Ignoring what we don’t understand–and teaching our kids to do it, too

I recently judged at Maryland History Day competition held on The Community College’s Baltimore County campus (Essex).  The theme was “Diplomacy and Debate: Successes and Failures”, which was a challenging theme for many students.  In fact, we were warned in our judges’ orientation that the subject seemed to be particularly difficult this year.  This warning came down from the National History Day offices.  Of course, this means that there were reports and discussions between either teachers and the History Day officials or parents and students with officials.  The big problem appeared to be the word “diplomacy”, a word with which students struggled.

At the end of judging and asking groups repeatedly what their project had to do with the theme, I have come to one conclusion: none of the groups asked what it meant or looked the word up.  They did not understand that part, so they ignored it.  And, in ignoring the word they didn’t understand, these kids perpetuated their ignorance.

This is my second year judging and I gather that teacher involvement varies widely.  Still, if I were teaching a junior high class and wanted to get my students involved, the whole class would have the assignment of explaining the theme and links would be made to the material we had already covered or current events.  All the students would have to do that regardless of whether or not they chose to enter a project.

We model this irresponsible behavior for our students and our kids all the time.  Something does not make sense so we just ignore it.  Something does not make sense to our students or our kids and we do not insist on their participation in the process of learning and discovery–we let them be lazy.  Even when we are responsible on this level, we do not necessarily share it with our students or kids to show them why being thorough matters.

Obviously, I am painting with a broad brush–and, no that is not fair–but, I don’t think I am out of line by identifying this as symptomatic of our society at large.  Even students with projects that fell squarely within the prescribed theme failed to recognize just how relevant their project was!  It is lazy.  And, it is sad.



Filed under Experiencing History - Project Based Learning, Historian's Journal

2 responses to “Ignoring what we don’t understand–and teaching our kids to do it, too

  1. Adam

    If we just let kids stay home and watch TV and replaced students with robots, laziness wouldn’t be an issue. Robots won’t know how to be lazy at least until we activate SkyNet. Just staying.

  2. Libbie

    Diplomacy and Debate are lost arts it seems. Unfortunately, not teaching our children how to understand or develop these skills will only hurt them in the future. How can we expect a new generation of leaders to be effective and forward-thinking when the words “diplomacy” and “debate” are being replaced with “thoughtlessness” and “argument”? Change and growth will never come about if the parents and teachers involved in student’s lives don’t take a more active approach to their education and demand they do the same. Students will do what is expected of them, so why should we (as a society) continue to expect less and less? Even at a young age we should be challenging students. We should not be taking the just get it done attitude. In the end, the learning process and results have become substandard and fleeting. Our children deserves a strong foundation rather than the proverbial house of cards!

    “How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never’.” ~Martin Luther

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