Thomas Hardy (was: Re: survey results, part 1)

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Fri Jan 7 13:05:48 EST 2000

On Fri, 7 Jan 2000 12:09:21 -0500 , McMullin, Elise wrote:

>	Melissa:
>	"Let's see.  I've read _Pride and Prejudice_ about, um, well at
>least fifteen
>> times in the last ten years, and I can't remember that distance.  My reply
>> is:  if you're reading just for nitpicky facts, you probably didn't read
>> the
>> book at all."
>	Just one more thing on this - the star student of our class cribbed
>everything from Cliff Notes and bragged to the rest of us that she never
>read any of the books.  She also said she quoted passages from the Notes
>verbatim in her papers - and was never caught.  For other classes she used
>her older brother's notes and old tests (our teachers recycled tests from
>year to year) - this worked out well because he was the best in his class.

But do you notice how your teacher's attitude about stupid details breeds
this kind of behavior?  Not to mention that if Grades Are Everything...well,
every so often some news magazine program will do a report on cheating in
school and how common it is because kids feel they need to get good grades
above all.  Stupid and short-sighted--if they're looking for high marks so
they can get into a good university, how on earth do they think they're
going to survive there?  Get someone to write their papers for them?  Steal
their professor's answer guide?  And otherwise--if they don't care about
college, why bother?  But if this is what teachers look for--simple
parroting of their opinions--then they're not going to notice cheating like
that.  (It also suggests that at least some of that teacher's opinions were
drawn from Cliffs Notes as well.  And you said she got teaching awards?
There's no justice.)

I had a history teacher who was hyper-organized--had transparencies for each
lesson that he used year after year, recycled his tests, etc.  It was a
breeze to ace his exams if you were able to memorize well because the test
questions were drawn directly from those note sheets; copy them verbatim and
it was a perfect study guide.  You still had to write good essays to get a
good grade, but in retrospect I can see that it would have been very easy to
cheat in his class.  And I can even see why someone would--it looked like a
daunting pile of facts to learn.  But the guy was a magnificent storyteller.
His pertinent facts were all on transparencies, but the real learning was in
listening to what he said about them.  It was another great class.  (It was
also the last year before I had a computer--an old Apple IIc--and I remember
*distinctly* hand-writing my papers for his class, recopying them,
forgetting not to use an erasable ink pen and smudging the paper...isn't it
strange that carpal tunnel syndrome really only became common after
computers came into widespread use?  I'm sure my hands hurt a lot more after
hand-writing a ten-page paper on the Trojan War than typing said paper.)

I wonder if it was really less work to cheat by working the system than it
would have been to honorably study.  Almost certainly not.

>I can't express how cynical I felt about school because of this sort of
>thing.  We had to listen to teachers praising that girl constantly - but the
>code of silence was a lot stronger than the code of honor.  Probably they
>wouldn't have believed a whistle blower anyway.  Yuk.

Probably not.  My own cynicism says that they like to see students doing
well because it reflects well on them.  (A former-teacher friend of mine
gripes about this: they were judged on the success or failure of their
students, without regard to the kids' individual ability, home life, or
anything else.  She said it was most frustrating when she would teach a
lesson and feel that the kids had learned the material, and then some of
them would simply flunk the test--like, had she failed?  Or was it them?
And could she have done anything different?)
>	On the upside, I appreciated college about a million times more.  I
>used to have nightmares that people from high school would capture me and
>drag me back.

Isn't college blissful!

>	I saw this woman again at my reunion and felt that, in the end, it
>did her no good to have pursued working the system. I gathered she didn't
>seem to feel she had abilities that could stand on their own merit.  She
>hadn't seemed to have ever proven herself to herself.

EXCELLENT sentiment.  Too bad more people don't realize this.

>	"Do you even have the remotest question about why I'm homeschooling
>> children?"
>	Good call, I say!  Definitely smaller classrooms and more teacher
>attention  ;)

Well, most days anyway.  You know the thing I was most scared about?
Teaching them to read.  We just started on Monday (new year, no more morning
sickness, etc.) and I can't believe how easy it is if you've laid the right
foundation!  (It helps to have smart kids too. :)

(That reminds me of a quote from _Gaudy Night_ that I marked because it was
so apt: "It would have been such a bore to be the mother of morons, and it's
an absolute toss-up, isn't it?  If one could only invent them, like
characters in books, it would be much more satisfactory to a well-regulated

And the reason I'm posting so much is that it's a darn sight better than
whatever cleaning task awaits me upstairs.  And there's a dead tree in my
living room shedding needles everywhere, but there's really no point in
vacuuming till it's gone, neh?

Melissa Proffitt
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