Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dr. K's Guide to Pedagogy

As pedagogical strategies for teachers evolve over time, practices that were once considered standard now seem quaint and antiquated when compared to those of today. Teachers of today, however, would be well advised to revisit those old practices to determine whether or not some value could still be drawn from them. After all, they were considered effective at one time.

Here's a case in point, from the story "Insect Queen of Smallville," by Otto Binder and George Papp. This is the first story in which Superboy's girlfriend, Lana Lang, gains the ability to use temporarily the powers of various insects--an ability which would also allow her to become the teen heroine known as "Insect Queen."

In the story, Lana has written for her high school English class a comparative study of the influence of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover on the works of Henry Miller. While the topic itself was rather obvious, and the paper highly derivative of the large body of scholarship already available on this topic, the teacher chose instead to focus on the lower-order concern of spelling--specifically the spelling of the word "ecstasy."

Granted, such a word would have occurred repeatedly in Lana's paper on this particular subject, and she should have seen the word enough in her primary sources so that she should have been able to recognize its proper spelling. The measures the teacher takes in order to motivate Lana to correct her spelling error, however, seem a bit extreme by today's standards.

Such a pedagogical strategy would seem excessively punitive and out of balance with the significance of the error, no matter how important the word "ecstasy" is to the teacher. The goal, it would seem, is to engrain the correct spelling of the word in the student's memory through repetition.

However, when dealing with a student who can transform into an insect at will, that educational benefit is reduced signficantly.

Rarely, these days, is such punishment used to instruct something as simple as the spelling of a single word, and the time invested in this particular strategy might have been better put to use in, say, encouraging Lana to come up with more original paper topics.

Unless, of course, the teacher had some other motive in mind for this "after-school" work.

It should be noted that, today, any male teacher who would make a female student stay late after school in order to write the word "ecstasy" over and over could expect to wake up the next morning to find Nancy Grace camped out on his lawn.

"The Insect Queen of Smallville" reprinted in Superman Family 167 (1974)--a 100-Page Super-Spectacular!

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