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Working: Alternative School Teacher

Studs Terkel's Working presents these interesting thoughts on competition in the classroom, from Pat Zimmerman, who ran an alternative school in Chicago's working-class Uptown neighborhood.

I discourage competition in the classroom. The only one I accept is the student's competition with himself. He has to compete against where he is, against where he wants to be, and against where he has been. I think every kid understands that. They don't have to prove anything to me. Each kid has to prove to himself that he's worthwhile. There's no cheating here. There's no reason for it.

...Grades? I keep grades, but they aren't entered on anything. I simply keep them in mind as a trend...Kids like grades, 'cause they like to know where they are right now. Records? No. They have enough records. They have police records, social history records, welfare records. (Laughs.) I should have to keep records?

In every classroom, there should indeed be no reason for cheating. If you cheat, you're only doing so to create the appearance that you've learned something when you've actually learned nothing - cheating only gets you the credit for achievement, without achieving anything. Without gaining knowledge. If cheating is pervasive, the teacher isn't doing his job.

September 30, 2010 in Books, Studs Terkel: Working | Permalink