Every academic learning experience can and should be an interactive and enjoyable process
Debate Rounds (3)
As I also feel that attempting to provide the reader with the numerous (or innumerable ) ways that academic learning can be an interactive and enjoyable process will be an exhausting task, I will allow my opponent to provide examples of academic learning that can not and should not be experienced in an interactive and enjoyable manner. This interaction can be between mentor(s) and student(s) or shared between the learners themselves. As students are often heard to refer to lessons they receive as boring, the resolution seeks to challenge the approach and methodology of the modern educational process. In hopes of discovering or promoting innovative ways of imparting knowledge and teaching lessons to learners, this exchange will seek to identify ways that academic learning can be participated in and enjoyed by the students rather than merely being observed and tolerated.
If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn... Ignacio Estrada
While we teach, We learn...Seneca
Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand...Chinese proverb
I await my opponent's response
My opponent has misconstrued my task in other ways as well. I don't need to provide examples of academic learning that cannot and should not be experienced an interactive and enjoyable manner. I need only convince the reader that there are some instances where one or more of the considerations of interactivity or enjoyment cannot or ought not be primary.
My opponent's brief commentary on his position may be taken as a claim that students are sometimes bored, and thus that the exchange between he and I should identify ways that we can pursue his resolution. This is quite different from his originally proposed debate, and I leave it to the reader to consider whether my opponent's gaslighting approach to debate is legitimate or desirable. I will debate the resolution that my opponent made, on the original terms, and as I explained in my acceptance, without any regard to my opponent's attempts to alter the nature of this inquiry.
As I proposed in my acceptance, I will attempt to convince the reader that (1) some academic learning experiences can be more meaningful when my opponent's criteria are set aside; and (2) the exceptions to my opponent's propositions are numerous enough that we should take it more as an aspiration that we make education interactive and enjoyable when possible.
1. More meaning when the criteria are set aside.
By this, I mean to propose that some academic learning is more meaningful when "interactivity" or "enjoyment" are not primary considerations. I don't mean that such experiences rule out interactivity or enjoyment, but rather that the meaningfulness of the experience comes from other qualities that a focus on interactivity or enjoyment might diminish.
First, I turn to interactivity . As anyone who has observed young children might naturally conclude, a child's exploration of the world inherently involve a certain amount of solitude, and this is when children become more imaginative and creative. (https://suite.io...) In fact, children enrolled in early education show better creative thinking skills and better test scores when they were allowed to engage in solitary play. (http://ctr.concordia.ca...) This is not merely an early childhood phenomenon, but rather one that extends throughout life. (http://www.nytimes.com...) Solitude improves creative learning and thinking (id.), and learning in groups can increase fears of rejection and other psychological reactions that actually inhibit learning (id.). Furthermore, there are learners who gravitate towards solitary learning as their most effective mode. (http://www.tutorfi.com...)
This is not to suggest that group learning is bad or always harmful--I do not agree with that position. I accept that group learning, even for people who learn best in a solitary environment, is at the very least part of adaptation to a society that will involve interaction, and is likely a necessary challenge to expose all students to different modes of learning, because we can learn how to benefit from secondary modes. (http://keithsawyer.wordpress.com...) But, if it is important to expose students to interactive learning experiences, why would it not also be important to expose them to solitary learning experiences, especially given that for some students this will be a preferred mode and given the evidence that shows that solitary learning experiences can enhance learning and thinking skills?
The upshot is that introspective learning--learning that turns on a person's own exploration and self-evaluation--is important, and a learning environment that required that every academic learning experience be interactive would probably be diminishing. Furthermore, it would also make much of learning unenjoyable for those who prefer solitary learning or in cases where the neurobiological responses to group interaction are negative, suggesting that it is actually logically infeasible to achieve my opponent's two universal goals in concert. (http://www.nytimes.com...)
Second, I turn to enjoyment. I believe that, from the outset, there are a number of academic learning experiences that cannot or should not be enjoyable. Preeminent among these is failure. Some may believe that failure is necessary for success--it's a popular notion. But more importantly, failure is important because we don't live in a society where whatever one chooses to do is acceptable as good enough. We value people who can help meet other people's needs. A student needs to be told when his efforts are unsatisfactory--and in fact, in an interactive learning environment, it is almost certain that a student will experience whether his efforts are unsatisfactory (or below the norm) without an instructor pointing it out. A student shouldn't be overwhelmed by failure, but a student also shouldn't be sold the irrational lie that he can accomplish anything, or that he doesn't need to sometimes engage in possibly unpleasant exertion to achieve a goal.
