Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Crap, I Was Accepted to Harvard

 
I’ve been teaching game design in higher education for nearly a decade, and one thing has perplexed me the whole time.  On the first day of class, I ask all my students who among them made a game before.  A few hands usually shoot up.

To those who raise their hands, I say there’s only so much I can do for them.  They know how to push themselves and are committed to their craft.  I’ll give them some knowledge and teach a few skills, but they’re going to do fine no matter what I do.

To those who don’t raise their hands, I say there’s only so much I can do for them.  They don’t know how to push themselves and haven’t committed to their craft.  I’ll give them some knowledge and teach a few skills, but they’re going to have to work their asses off like they never have before.  Actually, I say it in a lot meaner way.

Through the course of the class, the first set of students does really well.  They turn in their work on time.  They go above and beyond the bounds of their assignments.  When they leave, I can honestly say I had nothing to do with their success.

The second set of students does less well.  They skip classes and forget assignments.  They zone out in classes and fail to take notes.  I spend a lot of effort pushing them to understand, to pick up skills, and to thrive.  When they leave my class, I feel like I’ve done some good.  Then I make them sign a contract that entitles me to 10% of their yearly income.  I’m like the Mormon Church without the magic underwear.

Anyway, I was thinking recently about why I even bother with the good students.  I could just give them all As and let them play games during class.  They pretty much teach themselves.  That led me to thinking about the way the prestigious colleges recruit students.  To get into a school like Harvard, you need a 4.0 GPA and 2400 on your SAT at the very minimum.  Harvard only accepts the very best students from around the world and they put them into classes with the very best teachers from around the world.

Why?  Why do the best teachers teach the best students?  Wouldn’t their efforts be better spent on the worst students?  They’d certainly do more good.

Here’s my suggestion: we reverse the system.  The worst students go to the top tier schools (Harvard, Stanford, Disney University) where the best teachers in the world push them succeed.  The best students go to the bottom tier schools (community colleges, Liberty University, Yale) and they teach themselves.

What could be more fair?

4 comments:

RF said...

Well, you have a point. However, I think some of the high level teachers may feel a bit frustrated if they suddenly have their bright students replaced with average ones.
Just today we were discussing whether mentally challenged students would function better and learn more when put in a classroom with average students.
By the way, why have you put Yale under bottom tier?

Matthew Kagle said...

Why? What kind of University doesn't have a decent hotel management school?

GM said...

Huh? Disney University? Is that even a real college?

Matthew Kagle said...

Not really:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disney_University

It'd be cool, though. Kinda like if Rowling built a real Hogwarts.