Friday, 13 May 2011

The greatest gift an education can provide is an enduring desire to learn

What would it be like if, instead of evaluating achievement at art schools, we decided to assess fulfilment? It’d be absurd of course - fulfilment is a perception of an internal condition and, as such, it can only be evaluated internally. But the question seems to point to the heart of the problem with grading (in art schools at least) since it exposes exactly the mismatch between two conceptions of the role that art plays: one of which is predicated upon notions of performance (or rather performativity) and the other upon ‘being’.

Just imagine though, if it were possible to gather a clear picture of how fulfilled students were with their studies on completing their education, what enormously valuable data that would be. And if it turns out that students have less interest in their chosen field than when they started, perhaps we should ask ourselves if we’ve failed to do what education should strive to do above all else: to foster their desire to go on learning.



Unknown Inc. said...

This might be a slightly different perspective on the situation you delineate. I was a non-traditional student when I pursued my art degree; also I am here in the states. I received very little "mollycoddling" but I did get valuable feed back when I was on a right course, whether it was in a philosophy class or the studio. I felt I had the advantage over "traditional" students in that I was ready to be challenged and wanted to learn. I acquired habits that have stayed with me i.e. always wanting to learn - I would say I was fulfilled.
The point I am getting at is that I wonder if students are really up to the challenge of secondary education at the traditional age that is taken as the norm. Are they really ready emotionally to be challenged on that level. I think some responsibility lies at the feet of the students and perhaps the expectations of society and not necessarily upon the shoulders of teachers. I know I got more out of art school being older than I would have had I pursued it when I was younger. I will add somewhat hesitantly that at that time in my life I was battling manic-depression and attention deficit disorder without treatment. I received no special cosseting from my instructors.
I feel your question is a good one and I think there is no blanket approach - some students are ready and some are not so up to the task.
Thanks for getting me thinking today.

J. Hamlyn said...

That’s a damn good question Dale. I definitely don’t think we should mollycoddle students either but equally I think it makes little sense to crush their enthusiasm for their studies and thereby presumably any desire they might have to pursue their passion once they graduate. The question then becomes how do we challenge students to engage at an appropriate level without either overburdening or patronising them? The trick, I guess, is to keep students in that productive and stimulating zone between anxiety and boredom that Csíkszentmihályi has termed ‘Flow’. Easier said than done though of course because, as your comments suggest, this needs to be done on an individual basis with each student based upon their capabilities and experience.

Anonymous said...

I dunno Jim, I'm quite liking the comfortable living my education provides me with.

Of course for people who started out with that, more luxurious considerations may apply...

J. Hamlyn said...

You strike me as someone who isn’t averse to a bit of learning Sean (far from it) even if you do have a pathological distrust of teachers, pedants and pedagogues. If your own education hasn’t dulled your appetite for self improvement then I’d say that’s a good thing. Mind you, if an education demonstrates the groundlessness of its own faulty premises and leaves one better able to pursue more productive and fulfilling occupations then I guess that’s to be counted as a positive outcome… as you seem to have discovered about Teaching and Learning in HE.

Anonymous said...

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” -Einstein

J. Hamlyn said...

"One had to cram all this stuff into one's mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year." -ditto

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