brown and dave peltz, the chevron
\ More student freedom through\ credit svstem J
ecently several proposals have come before administrative bodies at the university of Waterloo which, if instituted, will affect the freedom of students. These proposals concern the possibilities of admitting some credit courses, as opposed to graded courses, towards an arts degree, and a requirement that arts students take three full courses having significant Canadian content. I The interests of students are best served b,y movements towards greater freedom for individuals. The draft report of the commission on post-secondary education in Ontario points out the need for the humanization of education, in order to “preserve and cherish the fragile,, exquisite, special animal of this earth we call man.” In its suggested objectives for postsecondary education the report states, “if the individual is at the centre, he must have the opportunity and the responsibility to decide what educational experience is best for him. The’ whole spectrum of educational services must be available to him, not just a degree program, a certification process, or what the Institution thinks may benefit him. It is surely a matter for the individual to decide what is’ best for him. The whole spectrum of educational services must be available to him, not just a degree program, a certification process, or what the institution thinks may benefit him. It is surely a matter for the individual to decide what is ‘best’ for him.” Un’ doubtedly, individuals gain more by something when they seek it out by themselves and for themselves. The gains are not the same when something is thrust upon them. The principle of freedom for the student to chose what he will take applies very directly to the alterations that some departments, such as psychology, are making in their programme requirements. Already most of the departments insist that a large proportion of the courses their students take be chosen from a restricted range, with some courses being specifically required. The arts faculty also requires that some courses be taken in both humanities and social sciences, plus a language credit. Underlying these requirements there seems to be the assumption that a good education in a particular area is dependent upon the acquisition of credit in several courses. But within the departments, and between universities, I feel there is considerable disagreement about which courses the “essential” ones are. I think that most departments will admit that many _ different combinations of courses would constitute reasonable requirements for degrees in that area of study.
In addition to the requirements which already exist is the possibility of the additional requirement of three full courses with Canadian content. This has been recommended by professor Ronald Lambert to the undergraduate council. If departments feel that the Canadian situation has particular relevance in some area, of course they should emphasize it in those courses already existing. To force all students to take courses, undoubtedly in many cases contrived to be “Canadian”, to enable students to fullfill the requirement, even though the Canadian situation has no particular relevance to the situation, lwould be an undesirable and unnecessary restriction of the student’s freedom. The development of responsibility in people can only occur when people are forced to.make their own decisions, rather than accepting the decision of someone else.made for them. A first step would be to reduce, or eliminate, rather than increase the number of required courses. Some people fear that if students’are given freedom to select all of their own courses they might confine themselves too narrowly to one area, without exposing “themselves to other areas where they might make better use of their talents. The faculty. should take it upon themselves to advise students about other areas that might be interesting or useful to them, or point out to their classes how their area is related to several other areas. But the ultimate responsibility should rest with the student, who is best able to determine what kind of educational experience will be really most beneficial to him. Another inducement’ to students to voluntarily expand their horizons would
be the institution of credit courses. This change would also be in line with the objectives of the committee on postsecondary education in Ontario. It says, “The various tests and examinations, the buildings, the programs, and the teaching methods-indeed, all facets of the postsecondary educational system-should be oriented towards serving individual students rather than the institut,ions themselves, future employers, or the professions. Tests, examinations, and admission requirements, for example should be devised to help the student evaluate himself and to facilitate his learning; other purposes should always be secondary. We must never forget that the basic purpose of education is learning; that learning cannot but be, ultimately, a highly individual matter.” In a true credit system, students would be awarded credit in every course in which they achieved satisfactory standing. There would be no grades attached to that credit, and no failure if they did not pass. The extrinsic incentive to “learning”, the high grade, would be removed. This is desirable because often the grade does not really reflect what has been learned. Often the time and energy devoted to the achievement of grades is taken from time and energy that could be used for real, meaningful learning. In his chapter on the grading system in “The Student as Nigger”, Jerry Farber says : “Grades don’t make us want to enrich our minds; they make us want to please our teachers (or at least put them on). Grades are a game. Who reads his textbooks after the grades are in? What’s the point? It doesn’t go on your score.”
