is called, "birth" according to one student - instead of urbanization...

The number of people living in the world ranged from a couple hundred to several...  I'm not even sure, because the student just kept adding zeros.

I passed back the papers, and students saw how much they improved - which is always fun for everyone.  And there were many shouts of, "I was so STUPID back then!!!"

We all had a good laugh.

But then today, I thought I should probably correct them.  So I said, "A lot of you said you were so stupid at the beginning of the year."  *Students nod in agreement.*  "But I think the truth is, you are at approximately the same level of stupidity now as you were then."

This is the point where the students thought I was calling them stupid.  But I wasn't.

There's a difference between stupidity and ignorance.  Ignorance is when you don't know something because you haven't learned it yet.  Stupidity is not knowing something that you should know - and have been taught.

My students proved they weren't stupid by taking and acing those tests.

Sure, they were ignorant over those concepts at the beginning of the year.  But they learned them.  The scary thing is that there is so much that we are ignorant about.  So much.  All of us.  Me.  You.  All of us.  And it's important to try to overcome this ignorance with knowledge.

We listened to the second part of In Defense of Ignorance on This American Life, before we jumped into Promises.  (It's worth clicking on the link and listening to.)  I think, as we near the end of the year, it's probably a good thing to think about how far we've come - but also how far we have to go.

Students may earn extra credit in my class if they read and discuss the blog with an adult.  If they've done that, have them write down 3 things they've learned this year from a class other than social studies.

Have the adult sign the paper.

Put it in the extra credit tray on Monday.

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