Group Work and Group Think

Mary Grabar at Townhall delivers a scathing piece on the use of group work and emotional education techniques in modern education. Whereas many critics of government-run education have pointed to the politically and emotionally charged material and curricula being taught to students, Grabar focuses on some of the techniques used to indoctrinate educate students.

Teachers seem to love “group work.” It gives them a sense of power over children and allows them to catch up on Facebook or their nails.

I have college students coming to class expecting to spend class time sitting in little groups to discuss their “feelings.”

Today, students don’t expect to learn—especially from a teacher or professor.

Instead, they expect to “do” as in “doing social studies” as I learned by spending two days at the social studies educators’ annual conference. To demonstrate one way social studies is “done” in Georgia a class of eleventh-graders was marched on stage and divided into little groups. The song “Home on the Range” was played for them and they were asked to answer questions about the “feelings” this song evoked in them, and then in various victims and victimizers associated with the settling of the American West—miners and mine owners, blacks and whites, Native Americans and whites. The young scholars then proceeded to collaborate, and believing themselves “critical thinkers,” came up with the correct answers! Of course, the bright, young geniuses knew that Native Americans would feel “sad” or “angry.”

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Over the years I’ve seen college students’ ability to reason, analyze, and weigh evidence deteriorate. But this is to be expected when they barely have a minute to themselves, when their material is selected to promote a political agenda, when their teachers bombard them with games and electronic gimmicks, and then put them into groups where the ring leader will cajole them into adopting the correct attitudes.

I’ve taken several graduate level classes founded upon group discussion. A graduate seminar is a completely different phemonenon, because in a group of 10 people, everyone must contribute to the discussion. But in a class of 30 divided into 6 groups, the trend very quickly becomes one of just a few students doing any of the work, and carrying the weight of the other group members. The kind of critical thinking that is expected in higher education should be dependent upon a stronger work ethic and ability to come to one’s own conclusions, which are then debated among a small group. Instead, students never learn such skills, and rely upon the few who are able to think critically, or worse, those who simply regurgitate the expected politically correct responses.

Thinking is an individual process, and that is why it will never be strongly encouraged by the Left.

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