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« Governance of an Economy | Main | The Systems Science Book is here! »

August 12, 2014


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Brian M

Really well put.

Also, another example of humans wanting to fix a problem resulting from human behavior without actually having to suffer any inconvenience or expense or to change any actual human behavior. The education system reflects human society, and, of course, human society will reflect the education system.


An excellent summary of the situation! A friend, who is a surgeon and director of studies in Medicine at Cambridge University, brought this very point up recently: students seem to want to be taught to the exam, and also seem quite happy merely to pass rather than excel.

He's perplexed by this as in our day anything less than a First was regarded as a disappointment and less than a high 2:1 as a disgrace.

When he reads them the riot act, they usually reply 'What's wrong? I passed!'

It's dispiriting, as obviously he gets to pick the cream of the applicants in the UK. They work, they are not idle, but something is lacking and their expectations are awry.

It's the schooling they've received, no doubt. Colleagues throughout the university are having the same trouble.

step back


Spot on article.

The human brain is divided into areas that do routine things (breathing, digestion, etc.) without deep thought and a rare few parts that can do introspective deep think (e.g. build complex internal models of the exterior universe).

It sounds like your complaining students want you to instruct only to the routine, just-pass-this-next-exam parts of their brains.

How sad. How true. Spot on.

Garry Speight

Our university examinations in the 1960's were generally of the "teach to the test" variety. Test papers from previous years were available for practice.
A new lecturer for the honours class in physical geography (geomorphology) shocked the examinees with the first question in the exam:
"Write a short essay (30 minutes) on one of the following topics:
1. The everlasting hills.
2. ..."
I believe that the lecturer was influenced by the British geographer R. J. Chorley, who wrote papers such as "Geomorphology and general systems theory"; US Geological Survey Professional Paper 500-B (1962)


I do think a significant number of students do not go to university with the prime intention of learning rather university is seen as a stepping stone for a well paid job. As a result these people are not so interested in learning the subject for its own sake (as you are) but are simply only keen on passing the exam. As such, you; the teacher, are a tool (the instructor) that tells them how to pass an exam which is their primary interest.

If people merely went to university for the sake of learning and not to get a better paid job then I feel a lot less people would take up university.

The other factor to consider is there are social pressures and expectations that children need to fulfil and quite often you can get students who are not so enthusiastic about learning but simply go to appease their parents or gain prestige social standing by holding a degree. The learning/personal development part is largely secondary in these cases.

Abena Grace

Is teaching the same as instruction

George Mobus


Teaching includes instruction.

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