Monday, 8 March 2010

star-crossed student

Can you be proud and ticked off at the same time? About the same person? One of Ed's courses this semester is some kind of human history or sociology. (In my day we would have called it Man In Society. Ah, the 1970s.) As Ed tells it, the course so far entails watching Schindler's List and The Miracle of Life, and then writing an essay based on racist/sexist/age-ist slogans which the students have drawn from a hat. (Ah, the 2010s)
Anyway, the point is that Ed's teacher is insisting that the essays have bibilographies written in formal style. You know the one -- Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. London: WeirdManga Press, 1595 or whatever. (It's been a while since I have written a formal essay. Or paid attention to a bibliography, come to think of it.) And Ed can't understand why.
It's driving me crazy! he told me yesterday, marching up and down my bedroom, gesticulating wildly. Why can't we just say the title and the author? Why do we have to memorise some stupid style? Backwards, comma, colon, brackets! It's stupid.
I smiled. Yes, it is.
I asked the teacher why we had to do it that way, and she said because everyone does it that way. I hate that kind of reasoning.
Good for you, I said.
I'm not going to do it, he said. The teacher told us that if we didn't put the bibliography the right way she'd dock us five marks, but I am not going to do it.
Um, I said.
What does it matter, so long as you can read it? Rules are stupid.
Stopping at a red light is a rule, I said. And it's not stupid.
Sure, he said. Traffic rules make sense. But bibliography rules don't. Rules that are there only because we have always done it that way -- that's dumb.
I told him that I understood and agreed. But you have to pick your battles, I said. Is this the one you want to go to the mat on? Bibliography rules? Sometimes it's easier to suck it up and go along. Write the bibliography the right way, and save five marks.
He folded his arms. Never!

So Ed is going to stick to his principles, and get a lower mark on his essay, and I am going to feel proud of him -- but that's not all I'll feel.


Marilyn said...

I hated doing that stuff too. I remember being so bored by it. But I didn't consider not doing it. Kids are tough these days, but the teacher still has control with the five marks.

Richard Scrimger said...

The teacher has control only as long as the kid cares about marks ...

Mary Keenan said...

The interesting question to me is why does the rule exist? It doesn't make sense unless you have to read through a lot of bibliographies, probably, but as you get to university, or even as you're reading through bibliographies on your own to find source documents for stuff that interests you (this is me, now), you might find you're working with them a lot. And my guess is that having a standard format for them, much like having standard meanings for words, makes communication easier - which makes it worth learning how to do.

A guy like Ed needs to be given the reason, though, because he's smart and that's how his mind works... shame when a teacher misses an opportunity to convey something a student can apply to other aspects of life, to focus on the five marks.

Richard Scrimger said...

Wow. The scary thing about your comment, Mary, is that it makes a kind of sense. Personally, I would have gone along with the teacher because it was easier. At some point Ed will learn that lots of rules exist for no good reason, and it's tough and time consuming to fight each and every one of them. But I guess that's a middle-aged life lesson.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't sound like anyone is being clear. Isn't it a bit late in the school year to give guidelines for bibliography? Unless the course ends in September. If so, I'm not surprised Ed is demotivated.


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