Robert Talbert’s statements regarding the nature of lectures have really gotten me thinking about just how silly education has become in some ways. Talbert says, “Resorting to a lecture because I need to “cover material” is just an admission that I didn’t design my course well. If that’s all the lecture is for, put it online so students can at least pause and rewind.” This point reminded me of a large lecture class I took as a sophomore while in undergrad. I recall the teacher well. She tried to make the class fun and interactive by showing videos and talking about popular culture related to the course. I could tell she was doing her best to make this class engaging. However, I absolutely despised this class. Three years have passed and I am still annoyed by this class (if you don’t believe me just ask my mom, I complained to her about it on the phone just last night).
Why did I hate the class so much you ask? Well in my mind it was completely useless. The class was supposed to teach me about media, and in a way it did, we learned about music, television, internet, etc. What infuriated me was that the teacher spent most of the class spitting random facts at us like, that the first country song was recorded in 1922, and these facts were what we were tasked with remembering for the tests. Maybe you’re thinking “okay what’s so bad about learning some media facts”? Well I’ll tell you. I left at the end of every class with a brain full of trivia wondering what on earth these facts taught me about media. When the professor would go over a theory related to media she would tell us the name of the theory, the basic premise, and who created it. That was it. There was no cohesion. I left the class with some information that might help me perform well when watching jeopardy, but I had no idea as to how these facts corresponded with one another or how they impacted the world of media or what any of this meant for the people who use those media. Nothing was ever connected and I never understood the impact of any of the things I was learning, so to me it was useless.
I feel like many students encounter this frustration, especially with the standardization that has overtaken education. We have a tendency to place students in these huge lecture halls and shoot facts at them and expect them to memorize them, but what good is this system? What does it matter if I know when the first country song was recorded if I don’t know what impact it had on the music industry? What good is it if I know that the Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066 if I don’t know who was fighting or what they were fighting about, or understand the grand scheme surrounding this battle?
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that memorization is important sometimes. Trust me I wish I had dedicated more time to memorizing my multiplication tables, so I could quickly perform them on the spot. There are basic skills that we should memorize for the sake of time. If I am an accountant and I can’t remember what 12 times 13 is I’m wasting valuable job time by having to figure it out on a calculator. Then again is it really a huge deal if I don’t remember small details when it so quick and simple to just look them up? As a communication major I constantly had AP style pounded into my brain, and I understand that the purpose was so that I wouldn’t have to take the time to look up every single detail when writing a story, especially considering the time sensitive world we live in. However, considering it takes me about 3 seconds to find an answer with a Google search, is it really a big deal if I can’t remember that Arizona should be abbreviated Ariz.?
My point is, why have we lost sight of the importance of the big picture to focus on those small memorizable facts? If I have a puzzle and the pieces don’t include the interlocking tabs and openings I will never see the full impact of the picture. We have to remember to provide our students with the entire puzzle piece or risk them casting our subjects off as non-essential.
Not to mention the fact that despite being forced to memorize when the first country music song was recorded, when the Battle of Hastings occurred, and how to abbreviate Arizona according to AP style, I had to Google all of those things in order to include them in this post, so obviously something isn’t working.