But beyond failure, unpleasant tasks are often part of achieving goals--even goals that are part of a broader enterprise that a student enjoys. Memorizing calculus formulas is not particularly fun, even though working applied calculus problems is very enjoyable. But some memorization is necessary if you're not to repeat the discoveries of a millenium all on your own. And--I'll be the first to admit--that's somewhat idiosyncratic. Not everyone enjoys the same things. Has anyone discovered the formula for making everything enjoyable, such that "every" academic educational experience "can" be enjoyable? I think not.
One solution might be to never require students to participate in anything that they don't enjoy, but I doubt that is the solution. I believe that basic literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking skills are important. While much of that can be enjoyable, there is a significant portion that, for at least some students, is unlikely to be enjoyable--even though it's conceivable that the classroom environment can be enjoyable or at least motivational, building competency is likely to be, at least occasionally, painful or frustrating. I believe that every student who is seeking to better themselves by finding challenges must be open to the fact that part of education will be failure, pain, and frustration. While it is true that running an enjoyable and motivational classroom and providing good out-of-classroom support is a worthy and necessary goal, a significant portion of the academic learning experience will not be fun. An instructor needs to accept that reality when assigning competency-building work that has a much different goal than immediate enjoyment.
Societies that accept that education might not always be fun may have better outcomes (http://lawandeducation.wordpress.com...), even though it is also important that "fun" be part of an educational experience (http://blogs.edweek.org...). Meaningful education is better served by keeping in mind the goals of education, which sometimes involve challenge, feedback (even when unpleasant), diversity of learning approaches (including solitary learning), divergent as well as convergent learning, and, among still other goals, positive outcomes. The end of education is not interaction and fun, and the end of education is at times served well by putting aside those criteria.
By "exceptions," I don't mean unique exceptions. I mean broad exceptions to the idea that every educational experience can and should be interactive and enjoyable. My discussion above already demonstrates that there are broad exceptions to that idea. Not only is meaningful education sometimes better served by not focusing on interactivity and fun, but also it is the case that sometimes education should be solitary or cannot be fun. A rehash of the discussion is not desirable, especially in light of the fact that I am the only one who has established an argument of any kind whatsoever.
In conclusion, there is ample reason to believe that education can and should sometimes be solitary and that it cannot always be fun. Additionally, while making education more fun is a worthy goal, focusing on interactivity to the exclusion of solitude is simply prejudicial to a method of learning and a group of learners and likely to decrease the quality of education. My opponent's resolution is wrong, because it is both impossible and undesirable.
"I need only convince the reader that there are some instances where one or more of the considerations of interactivity or enjoyment cannot or ought not be primary."
As the resolution does not state that considerations of interactivity or enjoyment can and should be primary. I did declare that academic learning experiences can and should be processes that include interaction and enjoyment. I did not attempt to change the resolution, I merely challenged the opponent to provide evidence to the contrary as it was my assertion that every experience could be interactive and enjoyable.
"some academic learning experiences can be more meaningful when my opponent's criteria are set aside"
This is another misconception on my opponent's part, as meaningfulness was not excluded or included or excluded in the resolution. Thus making it a non-issue. Setting the criteria aside would negate any reason for arguing the resolution, as meaning, while an assumed goal of learning, is largely subjective and dependent upon the student.
"we should take it more as an aspiration that we make education interactive and enjoyable when possible."
This is closer to addressing the contention of the resolution, yet, the true assertion is not based on making academic learning interactive and enjoyable when possible, feasible or convenient but at all times. A radical notion to some, but, to others a meaningful and logical expectation and goal. However,I do agree that interaction and enjoyment should be included whenever possible by instructors who do not think these guidelines can always be included.
"More meaning when the criteria are set aside."
Already addressed as a non-issue and subjective. There was no separation of meaning from the learning process in the resolution. I also assert that the claim that interaction and enjoyment make learning less meaningful is based on conjecture and circumstantial. Furthermore, solitude would suggest the absence of the instructor. Also, even in solitude, academic learning can be interactive and enjoyable. A student can interact with nature and be entertained while learning. This would arguably be better than being cramped behind a desk.
