Okay, I think that I am well overdo to speak about something that has brought quite a bit of failure to my personal academic life in the past. I call it, “The Yellow Brick Road Mentality”–and we as an academic community have fueled this mentality for a bit too long.
When Dorothy landed in Oz, she was instructed to follow the yellow brick road, and that the path would take her home. This, of course, was true to a certain extent. What the witch meant was that the process and choices that you experience on this road will lead you to your desired outcome. That is where interpretation must be given and not assumed.
The first thing that a student asked me on the first day of lecture this year was this: “So, if I just read everything–your notes and the chapters–then I will make an ‘A’, right?” In otherwords, “If I just follow the yellow brick road, then I will get home right?” But how many of us know the story? How many of us know about the friends and the enemies along the way, as well as the trials and the tribulations of Dorothy? The witch kind of left that stuff out, didn’t she ?!?
Well, so do educators: we cannot let students believe that learning and passing and working all happen by some passive, unplanned, unpredicted and yet hopeful walk through education. For example, my conversation with a student last semester:
Me: “How’s it going?”
Student: “This is hard!!!”
Me: “Ha ha ha! It’s supposed to be. You are learning about new concepts that you have never seen nor heard of before. Let’s start from–”
Student: “I don’t want to learn! Learning is too hard. I don’t want to be smart, I just want to pass!!!”
Whoa, wait a minute–this feels like deja vu because I am all but certain that I said the exact same words my junior year in college. It was painful to realize that I had done what many others had done: I had created a yellow brick road for my students without any warnings and/or explanations about what was ahead.
Learning is a process, and don’t let anyone fool you into thinking differently. Learning is when you are forced to make room within your mental library to house new concepts…but you have placed them within catelogs in order to recall them to use in future research and mental building. And no, you cannot learn the same way for every class–that’s like giving triplets the exact same first name and getting mad at them for being confused when you are trying to call just one of them to the garage.