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Education Matters: A new kind of survey course

January 28, 2011

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

This week I offer a very unscientific, non-data-driven "attitude survey" that my students have taken over the years. I gave it to every class at the beginning of the year, and it's interesting to look back and see how some things have changed in the way kids view school and how others are essentially the same.

Here are some of the statements that were rated on a 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) scale.

"For the most part, school has been a pleasant experience." The number of 5s has diminished in direct proportion to the 1s here. The majority fall in the middle, which might be expressed in the usual teenage eloquence, "It's (school) OK I guess." The number of kids who absolutely hate school has grown over the years, which is unfortunately reflected in school dropout rates.

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"My teachers seem to care about me as a person." It's hard to generalize on this one because it varies from teacher to teacher. The kids are keenly aware which teachers make the effort to know them as individuals. They're the ones they'll try harder to please. They're the ones that they'll listen to because someone listened to them. Good teachers know this instinctively.

"I do only enough work in school to get by." That always gets a "strongly agree," figuring that most students see high school as a means to an end. There is, however, that bottom group to consider, among which is a (once again) growing number of students who flat out refuse to do any work.

While I don't consider these kids lost causes — no child is — I do think that they belong in a different setting where they might be made to see the error of their ways more clearly. It should be a place where they cannot interfere with the education of the students who are trying. One or two of these miscreants can wreak havoc in any classroom. Large numbers of them can drag a whole school down.

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