The removal of the grade system would also remove professors from their authority figure role-from the position. of being the .authority who can make or break you with the grade he assigns you. The credit system would put students and teachers on more equal levels. The authority role of the professor is an impediment to real communication. With more open communication between professors and students, with students unafraid of expressing their misunderstandings, misgivings and disagreements, more learning can occur. Grades could still be used as a method of conveying feedback from the professor to the student, although grades would not go on the student’s final record. Discussion with students, and even comments on essays are a more effective method of giving feedback than grades. * A credit system would allow greater flexibility within courses. Students could take time to experiment, study, or research in areas that are related to the course material, but are not actually part of the course content-i.e. not on the exam-but still worth studying. In the grade system students devote their I energy to the course content, whether it interests them or not, out of a fear of failure. In a credit system extracurricular learning
The institution of credit courses would also encourage students to take courses in subjects that they are interested in, but do not take because they fear a low grade that would affect their overall average. Unfortunately, the actual recommendation of the arts faculty would reduce some of the benefits of the credit system. First of all, the number of credit courses which would count as part of the minimum
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would count as an “F” in the student’s overall average., Consequently, one of the credit system’s main advantages-the -elimination of the fear of failure as an impediment to learning-would be almost meaningless. If the credit system is instituted, it should be done in such a way that courses passed are given credit, while nothing is lost if a course is failed. Students often learn things even in courses that they fail. The university should be an entity within itself, independent from-although responsive to-the rest of society, where people go for individual learning and growth that is meaningful for them. The university’s prime function is not to provide people with standardized degrees for other schools and for industry.
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What’s happening in this province? The city of Toronto IS getting set to fire 1400 teachers and hire 2,000 more policemen. What kind of priorities are those? What kind of a reader are you, taking in drivel like this? While we’re on the subject of drivel, hope you all caught the Waterbaby feature this issue (pages 30,31). The Waterbabies and their hard-earned reputation, it is rumored, will go on the line soon against an imposing line-up of security officers. Word has it the Mounties are going to go through the clothes in the lockers during the game and stage the first Waterbaby post-game bust and celebration party...Date hasn’t been set yet, hang on for details....Terry Moore and company are really vibrating energy in the few weeks since they’ve come to power; they’ve,gone to workon all fronts of student power (you remember student power, don’t you?). If only the student body could shake its oppressive lethargy and produce just a fraction of the federation’s energy, this campus could actually seem as if live. bodies were walking afound...Come out for Moratorium Day and you’ll be surprised what can be accomplished from a stance of power. It has happened before and can again, it’s up to you...the following were in on this issue, whether they liked it or not-jocks: nutsy neeland, ron smith, dennis mcgann, norma dryden and peter hopkins; entertainment: paul stuewe, our favorite standby, Craig millage, lynn bowers, delightful deanna, jimmy allen and lair, dave ingham, bernice geoffroy who blew in and out, cubberley, whose presence boosted the toiling masses, and jan stoody; fotos: bill lindsay, doug baird, gord moore, Scott gray, brian cere, helmut zisser, brute murphy, nigel burnett, randy hannigan, len greener, sergio zavarella, and Steve izma; newsies: cubberley, izma, murphy, Barry Brown, una o’callaghan, joan Walters, kenn hyslop, lionel koffler, bill lindsay, gord moore, nigel burnett, boris prociuk, al Iukachko, dave peltz, ron lambert, trudi and Winnie, good 01’ gary robbins dropped in, and of course all the good ducks of lake dumont. Thought for the week-“The question of educational reform is mainly a question of teachers.“--Mao. gsk.
would be limited to three for general arts students and four for honours students. All courses should be credit courses if the student wants them to be. Secondly, while credit courses that are passed would not affect the overall
Published on Nov 4, 2011
recommending an investigation into the feasability of im- plementing a liberal arts and science programme. Sub- sequently, he served on a se...