We can look this another way, however. Who would be mean to children with the logic that it is preparing them for people to be mean to them later? Actually, I hear whispers of this in some of the people who mock the "everyone gets a trophy" awards. "Suck it up kids, life sucks", seems to be the mindsets of some critics. By the way, I also argue against giving kids trophies, but for different reasons. Alfie Kohn has largely convinced me that rewards punish in the long run.
I digress. What I really want to write about is that sometimes we are misguided in the game of school. We think we are preparing students for what is coming next. But we aren't. The rules are changing; we don't realize it yet. Tests for recall once made sense in a world in which information wasn't ubiquitous. Way back in 1997, David Shenk wrote, "Information used to be as rare and precious as gold. (It is estimated that one weekday edition of today's New York Times contains more information than the average person in seventeenth-century England was likely to come across in an entire lifetime.)" Process this and now think of the revolution in information technology that has happened the past 19 years. We simply can't expect people to remember everything that they'll need to know in their profession.
I'm thinking of this because Friday night I was listening to a fascinating Fresh Air broadcast on NPR on the impulsive and addictive prone teenage brain. It's worth a listen and I include a link to the entire broadcast. During a fascinating segue midway through the broadcast, my ears prickled when the neuroscientist being interviewed said this:
So, why do Science AP exams still look the way they do? For that matter, why do all the AP exams look the way the do?
Look, I'm a constructivist. I believe our minds need some facts to build a scaffold. Schema theory tells us this. But next time you do something only because you think you are preparing students for things that are going to happen to them later in university, grad school and beyond, maybe you're wrong.