Earlier today, John Spencer posted this problem to Education Rethink:
The title of the post “See if you can spot what’s wrong …” dares you to see how this is a poorly worded test question. And it is. But in putting on my Wizard of the Language Arts hat (because “English teacher” suggests an image I choose not to be associated with), I realized that this goes much deeper than a simple fractions problem about Grace and her bean plant.
You see, Grace was like any other student. She was tired of having her learning dictated to her and wanted to own it. So, she sought learning experiences that were authentic. Rather than learn the facts about the process of photosynthesis and plant growth, she thought it more important to plant a sprout and measure its growth, thinking that the miracle of curiosity and learning is what made the bean plant grow.
So, she asked her teacher if she could plant bean sprouts. But her teacher was not an innovative educator. Her teacher was doing what she could to follow orders and not get fired. She had considered that Grace and her classmates bring their own seeds, but the class parents–with whom she kept in constant contact–balked at the idea because for all of the money that Grace’s teacher earns with getting the summers off, she should be able to afford to buy seeds, sprouts, plants, dirt, and gardening equipment for all of her students out of her own pocket.
Grace’s teacher tried to say that she has been doing a lot more with a lot less, so this is really not realistic. For Grace’s mother, that was the last straw. Fed up with the unwillingness of the teacher to teach her daughter outside of forcing her to be compliant within a system designed for a factory-model society, she pulled her out of the school and took her to a gardening store. They went home and planted the seeds and waited for the miracle of curiosity and learning to occur.
Grace measured the bean plant at the end of each week. At the end of week 1, the plant was 4 inches tall. At the end of week 2, it was 4-1/2 inches tall. At the end of week 3, it was 5 inches tall. Grace liked how the plant was growing and would come back week after week. But soon after, it didn’t get much taller. In fact, it stopped growing and shrank altogether. She used her savvy as a digital native to find out the answer to her question, but none of the answers that were provided seemed to apply to the problem at hand.
The plant eventually died.
Years later, as a high school student, Grace was back in the public school system–teacher’s pensions had wrecked the economy so she was forced to endure public indoctrination–and when she was taking a chemistry test, there was a question about volume of liquid in a watering can that was being used to water bean plants. Grace thought back to all those years ago and wrote, “Clearly, this is an indication of the liberal conspiracy to indoctrinate students. I have decided to opt out from this test because plants cannot all be expected to require water in order to grow.” She then left the room.
This story made its way into a rejected application to one college and then her blog where it was reposted and retweeted by a few people, but within a few weeks fell back into obscurity.
Grace is now in her early 30s and unemployed. She lives at home and blogs about how the public education destroyed her curiosity, quashed her love of learning, and stole her dreams.
The answer, by the way, is c) 6.