Fairfax County, VA’s Westfield High has a curious set of requirements in three of its AP History class:
“You are only allowed to use your OWN knowledge, your OWN class notes, class handouts, your OWN class homework, or The Earth and Its Peoples textbook to complete assignments and assessments UNLESS specifically informed otherwise by your instructor.”
That was not all. Students could not use anything they found on the Internet. They were not permitted even to discuss their assignments with friends, classmates, neighbors, parents, relatives or siblings.
What about complete strangers? The teachers had thought of that. “You may not discuss/mention/chat/hand signal/smoke signal/Facebook/IM/text/email to a complete stranger ANY answers/ideas/questions/thoughts/opinions/hints/instructions.” The words were playful, but the teachers were serious. Any violations, they said, would mean a zero on the assignment and an honor code referral.
Fundamentally, these teachers have prohibited doing any kind of outside work, having any productive discussion with your friends and family that might connect the history you’re learning with the world you’re living in. They have reduced education to absorbing and regurgitating a specific set of facts, divorcing it from any kind of critical thinking, synthesis, or intellectual rigor.
Parents have complained to the principal, who “will decide soon whether these rules are okay.”
So, a student could quote an encyclopedia about WW2 but could not use any oral history from someone who really fought in the war. By these teachers’ rules, if a student received a phone call from any sitting or former President dealing with an assignment, and wrote about it, they would get a zero. Heck if their parent told them something about the assignment like “I think that is a stupid idea”, they’d get a zero because theiy got an opinion.
As a parent, I would not be happy about a teacher who would give my child a zero if they talked to me about the class. It is hard enough to find out what is going on. Now they can just say “If I told you I’d get a zero.”
I think these teachers are trying to create a class where the students are doing the work, not the student’s parents. Having had a son in AP classes, I know that many parents will ‘help’ with the child’s homework.
But this seems like going way too far to prevent this. ‘You’re are going to flunk my son because someone texted him a question about when the assignment was due?’
I’d love to hear that the students taught the teachers a lesson in civil disobedience. One by one in each class, they stand up, turn to the student next to them and discuss the assignment. Then that student stands up and discusses the assignment with the next student and so on.
Would they give almost 100 students a zero and an honor code referral? How about the next day when exactly the same thing happened? And the next day? I’m sure the principal would love that. In short order, the students would be national heros, on every news channel and probably Oprah while the teachers would be revealed as not too bright.
Anyone who actually participated in such a thing would demonstrate they know essentially all the important things you need to know about American history and how we deal with tyrants. I would also expect that it would make for very interesting college essays.