For many of you, school was 12 or more years of teachers and administrators deciding what was best for you, dictating exactly how you spent every minute of every day -- the result being that you absolutely hated each and every one of those minutes. But as you reached adulthood, you probably came to the realization that it was all for the best. You were just a stupid kid, after all, and your elders did things a certain way for a reason.
That reason being that they were full of shit. Science is just now taking a closer look at these centuries-old school practices, and they're finding out that ...
Huge Final Exams Are Bad for Learning
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Assuming you weren't some kind of freak prodigy, you probably looked to final exam season with a deep sense of dread. Once a semester, each teacher threw enough study guides, handouts, and notes at your class to provoke a scoliosis epidemic from the backpack weight alone. Then, after a week (or one God-awful night) of late-night cramming and stress seizures, you proceeded to brain-puke everything you'd learned that year onto one last son-of-a-bitch of a test that was worth 20 percent of your grade.
It sucked for the students, but your teachers had a valid justification for kick-starting the premature graying of your hair: Without giving you a huge cumulative test, there'd be no way to make sure any useful knowledge made it into your head alongside all those Pokemon stats and Power Rangers sexual fantasies. You only hated it because it was hard, you lazy, spoiled little bastard!
"And then the Pink Ranger's all like, 'Hey, Green Ranger, I can play the flute a different way ...' And then-"
But You Were Right ...
Hey, you know who has done away with final exams as a concept? A little school called fucking Harvard University. They no longer require professors to issue giant year-end tests, and in fact, if a professor wants to give a final exam, he or she has to file a specific request to do so. In 2010, only 259 of the university's 1,137 undergraduate courses still issued exams, which puts Harvard students' time-honored tradition of cheating on them in dire jeopardy.
Some critics say that's just Harvard professors being lazy and/or letting their students off easy. But before you crotchety 25-year-olds start grumbling about how much wussier today's schools have gotten since your time, let's take a look at what exactly the critics are saying. The idea isn't to get rid of exams because they're too hard on our precious children's fragile widdle brains; it's that waiting until the end to assess what the students learned is a terrible way to get kids to actually retain the information. A week of "cramming" is good for passing a test and absolutely nothing else.
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