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A question, Jerome. Is the ability to write (and/or argue) a persuasive and well-organized argument emphasized in the process? I think it is, judging from your writings.

Our (Japanese) education is somewhat similar in elitism, but emphasizes less on the development of thought, as opposed to writing a flawless conclusion, which must reflect the professor's preference. Math is also emphasized here as a college entrance requirement, but exams have been developed as an art of smelling, speculating and solving the intent of those who drafted questions, not as a tool of logical thinking. So are literature exams.

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 09:01:40 PM EST
I don't know. Doing my PhD definitely helped complement my training (to oversimplify, I went from "solve this equation by tomorrow" to "write 400 pages for the day 3 years from today"). I was also lucky that I had good teachers in high school that gave us good methods (including to care about explaining what we were doing properly) - and that I had the luxury of having the time (because I wasn't overwhelemed by the pure math content) to actually listen to them.

You can make it in the GE without really knowing how to write properly. They do try to train you some, but given all the focus that's been given to maths, (i) some people simply don't care to and (ii) people don't need to and don't bother to.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 03:07:33 AM EST
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I believe that our system is more articulated along the lines of critical thought. You can say what you want, even if it outrages the teacher, as long as it is well-argumented.

A lot of people here believe that you have to flatter the teacher, but I know this one person, brilliant, who was so bored with his philosophy topic at the Baccalaureate that he wrote an Alexandrine poem (that adressed the topic). He got a 20/20, which is a normally impossible note to get in a literary topic (just out of principle they never give you a perfect grade).

I was also friends with this other person, this time in Classes Préparatoires, who at a written exam on "Human Nature" quoted a few lines from a rock group's most popular song and developed the main part of his paper around it. Now most people, all year along, had been focusing on learning classical quotes, ie. quoting the Greeks, quoting Descartes etc ... I gather the teachers were so tired of seeing the same quotes in everybody's texts, every year, that they gave my friend an excellent grade.

So originality is perfectly alright, and not going the teacher's ways is ok too ... in fact it's rather encouraged.

by Alex in Toulouse on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 03:27:07 AM EST
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I got 10/10 in my philosophy paper in the university entrance examination, so it can be done, even if the grader does not know you.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 04:00:41 AM EST
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Well I'm not familiar with the Spanish system, but here in France it's kind of rare (I think, will Jérome or Agnès or others agree?). It has something to do with France liking to punish its children.

My pickup is now 10 minutes late. What is the police doing?

by Alex in Toulouse on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 04:07:21 AM EST
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I'd told that, especially in philosophy, that is an extremela rare ocurrance. But I also refused to accept the conventional wisdom that in humanities exams the more you write, the better. I used to write my answers short and to the point, and was done in about 2/3 pages when some of my classmates would write up to 10 in school exams. It sort of helps when the university access exam allows a maximum of 4 pages.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 05:43:02 AM EST
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Yup, when I chatted with my poli sci professor about grading, he said the essence of grading was to sniff out the best. The best ones, he said, were those which he can read "diagonally" (which in Japanese means from the top-right to the down-left) without bothering to read the entire stuff vertically.

I will become a patissier, God willing.
by tuasfait on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 08:22:38 AM EST
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I'd say French high schools gives you a good opportunity to develop argumentation and writing skills. Lots of essay and commentary writing in literature, foreign languages, history, geography philosophy, etc. Professors are also fairly sensitive to critical thinking and many would grade a somewhat lacunar but well-structured argument higher than a rote-perfect recitation of the lesson. Evaluation for math and sciences are also mostly based on problem solving, which gives a good grounding in structured argumentation.

And as a jab to SAT-style evaluation, multiple-choice questionnaires were a no-no for student evaluation in my time. Dunno what's going on now, though.
by Francois in Paris on Sun Mar 26th, 2006 at 11:32:47 AM EST
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