The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Learning and Became Mixed-Up Zombies

Tennis balls are getting a better education than most kids in North America. They're more useful, too.

Wanna see something really scary? Howbout a future of lost generations? Da-da's kids aren't subjected to this yet, but can anyone tell Da-da why schools in North America time their tests? What advantage does this serve? And how many annoying questions can Da-da ask in a row? (His record is 303, but then someone pulled the fire alarm.) Anyway, heaping stress upon stress because, "that's the way we've always done things" is a poor excuse. Hardly any other countries time their tests; the French think we're crazy, but then again, the French take 240 minutes to eat 24 minutes' worth of food (psst, that's a whole order of magnitude), not that there's anything wrong with that. Far from it.

What's scarier than test-timing and meals that last forever is the antiquated abecedarian grading system. Grades make you go to school and jump through hoops for GRADES, not to learn. The most Da-da ever learned in a class was when an enlightened college professor unexpectedly tossed out the traditional grading system. His name is Jerry Farber, one of the revolutionary anti-grade mavens from the Sixties (though Da-da fears he's since toned it down after reading his bio) who now teaches at SDSU. Jerry wrote an incendiary essay in 1967 called, The Student as [N-word]. Like Da-da said, it was incendiary. All but forgotten, it was later incorporated into an eponymous book of essays and stories, published by Contact Books in 1969... and it immediately caused trouble. HERE it is if you'd like to read it.

Jerry saw students at the time as basically having no rights and having to bend over for The Man at every opportunity, with little or no recourse but to slave for the grade (hence the title). Da-da's pretty sure things haven't gotten any better.

Needless to say, when Jerry poked his head into Da-da's college class way back when (in an incredibly fun, literature/improv class called, "Drama in 3-D" and later, "Comedy in 4-D"), he had Da-da's full attention when he said, "I don't believe in grades. If you show up and try, you automatically get an A. Let's form our desks in a circle." This gift of formless freedom made Da-da think about Jerry's class all the time. The pressure to perform had been lifted, and all the learning levers thrown forward. Da-da learned more from those two classes than any other, before or since -- and he worked harder for those classes. So, this isn't just spooky pie-in-the-sky educational halloween-y conjecture and theory, Da-da lived it.

That said, Da-da guarantees you, Joe College and Edna University and Fred Post-Secondary Administrator, that your number of student applications (that is, your gate receipts, ahem) will increase a whole order of magnitude, perhaps several, if you publically say that you won't time tests, that you won't assign grades, and that your institution's whole raison d'ĂȘtre is to make learning... you know, FUN. Man, will they come. You'll have to beat them away with a stick. And everyone knows that education is all about making money learning.

Sure, there'll be some freeloaders attracted to this system, but that's why the admissions process exists, so you can weed those bottom feeders out. You can also make it clear to all students (who basically have to sign a contract with the school once they become a student, as all students do when they apply; few students realize this) that if you don't try, you're out. Good instructors know when kids are trying. The final product of this kind of educational experiment should be a positive force to be reckoned with, besting other schools in non-linear creative thought and expression and complex problem solving, not to mention instilling a lifelong love of learning. Isn't that what school is supposed to be all about? Besides polished floors, that is.

Look out! It's Clarence Beeks!

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