Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dysfunctional Eraser Syndrome.

At practicum, I do these assessments which often require us to give the child a pencil without an eraser. The instructions go something like "you'll be using a pencil without an eraser, so if you make a mistake, just cross it out and put the correction beside it." The idea is that we want to be able to see their thought process if they do end up changing their mind about an answer or step in a problem. It's fascinating to me, however, that the kids completely ignore that sentence in our instructions. No matter how worn down the eraser is (and trust me, they're nearly -- if not completely -- flat, because that's the point!), the child will try to erase anyway. Usually it's not very effective, but something about that ability to make even part of the incorrect answer go away is enticing to them.

This may be reaching a bit, but I started thinking about this and came up with the idea that it is sort of an allegory to our need to cover up our mistakes. People tend to be embarrassed by things they do wrong, and would much rather obliterate all evidence than have to face what they did each time (especially if they, in the end, were able to correct it!). When given a choice between crossing things out and erasing, most people choose erasing (admittedly, this is also because it looks neater). So, do kids pick this up from us early on? Is that was the erasing as much as humanly possible with these sad, meant-to-be eraser-less pencils is all about? Or is it just one of those childhood quirks that I find so great? Well, either way, it's entertaining...

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