November 16th, 2011
Critical Annotated Webliography
Research Questions: What kinds of school reform strategies have been suggested historically?
Source Information: Goodman, Paul. Compulsory Miseducation. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971.
Paul Goodman suggests that in order to counter the strict, lockstep tendencies of American educational institutions, that universities as well as secondary schools devise strategies to encourage greater flexibility, creativity and independence for the student, without which full, adult learning cannot take place. Specifically, Goodman proposes that prestigious liberal arts universities institute a new requirement: students shall engage in a “maturing” activity for two years before matriculating. Examples of “maturing” activities are “working for a living [...]; community service, [...], volunteer service in hospital or settlement house, domestic Peace Corps; the army” (Goodman). This proposal would push up the average age of the entering student and make him or her more ready for academic work, such as anthropology or the physical sciences, which are better understood with “experience and judgement” (Goodman).
Goodman’s other proposal is that the elite universities should “abolish grading, and use testing only and entirely for pedagogic purposes as teachers see fit” (Goodman). He finds that grades are more of a status measure than a real reflection of understanding, and recognizes that the main objectors will be students and parents, both of whom see grades as a way to combat laziness. However, the proposal will bring greater purity and maturity to university schooling.
“It is really necessary to remind our academics of the ancient history of Examination. In the medieval university, the whole point of the grueling trial of the candidate was whether or not to accept him as a peer. His disputation and lecture for the Master's was just that, a master-piece to enter the guild. It was not to make comparative evaluations. It was not to weed out and select for an extra-mural licensor or employer. It was certainly not to pit one young fellow against another in an ugly competition. My philosophic impression is that the medievals thought they knew what a good job of work was and that we are competitive because we do not know. But the more status is achieved by largely irrelevant competitive evaluation, the less will we ever know.”
Critical commentary on Passage #1:
In this passage Goodman cites a historical fact in order to remind universities about the origins of examinations and grading. Goodman has a bias: he wants to get rid of grading. The facts cited are that exams among medieval guildsmen (universities originated in medieval Germany) were basically pass or fail, and the guild merely wanted to see if the person taking the exam could do the work. Exams were not always so cutthroat, even though people are fond of thinking that in the past exams were harder.
“Most important of all, it is often obvious that balking in doing the work, especially among bright young people who get to great universities, means exactly what it says: The work does not suit me, not this subject, or not at this time, or not in this school, or not in school altogether. The student might not be bookish; he might be school-tired; perhaps his development ought now to take another direction. Yet unfortunately, if such a student is intelligent and is not sure of himself, he can be bullied into passing, and this obscures everything. My hunch is that I am describing a common situation. What a grim waste of young life and teacherly effort! Such a student will retain nothing of what he has "passed" in. Sometimes he must get mononucleosis to tell his story and be believed.”
Critical commentary on Passage #2:
Here, Goodman writes that grading inhibits character examination. If a student doesn’t...