YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Bennett's Report Card

September 17, 1986

As a 17-year-old, and having just completed two junior years, I was very interested in Bennett's and Garfield's opinions.

My first year as a junior was as an American Field Service foreign exchange student in Australia. I was very impressed by their grading system and the manner in which exams and classes were conducted. Upon returning to the United States, I was appalled by the school system and the even rudimentary level of "honors" classes at my U.S. high school.

Instead of having the only five grading levels as they do here (A, B, C, D, Fail), my Australian school separated all of the students on a scale from 0 to 100. This enabled the colleges to easily determine acceptance from the applicants. Here, a second and third criteria (scholastic and aptitude tests) are needed.

In my Australian classes, the teacher would lecture and answer questions most of the period, and at home we would study from our notes and texts, even if nothing was assigned. Here I found that most students feel that doing assigned homework is enough studying.

Most of my Australian homework was writing essays. Although I wrote only about two or three a week, it's incomparable to the seven I wrote in an entire semester here.

Instead of every exam being multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank, as they are here, my exams in Australia consisted of writing up to three essays in each two-hour sitting. In two of my "honors" classes I took here, Contemporary Composition and U.S. History, we didn't even take final exams!

Indeed, part of the problem here is uncaring and lenient teachers, but I put more of the blame on rich, apathetic teen-agers. Compared to Australians, the average American is seemingly a millionaire. Both Bennett and Garfield are trying to inspire students to expand their horizons. In the words of a 16-year-old friend who decided against being an exchange student--"Why should I leave my new car, credit card, my life, for a year?"

How can anyone be inspired to study and expand his horizons when he has all the money and easy A's he wants?



Los Angeles Times Articles