Why Johnny Can't Teach

by Earl Foust itinerant_academic@yahoo.com.ph

     What does it really mean to be a teacher? Our modern school systems all seem to adhere to this following system (or a close variation of it, of course there are radical exceptions):

(Quiz scores + Test scores + Homework assignments) / 70 = A (Final score) / 30 = B

A + B = Final course grade

(Of course, the actually weight of the tests and assignments varies from teacher but normally the formula is usually the same with the Final being the singularly most powerful item but itís less than 50%)

     With that equation a student can do well on all the tests but still pass with a mediocre score on the final. Somethingís wrong with that calculation. The final should be the most important test, make or break.

     Itís all wrong. The entire course grade should be determined by the Final score. Sounds a bit harsh? Well if you compare with how teaching is done today then yes, it is. However, the modern teaching standards should be readjusted also.

     What is the purpose of being a teacher? Quite simply, to teach. Now many readers might say ďWell duh! Itís called Ďteacherí after all.Ē It seems though, that many teachers nowadays donít teach. They lecture, sure, but isnít there more to being a teacher than just lectures? It never seemed a good program to treat classes as seminars. Where one person lectures, everyone takes notes and itís generally just a one-sided conversation.

     Currently, almost all classes you can pass with simple memorization. Students practice the ďspongeĒ method where they memorize the terms but then their mind drains out the terms once the class is over. That is NOT learning! That is not exclusively the studentsí fault however, if all students adopted my way of thinking of how things should be we would all fail. The change needs to start with the professors.

     Are classes supposed to be that way? Students are supposed to be trying to learn a subject, letís face it. If youíre not in school to learn get the hell out of school and let us true academics learn as much as we can.

     A small digression but this point needs to be made also. Classes operate on the lowest common denominator. If youíre lazy and not thinking enough about the concepts the teacher is going to have to try to reiterate it for you and that forces the intelligent, hard working, knowledge hungry students down to your level. Now, back to the main point.

     What is the point of a class? It is to learn a subject; a certain set of important and key concepts that will help us in our next course, presumably. That is the fundamental reason why the main calculation of professors is flawed. If I pass the final with flying colors, doesnít that indicate that I know the concepts (Note, this is also why Iím against multiple choice tests and enumeration, seriously they should all be essays and research papers in order to accurately reflect the use of knowledge learned)?

     This should be taken as advocating that all quizzes, tests and assignments be removed in favor of an ďall or nothingĒ final exam, but I donít think that those lesser methods of measurement should count toward the final computation. A teacher is supposed to teach, those professors that get a sarcastic glee out of failing a student are sickening (with the exception of students who fail because of their own incompetence, they should be failed). If you enjoy failing students why in the world are you a professor? Youíre supposed to be teaching, to be preparing the next generation for the world and whatever subject it is that youíre proselytizing.

     Tests and other assignments should be used as measurement for the studentís performance over the term. The professor has an obligation to try and pass as many students as s/he can. This is not to say make their course easier, but seriously try to help the student grasp these sometimes difficult concepts. The current system is seriously flawed.

     However, thereís a problem. Itís sadly true that if a professor tells his/her students that ďAll of the tests are just for my records only the final countsĒ they will not take you seriously! They will think youíre a bad joke and take advantage of you. The whole system is corrupt.

     Professors not properly teaching and students not properly learning. What to do about it? Things would be so much better if only students took learning more seriously and professors tried to recognize their obligation to teach. Despite what many students seem to be going to college for, some of us are not just there to attain a degree.


Bio: Earl Foust III is an American undergraduate Economics student at De La Salle University-Manila Philippines.