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March 21, 1988 - Image 18

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-03-21

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News Features MARCH 1988

Competitive education
il!takes tol on students

King's birthday:
occasion for bla
By Stephen Buckley
The Chronicle
Duke U., NC
Don Rogers was asked how he was
going to recognize Martin Luther King
Jr.'s birthday. "I'm not going to work
tomorrow," he said, standing at the
Durham, NC, city bus terminal. "That's
the best day of the year. Even better
than Christmas."
For thousands of black Americans,
Jan. 15-King's birthday-means more
than any other day of the year. On that
day, the memory of the slain civil rights
leader is officially honored with cere-
monies across the land.
But for many blacks, it is a bitters-
weet celebration.
On one hand, blacks can find joy in
their progress over the last 25 years.
They now live, work and go to school
wherever they want. They are bank
presidents and presidential candidates.
TV talk-show hosts and Pulitzer Prize
But while at the Durham bus termin-
al, blacks spoke of teenage pregnancy,
unemployment, drug addiction and
functional illiteracy. They were think-
ing about Howard Beach and Al Campa-
nis and Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham.
Problems, not progress.
"Look around you," James Weston
said as he waited. "Do you think the
young people of today-young black
people-know the hardships Martin
Luther King suffered through for us? Do
you think they're willing to work the
way he did to further our progress? No.
Absolutely not."
A few yards away, Catherine Hester,
a teacher and assistant nursery school
director, shared a similar mixture of
pride and pessimism over the condition
of black people in America. She said,
yes, blacks should bask in their
triumphs, but they should also realize
and confront the numerous struggles
that threaten these advances.
She mentioned a housing project in
Durham where everyday she sees
young black men standing on corners
sticking needles in their veins and
smoking marijuana. In that project, she
knows many teenage girls "who have
not just one baby, but two."
"I see teenage pregnancy and drug
addiction as epidemics in the black com-
munity," said Hester, who would like to
leave teaching to work as a teen counse-
lor. "We have to tell blacks to stay in

ck Americans
school and get a job. That's the only way
they'll make it."
It was a bitterly cold afternoon, with
no sun and a brutal wind. School had
just let out, and as students got off the
city buses, they played in the ice and
snow. Smiling at them, Hester said,
"They have to get an education."
As he sat on a
wooden bench
outside the ter-
minal shelter,
Ike Holmes also
watched the chil-
dren play. He is
scared for them,
he said, because
eventually the
world will steal
their inno-cence, Martin Luther King Jr.
and they will have to deal with racism.
Sooner or later, someone will call them
He spoke of how, when he attended
high school in Durham three years ago,
he had to listen to racial slurs every day.
He talked about how people used to
point fingers because he was black and
his girlfriend was white.
"After all these years, people still
don't accept interracial couples," he
said. "People still get bent out of shape
when they see a black going out with a
white. When is that going to end?"
Although many blacks see the Rev.
Jesse Jackson as heir to King, Holmes
rejects that notion. He sees Jackson and
other black politicians as "people who
say they'll do this and that, and they
never get anything done. Martin got
things done."
But Hester admires Jackson, hailing
him as the Martin Luther King of our
day. He does get things done, she said,
adding that "Jackson is a fighter."
The bus pulled into the station, and
passengers began to pour out. Among
the crowd that filed out, only two of the
travelers were white.
"Times change," said Jimmy Thorpe,
who grew up in Durham when blacks
couldn't ride buses. "It used to be that
whites rode the buses and black people
walked. Now look at this."
Ike Holmes, who a few minutes ear-
lier had been a picture of bitterness and
dismay, perked up. "We have come a
long way," he said.
If he had told the whole truth, he
would have added, "We also have a long
way to go."

By Judd Annis
Kansas State Collegian
Kansas State U.
There is far too much competitiveness
in the high school classroom today.
With the cost of attending college rising
faster than thegeneral cost of living, the
need for scholarship aid will tend to in-
crease competition for grades and high-
er ACT scores. Beyond the dog-eat-dog
aspect of classroom competition, which
brings out the worst in most students, is
a competitive environment the most
productive way to teach?
"No" say Roger and David Johnson of
the U. of Minnesota's College of Educa-
tion, two brothers who have been
preaching the virtues of cooperative
learning for more than 20 years. In 21
out of 26 controlled studies, cooperation
by utilizing the "Johnson system" led to
significantly higher achievement, while
the remaining five showed mixed re-
sults or no significant difference.
"Cooperation," said David Johnson,
"is the basic phenomenon that disting-
uishes our species. It's the underpin-
ning for everything." We need to be able
to cooperate, not only at work, but in our
daily lives as well.
Still, our public school teachers and
administrators continue to foster com-
petition as a means for getting each stu-
dent to work up to his or her ability. In
the process, they are turning out young
people sadly unprepared for real life.
"It seems a little late when you have
to tell a 40-year-old IBM engineer that
he needs to work more effectively in a
team," said Roger Johnson.
A good example of education run
amok is the "enriched program" for the
"gifted student," where the good stu-
dents are removed from the normal
classroom setting and lumped together,
supposedly to provide adequate com-
petition and stimulation for each other.
In addition to fostering an elitist atti-
tude, these students are denied the en-
riching experience of helping their slow-
er classmates, as well as losing out on
the camaraderie which comes from
peers helping peers.
The bright student has his under-
standing of a subject tested and
polished when he explains a concept to a
classmate who is totally lost. If one truly

understands something, one can ex-
plain it at any level required. The come
ment tossed out by students that "Pro-
fessor X really understands the subject
but he just can't explain it" eventually
boils down to the fact that Professor X's
understanding tends to be superficial or
that Professor X doesn't really care if
you understand it or not.
The benefits of cooperative education
go far beyond academics. In 35 of 37
studies on interpersonal attraction, the
Johnsons found that students like4
each other more when they worked
cooperatively on their assignments.
Ethnic prejudice and ridicule practical-
ly disappear and the students enjoy
being with each other, which even ex-
tends to their free time. That's what
really makes this concept worthwhile.
Cooperative learning means more
than telling a group of students to work
together. It means "positive inter
dependence," where each one is depen-
dent on and accountable to the group.
The group members share a goal, with
each responsible for an essential part of
the effort. A group grade is given, mak-
ing them realize they will sink or swim
The Johnsons have found that cooper-
ating students have a higher regard for
schooling, the subjects they are study-
ing and for their teachers. 0
The improved self-esteem they ex-
perience "comes from peers, from being
liked, accepted and connected," said Ro-
ger Johnson. Competition, David noted,
sends out an entirely different message.
"The minute you lose, your value ends.
That's a terrible thing to tell a kid," he
said, "or an adult."
Of course, cooperative education can
elicit an outcry of rage from some seg-
ments of society. The cornerstone of the
free enterprise system is competition,
while to most, cooperation reeks of com-
munism. If competition is so sacred,
though, why do those who so loudly
champion the "competitive free enter-
prise system" constantly try to engage
in noncompetitive agreements? Hope-
fully, we all realize the full value of
"cooperation" in the real world. Isn't it
time we gave it a sincere try in educa-
tion? As the Johnsons are fond o
saying, "None of us is as smart as all of


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