Saturday, August 21, 2010

Failure of Minimalism

We spend a lot of time worrying about the kids who we give an inch and they take a mile, but to be brutally honest, I am far less concerned with these students than I am with those who are given a mile and take an inch.

Too often school is about complying to someone else's demands, completing someone else's chores, completing the teacher's homework assignment, fulfilling the curriculum's goals, and on and on.

Very early on we learn that school is really about doing as little as possible.

The 'just get it done' mentality drives far too many students to just go through the motions. So what does the system do?

It blames the kids.

They're lazy.

Rewards and punishments embodied in things like grades creates an aversion to risk. All too often kids aren't lazy - they're being all too rational. They've learned to game the system in an even better way than the system has been gaming them.

In the end, we all suffer because too many kids grow up with the misguided impression that minimalism is as good at gaming real life as it was at gaming school.


  1. I agree that there is an 'aversion to risk' mentality in schools, even in university. I am in my final year and I am constantly shocked that with every assignment the prof. gives us the next 10-20 minutes of class time is spent asking: What is this worth, what is that worth, will I get marked on this, on that." It does not end there because the next class someone asks all the same questions again. We spend 5X more discussing the grading than the assignment; such a shame. And these are the people that are the next generation of teachers. I believe the cycle needs to be broken and people need to be rewarded for thinking, attempting, and risk taking.

  2. @Hannah, I know exactly what you speak of. It's very easy for school to be bastardized into this bean counter game - as if everything can be measured and the teacher just needs to have a grading scheme to manage it all.

    Why is it that the most common forms of school tend to be the most boring versions of learning?

  3. One of the best posts I've read all year! I'm finding that in my class, on a whole, I have students cruising through with a minimum of effort, whether they are really capable or not. They will often compare they're efforts with their peers but my challenge is to inspire and encourage them to go further than THEY have before.

    Wilson McCaskel has a great poster series and one reads, 'I don't come to school to be better than others but to better myself.' Great stuff!


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