"infeasible to achieve my opponent's two universal goals in concert"
Addressed and illustrated that these goals can be attained in solitude. Learning in a natural environment vs. being in a bland setting that is likened to a jail cell as it is purposely isolated and bland.
"..academic learning experiences that cannot or should not be enjoyable. Preeminent among these is failure. Some may believe that failure is necessary for success"
The more pertinent question is should failure be punished or seen as a need to alter the way the lesson is presented or taught?
Firstly, failure and success are subjective terms. I also would argue that failure can also be a result of poor or ineffective instruction as much as it can be a lack of comprehension or ability of the student. Failure is often confused with difference or variation, especially in an educational setting that values conformity or groupthink. One could argue that one of the US's greatest failures is its inability as a nation to recognize, value, and respect differences. This is partly because of the conformist mindset that is programmed into students during the educational process. If one considers the stormy past that the US has had with discrimination and prejudice you would think that some lessons should have been learned. Also, if developing the ability to empathize with and meet the needs of other is the goal, isolation would seem to be deleterious to achievement of that goal. Socialization is an integral part of the human experience.
This is not to suggest that a student or individual should be allowed to put forth minimal effort or choose to do only what they view as acceptable or good enough, more that instruction should be tailored to promote and foster comprehension amongst all students and delivered in innovative or creative ways rather than in a one-size-fits-all manner. Labeling students or their achievements (or lack thereof) as unsatisfactory or failures do are counter-productive is the goal of instruction is for the student to achieve comprehension of the subject matter in that these labels tend to decrease the student's enthusiasm toward the subject matter and lower their self esteem.
Effects of Grading and Labels
Grades tend to reduce students" interest in the learning itself, Grades tend to reduce students" preference for challenging tasks, Grades tend to reduce the quality of students" thinking, Grades aren"t valid, reliable, or objective, Grades distort the curriculum, Grades waste a lot of time that could be spent on learning, Grades encourage cheating, Grades spoil teachers" relationships with students, Grades spoil students" relationships with each other.  I have even seen teachers use name calling and teasing to, I suppose, motivate the student? This is not an effective motivational technique, especially if done among the child's peer group. It also sends mixed signals when schools prohibit bullying, name calling etc.
Why do labels carry such significance in an academic environment?...every label""slow," "bright," "trouble-maker," or "difficult""entails a set of expectations that are associated with it"expectations that, when made known to the student, may become a self-fulfilling prophecy, "an expectation which defines a situation [that] comes to influence the actual behavior within the situation so as to produce what was initially assumed to be there" ...When these standards are low, the student does not put any effort into his work or into improving his behavior because he has been labeled "slow" or "deviant:" this label has become part of his identity, and if he would achieve or behave in a way that is beyond that label, he would essentially be losing part of his identity...Similar to the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy is that of the Pygmalion effect...the Pygmalion effect achieves the opposite, allowing a student to achieve beyond what he may have thought was possible simply because he has been told that he can. If a student who has been struggling with a certain subject for several years may want to give up, and his teacher tells him, "You will ace the test because I know you can do it!" he will achieve the Pygmalion effect by doing well. 
This data would suggest that encouragement rather than assigning degrading gradations are the most productive in learning, if the desired result is comprehension and success. However, if classification or validation and maintenance of a classist structure and society is desired, grades prove to be most beneficial and effective.
"a student also shouldn't be sold the irrational lie that he can accomplish anything"
I disagree, as humans have proven to be able to exceed expectations and the alternative "telling a student that they can't" has a defeatist tone and has historically been used to maintain and encourage discrimination while discouraging the child. After all, how does a teacher truly know what a student can potentially achieve.
"engage in possibly unpleasant exertion to achieve a goal."
The resolution suggests that with innovative methods of presentation and interactive approaches (or approaches that highlight the students strengths) any exertion considered to be unpleasant can be seen as enjoyable.
"unpleasant tasks...Memorizing calculus formulas..."
