Monday, October 11, 2004

Negative vs. Positive

An interesting debate come up during the development of my team's board game this past week that I wanted to post in this forum. It has to do with the new wave of thinking that involves removing all negativity and competitiveness from lessons to create this utopian environment that is supposed to encourage learning. I don't have an issue with this per se, I just think it is getting out of hand.

The idea that we came up with in my group for our board game involved creating some chance cards, much like the ones in Monopoly. We had some positive and some negative cards. The negative cards told the player to go back a couple of spaces. The positive cards gave the player an opportunity to move ahead a few spaces if he/she answered the question correctly. We felt that adding a few negative cards would stimulate the game and simulate real life.

Life is not rosy. Everything we do does not end up with a positive outcome, no matter how hard we may try. We all know this so why do we strive so much to coddle our students? Why do we insist that they get stars on their papers just for turning them in to boost their egos and their self esteem? Aren't we developing children who think that they deserve to win or deserve the "A" even when they've put in no effort? Big egos really don't seem to be lacking in this country. I hardly think we need to encourage their growth through false means.

I agree that we need to give both children and adults more encouragement as they learn. I agree that we need to not set people up to fail. I agree that we need to create a challenging learning environment where students can thrive, but I don't think that means taking out all the negativity. The world can be very harsh and very unfair. Aren't we doing our students a disservice by not making our lessons realistic? We build our self esteem by handling negative situations. Sometimes we miss the bus, or get laid off, or discover that our favorite item at the store is being discontinued. Having to go back a couple of spaces on the game board resembles these types of situations. I believe it's important to keep them in the game because the students will learn how to overcome them. They will have to develop more strategies or alter their plans. This is the kind of environment in which they can learn transferable skills.

The feedback from the class was to take out the negative chance cards and make them all positive. Well, then it isn't a chance anymore, is it?


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