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Thursday December 7th 2017

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Big News: College Students Learning for the Sake of Learning!

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Couldn’t deny it – there on my computer screen reported as news sat the Nov. 27, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune.com  article, “Learning for the Sake of Learning.” It was news because 50 students at Augsburg College are the first involved in a three-year pilot program that involves receiving credit for five courses in a semester during which they will receive a written evaluation instead of letter grades. Could NO TESTS be far behind? How will anyone know if these poor students are learning anything?

The course, “Fate of the Earth: Food, Fuel and Consumption,” is co-taught by a group of professors whose trip to Washington, D.C. to attend an alternative education conference was paid for by Augsburg College.  According to Colin Irvine, an English professor involved in the experiment, “We had drunk the Kool-Aid;” the group of professors was extremely excited about the possibilities they envisioned. They even have the students providing input as to the criteria by which they will be alternatively evaluated.

The article makes mention of Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, a long-time practitioner of learning for the sake of learning and a favorite of homeschoolers pursuing college. (Vermont’s low-residency Goddard College is another.) It further states that because the University of California – Santa Cruz offers both types of evaluations, its website offers this: “On the pro side: ‘Narratives encourage students to pursue learning for its own sake.’ On the con: ‘Narrative grading is expensive, time-consuming and tough to translate into job applications.'”

After offering students to come see him with questions on every paper he’s ever graded throughout his career, Augsburg College’s history professor Phil Adamo reports being “shocked” at the number of students who are actually taking him up on it and coming in to learn more.

Of course narrative evaluation will be expensive and time-consuming compared to one-right-answer tests and tired essays that teachers could grade in their sleep. So what? Learning should be stifled because it will take a little more cost and time on the part of those being paid to do a job – successfully?

I’m glad to read that some college professors were open-minded enough to visit a conference on alternative learning, get excited, and come back and implement some of the ideas they discovered, I really am. I’m hopeful that, as a result, 50 more young people will join the countless number of home-educated kiddos who experienced the thrill of real learning by learning at home, free of school systems where, apparently, those in charge never attended a conference on alternative learning and got excited about the possibilities beyond their archaic way of schooling. This country doesn’t need more A+ students any more than it needs bigger bail-outs. It needs more citizens exposed to learning for the sake of learning because – bottom line – this is the only kind of learning that really fits the definition of such. All else is nothing more than programming and schooling, and antithetical to learning.

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