Again, these tasks (in regard to learning) do not necessarily have to be unpleasant, as any task considered to be unpleasant by one is enjoyable to another. As you stated there are idiosyncrasies. However, if a group or individual find the learning process to be unstimulating or tedious a more effective, interactive, and enjoyable approach can and should be sought out. Even memorizing calculus formulas can be entertaining (i.e. make a game out of the formulas in a format like the Jeopardy game show)
"discovered the formula ..."every" academic educational experience "can" be enjoyable? I think not."
My opponent seems to have misunderstood the resolution once again. It does not say everyone should be expected to enjoy the learning experience by one standardized method of presentation. This, in many ways, is already in effect. Rather it suggests that varied, creative, and distinctive methods can be formulated and used to involve the student and engender more willingness to participate in the activity.
A good example would be "The Book with No Pictures". As stated by the author, "There"s a really exciting way to show kids that the written word can be their ally...I thought it would be a challenge. Can you make a kid love a book without pictures?" The effectiveness of the book also required the adult to relate in an interactive rather than authoritative manner.  Another example would be sports. While one can read a manual on how to play the game or have it explained to them, it is typically considered to be a more enjoyable and interactive process to learn through participation in a sport with a group or team, even in individual sports like golf. In the adult realm, things like music and collaboration have long been used to make mundane tasks more enjoyable and interactive.
In a society where social media has led to a decline in socialization and socialization skills, standard methods of teaching should be re-evaluated. Too often at events or parties, guests are attached to their smartphones tweeting or texting, but no one is truly engaging or interacting with the people around them. 
1. My opponent begins with a specious "negation" of my initial suppositions by accusing me of conflating whether a goal is "primary" with whether such a goal can or should always be achieved. This false accusation, of course, misses the well-known connotation of "primary," which is that of a goal that is to be pursued before others and even at the cost of others. And, as I painstakingly explained, my argument is that education has fundamental goals that are incompatible with making every educational experience both interactive and enjoyable. My conclusion that it does is strongly influenced by the well-established fact that there are a multiplicity of learning styles, so making every single educational experience "interactive," as my opponent explicitly proposed, is completely incompatible with the goals of diversity in education and neglects the fact that "interactivity" is often not compatible with "enjoyment" for some students.
2. My opponent then makes the mendacious claims that (i) "meaningfulness" is a non-issue because he has not explicitly mentioned it in his resolution and (ii) my position that some learning experiences are more meaningful when his criteria of interactivity and enjoyment are set aside makes discussing his resolution pointless.
No critique of my opponent's resolution could be more on-point than a discussion of whether there are other criteria that might be more important than and incompatible with those proffered in his resolution. My opponent's absurd critique--like his absurd suggestion that "this exchange will seek to identify ways that academic learning can be participated in and enjoyed by the students rather than merely being observed and tolerated," is nothing more than a demand that I accept the truth of his claims and get on to the more important task of making the positive case for his claims that he declines to make himself.
Furthermore, because my opponent has made an "ought" claim without explaining any criteria whereby an "ought" may be established (here, my opponent suffers from having made no argument in favor of his resolution), I am free to consider what sorts of ends might drive an "ought" conclusion. As clearly set forth in my argument, a "meaningful" educational experience includes one that has certain ends such as the development of multiple modes of thinking, a diversity of learning approaches, fairness to a diverse group of learners, bench-marking the adequacy of efforts, a humane understanding of one's limitations, and achieving good outcomes (among other ends). These are all considerations that are, to one degree or another, in conflict with the criteria of "interactivity" or "enjoyment" and are more important than assuring that every single educational experience is both interactive and enjoyable, as my opponent explicitly insisted ought to be the case.
3. My opponent credits my statement that "we should take [the resolution's criteria] more as an aspiration that we make education interactive and enjoyable when possible" was closer to addressing the contention of the resolution. Nothing could be further from the truth. The resolution contended in plain English, which some may comprehend more easily than others, that "EVERY academic learning experience CAN and SHOULD BE an interactive and enjoyable process." I have shown that there are competing and at times more important imperatives that we ought to pursue and that are sometimes incompatible with those criteria.
