I suppose there could be some kind of sick twisted joy in handing out grades, but I don't enjoy it at all. But it's part of what I do: I make people do things and then evaluate how they do them. I have some idea about what would be perfect in terms of the assignment, and then give them points based on their approximation of that perfection.
So listen up, class. For an essay, what I would like is an idea that is presented so smoothly and clearly that I can't even tell it has been presented, the obviousness and rightness of the idea as clear as epiphany. The following body paragraphs should build--gently, slowly--to a crescendo of weighted proof, the language and quoted text whirring in a smooth and effortless "Yes." I'm never pulled away from the sharp, quick, witty words by errant punctuation. There is no semi-colonitis here, no comma splices, no exclamation points at all. Not one. The format will be exactly what the Modern Language Association has decreed in their wisdom, the application of such seamless. The paper, white. The font, Times New Roman. The paper should almost float on air; it's perfection as godlike as paper can be.
I can't even do that.
Mostly what I get is the attempt to say something and back it up. I get that. I do it all the time.
So back at the ranch, we are cranking out those thesis statements and body paragraphs like there is no tomorrow. The students try to do everything I ask (my demands are more reasonable than what I listed above) and most can't quite do it. Then I give them their grades, and the emails commence. I've already received three--two students wanting A's, one student thanking me for her A (that was nice).
Students feel they've done what I've asked and I still haven't seen that they've done it. I have seen, and they haven't done it, and I had to grade them. And because of email, I am often asked to defend my grade.
Calgon! Take me away.
At Evergreen State College where both my sons have attended, there are no letter grades. Students receive up to the units of the class. If it's a 16 credit class, 16 credits means you've done all the work. And then you get the letter about yourself, telling you what you learned and how you learned it.
I used to think this was amazing and wonderful, until one year, a tired professor gave him--by careless accident--two other grade reports. When my son arrived home, I was able to read how this narrative evaluation process might be handled, and it's handled by cut and paste. My son had three unique lines about him, but the three evaluation reports were otherwise exactly the same.
Grades--even at their most vaulted--suck.
I give them an F.
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