Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Dulling the students 

Brilliance from Photon Courier:
Waiting for a plane at the Atlanta airport today, I stopped at a restaurant for a snack. It was also a bar, and a couple at a nearby table ordered drinks. The waitress asked them for ID to prove they were over 21--nothing unusual about that, except they looked to me like they were both in their mid-50s. There's no way they could conceivably have been less than 45.

The waitress obviously didn't think of this idea all on her own. She was almost certainly following some kind of no-exceptions policy which was established by the management. And the policy, in turn, was quite likely motivated by some kind of draconian provisions in well-intentioned laws or regulations.

Over the last several years, it seems that people are increasingly being put in positions in which they are required to execute policies without consulting their common sense. This seems to have been most prevalent in the public schools, but the corporate sector is clearly not exempt.

What does it do to a person when, day after day, they are required to do things that they know make no sense? What does it do to a society when millions of people are put in this kind of position? Doesn't it lead to cynicism, to a pervasive "I just work here" kind of attitude? Isn't it destructive of entrepreneurial spirit and creativity--and respect for legitimate authority--on all levels?

I'm sure "why do we have to learn this?" and "will this be on the exam?" has been around for ages, but it seems to happen more these days (and again, it may just be I've become more sensitive to it) . Is it not possible that students have now learned that in many cases, the reason they are in the classroom isn't for education but indoctrination, and if so, that makes it so much harder for the rest of us who might be trying to get students to think for themselves?