Friday, March 27, 2009

Toastmasters Speech No. 3: " When I was Cheated"

By Christopher Siena, TM

I was cheated. I was cheated when I was in school not by my classmates but by the very exams that were suppose to measure my ratings and academic performance.

Grade 1: Math subject

We were given an exam on multiplication. Part 1 was a timed exam due within 5 minutes. We were supposed to answer a set of items such as 8 times four and 7 times 51 using mental math. No calculators were allowed.

With a snap of a finger, the teacher shouted, “Finished or not finished, pass your papers.” I was hesitant to do so. I was not finished with ten items to fill up. But, hell, I have to move on with part 2.

The second part was easy. No time pressure. You just have to solve the problems given. For example: Your father gave you a daily allowance of 100 pesos. How much will you be able to save in a week after spending 65 pesos a day?
The teacher checked the papers and after a day we were informed of our grades. I was given a perfect score for part 2 but the results of part 1 was devastating. Bottom line, I failed the test because part 1 has more items and thus have more bearing.

I was cheated that day. I felt that part 1 should have less bearing on exam. Why? Because part 1 is not a math exam. It doesn’t measure how good you are in applying mathematical principles. It just tests how good you are in memorizing the multiplication table.

I am not just cheated in math. I was consistently cheated in my other subjects due to the traditional belief that memory retention is the ultimate measure of academic success as thus success in later endeavors.

High School: History Subject

I was given an exam. The first part was enumeration. I have to write down names of Filipino Heroes. There was a question: Who was the Filipino hero who killed Magellan? I was tempted to answer Lapu Lapu because that was written in the history book that we were asked to memorize. I didn’t answer Lapu Lapu. Why? Because I believe he was not a Filipino in the first place. There was no national identity back then only tribal identity.

This is just my opinion and I may be wrong. What bothers me is not just that we are expected to memorize what is written in our textbooks but that we are also expected to believe on what’s written as if it is the ultimate truth. We are given a failing grade for not "learning" what is "taught."

Fellow toastmasters and guest, I’m sure you can relate on what I am saying: that one time or another, we are expected to memorize and believe what our teachers and textbooks say. We are taught to believe that what’s written in our textbooks are ultimate truths and that memorizing these texts will make us succeed later in life.

This is misleading because wrong measures lead to wrong results. We cheat ourselves when we think that memorizing the multiplication table will make us a better mathematician. We also cheat ourselves when we think that what is written in our textbooks is true and unbiased. We cheat ourselves more when believe and practice these things so earnestly.

So here’s my recommendation regarding this matter: STOP CHEATING YOURSELF. Instead of memorizing things, asking ourselves easy questions such as what, when and where, let us ask ourselves how and why. These are more important questions of learning wherein we are tasked to understand, be critical and have our own independent thoughts.

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