The things you can do and learn online for General Paper (and Project Work).

Opinion article shared by Miss Cheryl Anne Lim

What’s the topic? 

  • The work ethic of students.

Who’s the writer?

  • an English teacher at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virgina, USA

What’s his purpose?

  • To offer as an explanation for his observation that ‘kids who had emigrated from foreign countries… often aced every test, while many of their U.S.-born classmates from upper-class homes with highly educated parents had a string of C’s and D’s’ the work ethic of U.S. students,

How does he support his case?

A study released in December by University of Pennsylvania researchers Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman suggests that the reason so many U.S. students are “falling short of their intellectual potential” is not “inadequate teachers, boring textbooks and large class sizes” and the rest of the usual litany cited by the so-called reformers – but “their failure to exercise self-discipline.”

When asked to identify the most important factors in their performance in math, the percentage of Japanese and Taiwanese students who answered “studying hard” was twice that of American students.

“Schools play into it,” says psychiatrist Lawrence Brain… “I’ve been amazed to see how easy it is for kids in public schools to manipulate guidance counselors to get them out of classes they don’t like. They have been sent a message that they don’t have to struggle to achieve if things are not perfect.”

Colleges keep complaining that students are coming to them unprepared. Instead of raising admissions standards, however, they keep accepting mediocre students lest cuts have to be made in faculty and administration.

But he doesn’t really blame the student (alone). Instead, he says

Teachers have no control over student motivation and ambition, which have to come from the home – and from within each student. Perhaps the best lesson I can pass along to my upper- and middle-class students is to merely point them in the direction of their foreign-born classmates, who can remind us all that education in America is still more a privilege than a right.

Is he fighting fair?

I thought about the issue of work ethic after reading just the title and abstract and sensed I would  have some objections. The writer is unfair in his choice of the word ‘control’. Teachers do not determine the moral makeup of their students, but they sure have a role to play in influencing them. Teachers of students from other cultures might have an easier time, but that doesn’t take the responsibility of educating the student morally out of the teacher’s hand. It is grounds, however, for some sympathy for teachers of students with a less supportive culture (or less supportive individual parents). I take issue, particularly with the misleading title. If it was ‘Blame the students as well’, it’d be fairer, but a lot less fun.

What do you think? 


Comments on: "For once, blame the student – USA Today" (1)

  1. I can agree with your points of view, yet I guess perhaps the perception of teachers over in the US is that “Its always my fault”.

    Therefore saying “for once blame the students” is an appropriate title given what the educational landscape is like there? Then again that is extrapolation because we don’t really know what its like there, unless we keep track, and I don’t.

    Then again, its a newspaper, looking to sell, your comment seems to be that the article is balanced, but the headline isn’t. So is it a title or a headline? Serves different purposes don’t you think? A headline has the additional role of selling newspapers and attracting readers, and in that sense, it is effective ya?

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