My 12th grade students are working on a research project. To help them, I decided to provide them with a model of how I decided on my own research topic. So, to give them a helping hand toward the right researching direction, I gave them the following fill-in-the-blank template:
I am researching __________________ to find out (who, what, where, when, why, how)_____________ in order to understand _____________________.
My model ended up looking like this:
I am researching Jane Austen novels to find out what the deal is with the father-type figures in her works, and how the issues repeat themselves in order to understand if there was an event or something else in her life that influenced the way she wrote about father figures.
Well, my students “got” what I was trying to help them “get,” and they narrowed down their topic appropriately. However, in the process, they asked, “Why do you care about that?”
I had to think about my response…but in the end, it ended up being, “Because I’m curious about the topic.” Therein, I believe, is the disconnect in some of today’s students. They don’t understand that sometimes, there is a curiosity inherent in some people about things like connections between literary works, the people that wrote them, and the history of both. Not only that, but some of them do not possess such a curiosity.
Contemporary students are so accustomed, thanks to the “drill and kill” mentality and single-answer possibilities of standardized testing, to looking for the “one answer,” that they either don’t take the time to think about other possibilities, or, an even more depressing possibility, they don’t know how.
I believe that one of the reasons students don’t possess curiosity or don’t develop it is because they’ve been “conditioned” for standardized testing rather than for developing their intellectual curiosity and critical thinking capacities. I also believe that a deprivation of humanities is connected to the conditioning for standardized testing. As educators, we’re forced to focus on development of testing skills rather than development of thinking skills.