Common Sense Comes to Town!

Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have. (Descartes)

Ordinary Students

Posted on | January 31, 2011 | No Comments

Are we expecting enough of our students? Year after year, Quebec does rather well in the worldwide comparisons of student knowledge. But is this good ranking sufficient? Should we aim to maintain this performance, or try to reach exceptional results? Two distinct articles each forced me to re-evaluate my opinion on this matter. 

The first was penned by Thomas Friedman, New York Times opinion writer. It describes   his visit in a fifth grade class, in Singapore. Much to his surprise, the children were busy leading a full blown investigation on a fake crime scene. They learned to collect fingerprints and DNA traces. The most surprising thing is that this activity is not in the education curriculum, but the work of a dedicated teacher who believed it necessary to teach the basics tenets of biotechnology to students.  

An isolated gesture? It doesn’t seem to be… Apparently, controversy rages on in France in scientific and education tribunes. The topic which unleashes such passion: Should 15 and 16 year old students be allowed to perform genetic engineering in the classroom. That’s right: these teenagers are already able to create transgenic bacteria.

Unfortunately, not all corners of the world are as capable to impart basic scientific knowledge to their students. Thus, American schools have a hard time properly teaching the fundamentals of the theory of evolution. What will student do when they will finally be confronted with a reality that demands them to fully grasp this principle in order to succeed? Nobody knows yet…

I’ve had more than inspiring teachers in grade school and high school, but I don’t recall that any of them had the means at their disposals to realize experiments as spectacular as their counterparts in France or Singapore. It may be time to think about financially encouraging these displays of outstanding academic performance if, in turn, we want to form just as exceptional students.

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