4. My opponent then blatantly reverses course on the meaning of a fundamental term, "interactive." My opponent claimed that the definition was "self-explanatory," that "interactive" challenged the notion that some learning had to be "unilateral." Now, he proposes that dancing with butterflies was also what he meant. Well, it wasn't. My opponent clarified it in one of his more lucid and direct moments: "This interaction can be between mentor(s) and student(s) or shared between the learners themselves." It's abundantly clear that "interactive" has the "obvious" meaning it was given until it was convenient for my opponent to suggest that solitude could also be interactive, if butterflies are involved. Well, that wool doesn't fit over my eyes, and far from being a "conjecture," as the sources I cited set forth plainly, there are multiple learning styles and learning preferences, one of which is solitary learning.
5. My opponent absurdly suggests that he has responded to my contention that it is sometimes infeasible to achieve his universal goals in concert. We should hold my opponent the definition of "interactivity" that he claimed was "obvious" and then explicitly set forth as involving student-teacher or student-student interaction before the inconvenience of evidence and logic became apparent to him. Students who are intimidated when they do not have access to solitary learning will not enjoy the learning experience (as set forth in my sources), and many interactive learning experiences (such as performance before peers) involve levels of natural evaluation and self-evaluation that will not be enjoyable.
6. For a response to the supposed "conformist" attitude expressed by the idea that "failure" can be important, my opponent drums up the argument that the U.S. is non-diverse, etc. Well, I think one of us made an argument a bit earlier in favor of a little solitude, didn't I, in recognition that requiring a conformist "you must interact" approach to education was a bit non-diverse. But let's look at the facts. The U.S. is actually fairly diverse (http://www.pewresearch.org...). Those not living in a history book understand that education in the U.S. now reflect this fact (http://education.jhu.edu...). There is no doubt that a diversity of expectations and approaches is required. One part of diversity is acknowledging the value of solitary learning, allowing students who value it to experience it, and exposing students to diverse learning styles. But diversity does not mean that any failure is attributable to the instructor. It does not mean that 1=1=3 is a good argument or answer. I am relieved that my opponent realizes that students should not "be allowed to put forth minimum effort...," and I agree that, as I proposed first, education should recognize diversity and not be delivered in a one-size-fits-all manner. But failure (not an "F" on a report card, but rather one of the natural and, preferably, temporary results of challenge) is in all likelihood a non-enjoyable but necessary experience that students can come to value, accept, and at some point "laugh about" even though none of us like it.
7. My opponent discusses the effect of "grades" as if I had ever mentioned them. In fact, I did mention them--as an arbitrary or trivial thing that I did not wish to discuss, in my acceptance. Nowhere in my argument did I discuss grades. I cannot fathom why my opponent thinks that a rebuttal of the value of "grades" has anything to do with my arguments. The only thing that I have argued is that "interactivity" will sometimes invite self-evaluation and the evaluation of classmates and that it failure is part of meeting challenges and understanding when better or different efforts or approaches are required. My opponent proposes that I have argued for grades and for labeling people as "not bright" or the like. That's spurious. All I did was point out that part of testing one's limits is not always fun. This absurd lie that we must all feel wonderful about everything is a great harm to all of us. It is okay to fail, and it is okay to discover one's own limitations, and it is okay to use that information to have a great life. It's sick to hide that information from people.
8. Rationality and defeatism are two different things. Einstein was a math genius but not a mathematician, so he hired mathematicians to help him (http://www.todayifoundout.com...). Realizing your limitations is not degrading or defeatist, it is simply a realization that one doesn't need to be an island. My opponent has misconstrued my argument against the irrational lie of unlimited potential and self-sufficiency (absurdly enough, since he values interaction so much) as "defeatism," when realizing the need for alliance is nothing even remotely like defeatism.
9. My opponent's response to the idea that some groundwork may not be entertaining is that it is always possible to make that work entertaining. This is nothing more than a circular argument in response to common experience. My opponent offers no reason to doubt the common experience that some learning is simply not fun, and gutting it out is sometimes the best way to get the basic competencies that open up a more enjoyable experience.
10. Again, my opponent argues against his own universal of "interactivity" in claiming that not everyone enjoys the same method of learning. He cites a situations within common experience where education can be enjoyable and interactive--scant evidence for a universal resolution against the evidence, logic, and experience that those criteria are not always compatible or preeminent.
My opponent ends with the conclusion that while butterflies are interactive, using a device to interact with real people is not. This "huh" moment sums up the validity of his attacks against my argument, in a situation where he has offered nothing in support of his resolution.
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