Phil Ford

Oh god, it’s grading time. My least favorite time of the year. I suspect that some people got into the education biz expressly in order to evaluate people and rank them by their abilities, but this has never been the payoff for me. It’s in grading year-end papers and exams that I am brought face-to-face with my shortcomings as a teacher — I encounter, in my students’ final work, the sloth and ignorance I failed to dispel. Although, it must also be said, there are also unexpected delights — the student who worked like a galley slave to come out on top after a trying semester, the student who discovered a new enthusiasm through your class, the student whose final paper is the crowning triumph of their brilliant academic performance. So it’s not all bad. Still, term-end projects more often than not have an air of desperation, or at least doggedness, that midterm projects do not. It’s just the way things are.

Terminal Degree has posted a few choice excerpts from a colleague’s end-of-term stack, which make me feel both better, insofar as I haven’t had to read anything so bad for a long time, and worse, insofar as these are college students, FFS, and are presumably typical of some portion of the American collegiate student body today. Most of the papers appear to deal with the topic of gay marriage, which is apparently not popular in the unnamed Southern college where Terminal works:

“Gay marriage was legalized in the State of San Francisco.”

“Traditional marriage is better…well hell yea it is more stable; how
messed up do you think a kid is going to be when they think that two
guys are really their birth parents. For instance how is a young boy
supposed to grow into a man; when both of his parents are men, and one
of them is a little bitch for the other one to pound on whenever he
gets the urge.”

“Fagots claim that it is not their fault they are queer, but every person has the knowledge of write vs. wrong.”

“The only thing that can save them from going to hell is to change their lifestyle, get saved by God, and confuse their sins.”

“No one should feel comfortable being interment with the same sex. A
child raised by same sex parents wont make since.” (“I think he meant
intimate,” adds Terminal.)

Jesus wept. And of course, while we’re busily evaluating our students, in the last weeks of class they return the favor. Ah yes, student evaluations. Are they a blessing or a curse? You can usually get a good argument going on this question. I suppose my feeling is that they’re only as good as the students filling them out, and the problem is that the university administrators who read them and judge your fitness as a teacher have no way of telling the difference. Course evals are anonymous, after all. I would dread to have those troglodytes I quoted sitting in judgment over me, but then again, course evals have dealt me some hard truths over the years.

One friend of mine at another institution once got the funniest comment I’ve ever seen. “I feel that Music History 101* should be able to change the way you view music
and western civilization and religion, and although that happened a
bit, I felt that it could happen much more.”

*Course title changed to protect the innocent.

About Phil Ford

Chairman of the Committee for the Memorial to the Victims of Modernism
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5 Responses to Grading

  1. Jonathan says:

    Our School of Music has over 500 majors, and was at perhaps 450 when I came here in 1993–94. My all-time favorite student comment, from my second semester here, was offered by a student in an Intro-for-non-majors course, the ONE time I was asked to teach it:
    “If he thinks he’s so great, he should get a job in a school for music.”

  2. Phil Ford says:

    Please don’t use this blog to flog products (videos, etc.) that are irrelevant or marginally relevant to the topic. Even if we like your product, it’s still spam, and it’s obnoxious.
    Love and kisses,
    The Management

  3. Heather says:

    “It’s in grading year-end papers and exams that I am brought face-to-face with my shortcomings as a teacher”
    Oh, ain’t it the TRUTH? In recent years the thing that has stymied me most is the gap between students’ thinking/speaking/discussion skills and their written work. The school delegates “teaching writing” to writing instructors in frosh/soph courses, but students don’t always seem to regard those skill as transferable across their classes, EVEN MUSIC CLASSES.
    Yes, even a music history paper needs topic sentences. And subject-verb agreement. And prepositions-object agreement. And a beginning, middle, and end.

  4. Heather says:

    …and don’t get me started on use of secondary sources:
    Ignoring them.
    Plagiarizing from them.
    Adorning the first and last paragraphs with undigested quotes from them.
    Making up citations for them. (Last spring I had a student who attributed some information to the Grove article that wasn’t there. I asked her about it and she said, “Well, I found the information on Wikipedia, but you told us not to cite that, so I cited the Grove article instead.”)

  5. Jeffrey Quick says:

    We once had an old prof come down to the library to check a passage from a paper that ready to him suspiciously like the Chopin article in Grove 5. Lo, he found that the Grove 5 Chopin article had been TORN OUT by somebody, probably that student. The irony is that our Grove 5 set is circulating. I’m just glad it wasn’t NG2…though such a miscreant would have used the online version as easier to cut and paste from.

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