|The Pedagogical Hall of Shame
||[Apr. 26th, 2011|03:35 pm]
It's that time of year again. Behind friends-locks, graduate student blogs are brimming over with a year's harvest of bloopers from over-caffinated, under-slept students. You can find all the old favourites: Charlemange, Martin Luther and the Prostates, various people who "serviced" other people, and several ideas that would make interesting alternative history novels. (Did you know that Lester B. Pearson was a president of the United States?)
Since the poor undergraduates are taking it on the chin this month, I thought I would post something a little different: amusing medieval history questions. I have a bad procrastinatory habit of hanging around on Yahoo Answers, showing wannabe authors where to find information about the Middle Ages. By the looks of it, the average age of users there is about 16. On a daily basis, various slackers post questions that obviously came from a teacher or a textbook, in the hopes that someone else will do their homework for them. Some of those questions are truly pitiful. You want to know why your students are so confused? Let me show you.
Why is the Magna Carta acknowledged by historians as the beginning of representative government in Europe?
In what ways was a medieval manor economically and militarily self-sufficient?
Which type of law dates back to medieval England?
A) constitutional law
B) statute law
C) common law
D) administrative law
Is feudalism centralized government or decentralized?
How did the decay of feudalism contribute to the rise of national monarchies?
Some teachers seem to regard history as a kind of semiotics. Concrete things must not be studied for themselves, but rather as symbols. Nothing is a thing. Everything is a signifier for one single abstract idea. The resulting questions are so vague that the only good short answer is a snarky one.
What was the significance of the cathedral in medieval society?
What is the importance of medieval weapons?
What was the purpose of art in the Middle Ages?
And then there are the folks who don't quite seem to grasp that the European Middle Ages encompassed a very diverse collection of people covering an entire continent for roughly a thousand years. What are students supposed to do with questions like these?
What was the role of women in the Middle Ages?
What were the five forces of change in the Middle Ages?
How did attitudes towards the body change from the Greeks through the Middle Ages to the Renaissance?
At this rate, in a few years I'll have enough questions to write my own version of Non Campus Mentis.
I hope I'm not guilty of this kind of thing... Maybe I am???
I usually think that open ended questions with a multitude of possible answers give students the opportunity to show off what they know.
That said, I wanted to come up with snark answers to the questions.
What is a cathedral good for?
I think the open-ended questions would be okay as essay questions. Some teachers seem to be looking for short, simple answers to them, however. Then the students get confused because the "right" answer varies wildly depending on who you ask.