Thursday, January 23, 2014

Our Copy and Paste Educational System

The other day, as I was grading final papers for one of my US history classes, I came across one of the all-too-frequent essays mostly copied from sources on the internet. My class policy (mentioned in explicit detail in my syllabus) states that I give no credit for copied work, with or without quotes, with our without citations. The idea, of course, is to make my students have to process through their brains, the information they've read. I figure if they can explain what they've read, in their own words, then they'll at least have had some history stick inside of their heads.

What made the particular essay different, however, was the response I received from the student who wrote it. The student basically could not understand why she'd gotten a zero on her essay. Of course, I restated the policy in my syllabus.

Here's the scary part. The student kept up a running argument with me, trying to explain that "history was history" and that the facts don't change, so why couldn't she just use the "facts" as they were written? I explained again my plagiarism policy, but quite frankly, the student simply could not grasp the concept of writing an essay in her own words. The mentality of the copy and paste generation has finally succeeded in a devolution of student minds.

Which brings me to my point: Our K-12 educational system is failing. (Well, our universities are failing as well, but that's a different story.) When a young college student can't tell the difference, nor the importance, of using her own words in writing an essay, versus copying from the internet, we have dropped below the absurdity level.

We're spending more than ever on our schools in the US, while copy and paste students fall further behind in test scores and, more importantly, in their ability to think and to reason. Bill Gates noticed the problem in his OpEd piece in the Huffington Post:

The red line shows the increasing per pupil expenditure. The other two lines show test scores in mathematics and reading. Notice the complete lack of correlation.

We can do one of two things. We can all convert to the gospel of liberalism and delude ourselves into thinking that even more money and more government control will fix things. Or we can look at the schools as they really are, vast wastelands of ill conceived teaching methods that have failed us, our children, and the schools they purportedly are trying to improve.

It's time to let go of bankrupt liberal dogma in our educational system and to return control of the schools back to the local level. The only thing we're currently teaching students is how to regurgitate the failed doctrines of liberalism, which may be the final design of liberalized education. The rest of what students learn is only to copy and paste.