Answering Comprehension Questions

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    William C. Michael

    Comprehension questions are not given to merely check whether a student can come up with “the right answer”.  They are an important part of a method of studying for mastery, which allows me to communicate and work through difficult studies with my students.  Students must always remember that I am working with many students and, therefore, each individual student must complete assignments in a way that helps me to help him as much as possible.  Good manners lead to a certain method of completing comprehension questions.

    To complete a comprehension question assignment, all answers must meet two criteria:

    1.  Answers must be correct and proven.

    In modern schools, students have very  bad intellectual habits, which come from moral problems.  Most of them are motivated only by hope for monetary rewards because they are eager to buy stuff and indulge their desires.  They really don’t care about “truth” or “wisdom” and aren’t afraid of having their minds filled with errors.  So long as they can obtain their temporal desires, they are content.  Such students see assignments as activities that “need to get done”.  These students submit work that aims at the minimum requirements to get past the teacher, who is often just as careless as the students, working for a paycheck. Students often start answering questions before they’ve read the assigned texts, haven’t taken any notes, haven’t thought through the lesson, and so on.  They write answers and submit them waiting  to see if it’s “good enough”–even if they have no real idea what they’ve written.  Teachers look at student work to see if they’ve “made an effort” and usually give them a grade based on whether they think they’ve “done enough” to earn credit for the assignment.

    In the CLAA, students need to forget about trying any of that.

    It is assumed that CLAA students are Christian students working with true goals in mind:  to gain true wisdom needed to live a good  life, to know what is true and to reject whatever is false.  It is the student’s responsibility to study as directed in the lessons and, when asked a question, not only provide the correct answer, but prove that it is so.  Every answer submitted on a comprehension question assignment must be a proven and correct answer.  Anything less than that will be marked off as unacceptable.

    For example, if you’re reading Aristotle’s Prior Analytics, and are asked, “What is a proposition?“, you should know that a Google search is not going to work.  First, you’re probably not going to get the right answer.  You’re being asked, as one studying Aristotle in the CLAA, what a “proposition” is, and I know what Aristotle says. Don’t waste your time trying to cheat because you’re going to get caught.  Second, not only is it your job to give an answer, but also to prove that it’s right.  Therefore, you’re going to have to show me where your answer came from or I’m making it off as unacceptable.  The correct answer would be, “In Aristotle’s Prior Analytics, a proposition is defined as “a sentence affirming or denying something of something”.

    Your answers should be correct–and proven correct.

    2.  Answers must be complete and proper.

    In modern schools, it’s assumed that, were it not for their school work, most students would not be reading or studying at all, so anything that they do is thought to be “better than nothing”.  Well, in the CLAA, that’s not assumed–and it  had better not be true of CLAA students!  Not only are CLAA students required to study for the right reasons, but they are also required to practice good manners, which are all summarized by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them to unto you.

    Your teacher must review thousands of answers to comprehension questions from hundreds of students in dozens of different subjects.  You must submit answers that take that reality into account.

    First, anything written must be written with proper Grammar, using complete sentences.  Nothing should be assumed in writing and pronouns should only be used after the nouns have been written.  For example, if asked, “Where is Rome?“, the answer should not be, “It’s in Italy.“, but “Rome is in Italy.”  Every answer should be clear and complete.  After all, you’re studying Grammar, aren’t you?  Prove it any time you write anything,

    Second, whenever you answer a comprehension question, you should make sure that the question is made known in your answer.  The reason for this is that the faster I can review your assignments, the faster I can get them back to you.  If asked, “How many parts of speech are there in Latin?“, a proper written answer would be, “In Latin, there are eight parts of speech.“, not, “Eight”  In so answering, a student shows that he is aware that he is one of many students, and that there are many questions being asked and answered.

    Your answers should be complete–and proper.

    In many assignments, reflection questions are asked, which require a student to apply his lesson to his own life and other studies.  A score of 3/3 will never be given to students who do not answer reflection questions thoughtfully and completely.


    These standards are not meant to make studies more difficult, but to prevent students from being able to cheat themselves out of a good Christian education.  As a teacher, I’m responsible to help my students achieve the goals stated in our program, which their parents hope for them to achieve.  I am confident that Christian students are capable of achieving amazing things and usually just need to be challenged to work for the glory of God rather than for minimum worldly requirements.

    I also remember to practice the Golden Rule when I am reviewing student work, knowing that students have lots of work to do and that sometimes the amount of time needed to fix and re-submit an assignment is not worth it for the student.  Helping students in that way is my business, though.  Students are responsible to complete comprehension questions with answers that are (1) Correct and Proven, and (2) Complete and Proper.  When they do so, they will not only complete assignments and progress through courses more effficiently, but also grow intellectually and achieve the true end of their studies.

    William C. Michael
    Classical Liberal Arts Academy

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