Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A little plagiarism

Mark Steel has a great piece in today's Independent (sadly behind a paywall now) A little plagiarism never did a student any harm

"The mania surrounding exams isn't the fault of teachers or schools, but the result of modern beliefs about why we have education at all. Its purpose, we are led to believe, is to enable the student to get a job where they can earn more money. You need qualifications, so learn what to write in order to gain them, and it doesn't matter whether you never have the slightest interest in the subject afterwards or not."

So students are told to learn by rote and repeat what they've 'learned' in order to do well in exams. And then we complain about them copying stuff off the Net. All students handing in essays copied of the Net are doing is, as Steel says, taking "copying one step further by swiping stuff without reading it." It's a predictable emergent property of a complex system, the actors within which, in Nu Labour speak, are 'incentivised' to focus on simplistic and inappropriate targets.

My elder son is considered to be intellectually gifted and finds school stressful. When I explain to him that he has to demonstrate to the school that he can do the required work in the required way - 'tick the boxes' is the phrase I use most frequently - so that the school can tick the boxes for their bosses, he just says "That's completely pointless dad." Got it in one son.

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