We recently tackled a topic in my advanced TOEFL writing class that revealed the gap between US and Korean culture, vis-a-vis attitudes toward education and learning. The topic came from the book – I cannot take credit for introducing it, but it has induced me to a great deal of reflection.
The question in the book was phrased as followed: "It is more important for a teacher to help students gain self-confidence than to teach them specific knowledge."
The book required them to write in the CON position – i.e. they were required to disagree. I like this structure for writing exercises, as I find that it encourages clearer thinking when students are "forced" to take a position on a debate topic, rather than letting them choose.
Anyway, they all wrote very convincing arguments against the idea of it being important to have teachers teaching self-confidence. They all seemed to find this the naturally logical "order of things."
One student, Charles, I will quote at length (as always, this is pre-corrected, all errors retained verbatim):
First, teacher's rule is to give students specific knowledge and make their students clever and smart. Teacher's basic duty is to give students knowledge. Isn't it? If teachers don't think that it is not important to give them knowledge and giving them self-confidence is more important they should be fired. Teachers should try to make their students smart. Making students self-confidence doesn't make students smart, but giving knowledge to students does. Helping students gain self- confidence is a possible thing for parents to do. Techers don't have to focus on that. …
Second, when students get knowledge, they will gain self-confidence. Many students and even adults feel self-confidence when they know something. A lof of people think the same whqy too. The easiest way to make students confidence is to give them knowledge. When students know they are able to answer any quesitons about specific subject, they will feel confidence. To make them able to answer any questions, teachers need to give them specific knowledge. For instance, if a teacher asks a quesiton about math and if students answer it perfectly they will feel confidence.
Another student wrote:
First, study and self-confidence is distinct from each other. Volition and fervor on study is more important than self-confidence. It is no use to have self-confidence but, don't have violition and fervor even though I have a little bit of self-confidence. Also, teachers have to focus on giving knowledge to students. It's right released to their job: teacher.
Contrast that with (what I think is) the standard American view, which seems to be that teachers need to instill confidence before learning can take place. Given the differential in performance of American and Korean students in academics, I have begun to wonder if that's right.
Unrelatedly (maybe?), I ran across this quote.
"Always assume that there is one silent student in your class who is by far superior to you in head and in heart." – Leo Strauss
I like this advice. It is worth keeping in mind, definitely.
[daily log: walking, 5 km]