Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Riding Those Ponies

In this day of quick and easy answers from the internet, it is too easy for our students to give in to the expedient and avoid the honorable. I have seen students take a question and make a bee-line for Wikipedia and not really read the article but scan it and hit the print button. They will read the copy later. On top of that, they also make multiple copies and distribute them to their classmates. They too will read the copies later. I have seen Latin students (gasp!) Google a poem of Catullus, make copies, and pass them around. No problem, though, their homework is done and they can move on to more important things.

O tempora! O mores! What would Cato say? What would Cicero think? What would Quintilian do?

The answer lies in what we expect from our students. They have ready access to all the answers and this resource is not going away. We as teachers need to refocus our efforts and teach our charges how to handle and understand all these answers. What is a good answer and what is bad? Why? How can one tell the difference?

Unfortunately the machines are now the vessels of knowledge. The belief among the students are that there is no longer a need to learn and memorize, regardless of the need to spout forth these seemingly random facts on the so-called high stakes test du jour.

I tell my students that they need to learn how to think, how to analyze, and how to understand what is being said by the author we are reading. If they take the easy path and print out someone else's translation, they are, in fact, defeating the purpose for being in the class. Anyone can read off from someone else's efforts and feel satisfied... but to what end?

More thoughts later -- I think I'm just rambling here.


Antoninus Pius said...

Hey, Mark.
You could show them some demonstrably wrong information from the internet -- just to make them think.
There's surely some bowdlerised Catullus or Martial that would fit the bill.
At least it would send the message that they ought to check the accuracy of their source ... particularly when it's an anonymous internet source.
(Of course, grumpy old emperors are always trustworthy.)

Ginny Lindzey said...

This is when I try to read and reread and reread in class in the Latin, focusing on the Latin, until they see it in the Latin. But I haven't gotten my advanced classes up that far yet. I'm about to do a little Vergil with my Latin 3s, which should be good prep for my future AP classes. I know I ramble on like I know something sometimes, but I don't have the experience that the rest of you do. But, yes, ponies in any form will always be a problem, esp if we are always focusing on the English meaning and not the Latin....always a lot to think about.--ginnyL

Anonymous said...

Maybe they cheat because they hate the subject. maybe they cheated because they don't learn anything because the teacher isn't very good at teaching.

Maybe they have other things on their mind than a stupid dead language.

Mark A. Keith said...

"maybe they cheat because they hate the subject"

Maybe. There is a lot to be said for having the ability to rise above "loves" and "hates" and do the right thing. Not everything in life is going to be fun or interesting to everybody.

"maybe they cheated because they don't learn anything because the teacher isn't very good at teaching"

Perhaps. The role of the teacher is to guide and inspire. If the teacher has to pull the student forward like a mule refusing to budge, whom do you fault?

"maybe they have other things on their mind than a stupid dead language"

Probably. 90 minutes of the student's time every other day plus a reasonable amount of homework shouldn't be taxing to anyone.

It is easier to make comments such as these as an anonymous poster, isn't it?