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If one imagines an average classroom, the same stereotypical image comes to mind: a teacher lecturing, a chalkboard, and some thirty odd students attentively listening in. Though sound in theory, this style of teaching fails to involve the most crucial element in the entire education system: the students themselves.
Fortunately, even the stiffest of academic bastions are starting to crumble. After centuries of education reform, many teachers are now opening the floor to discussion and critique. While there are teachers like this elsewhere, certain courses in this school depend far too much on lecture, particularly in the Humanities Department.
Many classes feel like little more than forty-minute speeches. These classrooms are not places for dialogue or deeper thought, but rather stages for uninterrupted sermons. Such outdated pedagogy constitutes a “teachers-only” forum, cutting out any room for the students to fully understand the lesson and its significance.
This practice infringes upon a student’s right to free speech. Debate, discussion and compromise have always been at the core of the learning process. By depriving students of these basic privileges, we prevent them from exercising and expanding their cognitive abilities.
From a young age, students are taught to respect the authority of educators. But such overwhelming authority compromises our willingness to participate and belittles our role in the classroom. Countless generations of learners have gone through their academic careers with the notion that teachers know best, but this is not always the case.
In our school and across the nation, students perceive a false sense of infallibility in teachers. But teachers are humans too, and they are bound to make mistakes. Thus, we should not be afraid to challenge a teacher if it becomes necessary. On occasion, a teacher may display favoritism, make an unclear point in class, misgrade an exam, or waive huge testing curves. When challenged on such matters, teachers often respond well. They should also be challenged on incoporating lectures too frequently.
Although there are certain subjects where the facts are simply the facts, many subjects stand to prosper from group discussion. Overall, participatory learning and open forums for discussion bring out the best in students, and allow them to understand the subject more thoroughly. By promoting the development of new ideas and drawing conclusions based off of their own intellect, students can grow both as great thinkers and as individuals.
If Townsend Harris is to offer the education it proclaims to offer, all of its classes must avoid this outdated practice.