Why OxBridge is a great school model

Let’s face it: the American school system needs to take a page out of the British school system. Here lies the greatest problem: American schools (I can’t speak for Ivy League, who are probably more designed like Cambridge or Oxford) are so focused on assignments, quizzes, and midterms that there is no room for learning. I mean real learning, and what I define that as actual thinking and problem solving. Anyone can memorize facts and regurgitate facts, but real knowledge comes from the ability to synthesize bodies of information and problem solve. Albert Einstein said that, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” He also said, “The accumulation of knowledge should not stifle the student’s independence.” Einstein never did well in school, because that is the way most school systems besides the British system run (in Einstein’s case, he was in Germany, so again I can’t speak for how their system was. But he did stay in America and I imagine he saw our education style downfalls).
See, with three classes I have this semester, Physics, Ochem, and Molecular Biology, all three professors think it necessary (and probably their departments) to incessantly quiz the student body to the brink of insanity. Every week, I have a total of: 6 quizzes. I am so fetching busy trying to read and prepare for quizzes I don’t have any time to think about the material. Granted, I haven’t been the studious of pupils this semester, which I am in the process of changing, but part of the problem is when all I have to look forward to are quizzes and assignments, how can I be excited about the material? Let me illustrate this. In Physics, we were one week to read the chapter on Relativity and Time and Space. I was not excited about the quiz or homework at all. But after I finished both (luckily quite well for once) I actually started to think about the information and found myself quite interested in Einstein and his theories (you may quite rightly conclude this was the reason I now am reading a biography on Albert Einstein). I really want to learn about this stuff and think about it. But I only came to that conclusion after I got past the barriers of quizzes and homework.
Let me make another illustration. Education at BYU is much like automated cow milking. We, the student body, are prodded into the different majors and tracks that are available at the quickest pace possible. We don’t have time to stop and eat the grass or chew our cud, thus allowing the milk developing inside us to be saturated with nourishment and goodness; instead we are forced into the milking parlour where godless machines are attached to our teats and we are sucked dry of our lower quality milk. Ironically, this system of milking is obviously a great way for producing a lot of milk, but the quality has been scientifically shown to be less than par. My point is what student really thinks about the material he or she is learning after the test has passed? If the point of learning is just to take a test, that will be the point of learning. It shouldn’t be, but it is made to be. Contrast this with the way the British system of education works. There are no midterms or quizzes, only a final at the end of the semester with one or two papers. The final is usually essay. One of my Cambridge professors said, “we don’t want to find out what you don’t know. We want to find out what you do know.” Sexpanther brought up a good point one time by reminding me that in one of our classes we were given a list of fifty of the major books in the field of study, and told to read what we were interested in. Don’t try to read all of them they said, just the ones you are interested in. I remember more from my Cambridge classes then I ever will from any of my BYU classes. It is true the British system may be stressful at the end of the semester, but I can’t see it being any more stressful than what it is now. And we definitely would learn more, but more importantly be able to think more.
In conclusion, I say do away with all quizzes and midterms. They are useless measurements for a failing system. Quit focusing on quantity BYU! Teach your students to think! Then maybe we will, as a Mormon society, produce more Einsteins, Freuds, Kants, Wordsworths, and Coleridges!

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One thought on “Why OxBridge is a great school model

  1. J.B. says:

    You are right. There is no time to use your creativity nor your imagination in school. The schools are trying only to prepare you for the monotony of life. Doing has taken over “real thinking”. But there are others out there that can help you succeed; they look at what you can do and only observe assignments as feedback. You have shown everyone your inelligence and insight with what you have written. Do not feel you have to continuously prove yourself, it just wastes time. There is an M.D. who is smart in teching kids who have disabilities. His name is Dr. Edward Hallowell. He writes like you and says what he believes. Both of you seem to have good insights on life. I believe you need to use your talent wisely, don’t let others control your path. Do some more thinking and seek out Dr. Hallowell.

    A friend who’s been there and is still seeking truth and happiness.


    John Bennett

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