“Where there’s a will there’s a won’t.” — Ambrose Bierce

November 19, 2009

I came across this quote and felt that it accurately depicts a great many of my students right now.  It’s sad.  I don’t want my students to be demotivated.  Teachers have told me my teaching hasn’t changed much since the first few weeks and say I continue to do a great job, so I’m left a little puzzled as to why my students are becoming less and less willing to answer questions during discussion.

I come back to the idea that maybe it’s not all me.  If you take any group of students there will be a few that refuse to do anything.  They simply won’t.  You can give students seven or eight different interventions.  You can force them to have pencil in hand.  You can modify their standards so they need to achieve ludicrously little.  Some will still not budge.

I can be stoned in academic and educational/political circles for saying this.  Many chant “all students can learn” and act as if saying the words will bleach away the dirty stains of student apathy.  All students can learn.  It does not mean all will attempt to.  I think the government is starting to understand this and education will be changing soon.

A solution I’ve been thinking about is to let high school be an option.  Why not offer technical schools or vocational training starting right after middle school?  I haven’t thought through all the repercussions, but this is what many European schools and Asian schools do.

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3 Responses to ““Where there’s a will there’s a won’t.” — Ambrose Bierce”

  1. Jenny Tokheim Says:

    Jim,

    Really interesting thoughts. I’m taking my first Curriculum and Instruction course this semester, and “All students can learn,” is definitely a popular theme. I think a large portion of it is up to them though. Glad somebody else agrees!

  2. YO BRO! (Luke) Says:

    German schools are split exactly as you say but with a middle between high and technical, and quite honestly, the people I know who are going to college at DCTC and other technical colleges are doing just that – going into technical careers. They didn’t need high school in the first place.

    High school really should be an option, but one of two (vocational school / high school) with a mandatory choice.

    My two cents.

  3. Sue G Says:

    On 1959 in Marietta, Ga. you entered 8th grade and took either Classical, Scientific or Business. Business included trades. In 1967 in Mpls., the one high school that had to limit enrollment was Vocational High in downtown near current convention Hall. Students fought to get in. In late 70’s they closed it and declared Algebra for everyone. Also dropped general math and declared that everyone in 9th grade needed to take Algebra. I bet a few unemployed people wish they had a trade right now. We should let anyone above 8th grade drop out and let anyone return to high school at any age. Then you could teach children who want to be there and understand why. Colleges would not need to teach remedial courses. Just send them back to high school to do over.


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