Sunday, June 28, 2009

But Who Is This 'Hitler' Guy Anyway?

It burns me to have to miss a good pile on, but I've got a lot of sympathy with da kidz here - and not only because I still can't decide if 'despotic tyranny' is a redundancy or if 'non-despotic tyranny' is the perfect description for modern liberalism.

Personally, I've always believed that if only Hitler had been involved in the transatlantic slave trade, schools would never need to teach anything else. Then again, it's no wonder the yoof are confused about Hitlerism. After all, they've spent their entire education listening to various NUT-ters describe everyone right of Stalin as being 'just like Hitler'. Advocates of Christianity, free trade, school vouchers... crypto-Nazis the lot of them (especially the school vouchers crowd).

More seriously, I don't necessarily buy the idea that the yoof should be expected to know stuff from outside the curriculum. Of course, it's great when they do, but there will always be a significant demographic out there whose sole intellectual input is from the school. These aren't kids from households where they discuss the nature of government over dinner. Ditto, the idea of reading around the subject doesn't necessarily come naturally to them. I was one of those kids - the idea of checking a few scholary texts out of the library would have seemed as wacky and pretentious as turning up at school with an ivory-handled cane and a top hat.

Of course, if the schools were telling the yoof they had to read around the subject, and training them how to do that, then that might be different, but that brings us to the real issue. Not only do schools not encourage reading around, it can actually do more harm than good. For at least twenty years exams haven't been about knowing the key facts about a subject, they've been about guessing what particular facts the examiners think are key enough to include on the mark scheme.

If there's something sad about the kids desire to slavishly learn what's on the syllabus then belch it out on the paper, then it mainly arises because they know from experience that modern examiners are just like nightclub bouncers, blindly following the rule that if your points not on the mark scheme, it's not coming in. You might think that Germany was only able to prolong the war until 1945 precisely becuase Albert Speer allowed the armaments industry a genuine degree of freedom, but if the examiners didn't think of that, it don't count. Faced with that, who wouldn't program themselves to learn the talking points and practice hammering them back at the examiners?

No comments: