Friday, May 09, 2008

Grading Papers

So here is why you don't want to let students know that you're an atheist --

Which, unlike feminism, is not something I generally bring up. My feminism and the fact that I'm a liberal, those I make a point of getting on deck. Early on in the class each semester, I'll say something like, "Well, I'm a big old liberal, as you might have noticed," and "Given that I'm a giant feminist, this sort of deal gets on my last nerve."

But the atheism I only bring up when they ask, which, as this is Bible central, they tend to. Mr. Jesus keeps coming up in class, and How This Story Makes me Think of What Jesus Tells us, and all that, and eventually someone will say, well, what do you think, dr. delagar?

At which time I will usually tell them something about zen belief systems or Coyote or what Rabbi Hillel might say, and their eyes will go round and wrinkles will appear between them. (This is except for the other students, whose eyes have gone bright and are thinking, yo, cool.)

Then someone will say, "Excuse me? dr. delagar? What do you believe in?"

"Me?" I'll say. "I'm an atheist."

Because I'm not in the business of lying to students.

OTOH, I follow up with: "The writer here, though, she seems to be --" or "Chaucer, though, given that this is the 14th century--"

Well, here's the problem with this practice, combined with how I do live in Pork Smith, deep in the heart of Bible central: once my Rockin With Jesus students know I'm an atheist, they know that the Lord wants them to save me.

So they write their papers as missions: saving delagar's soul!

I got three of those this semester, all of them wretched.

It's as if they suspect that I'm an accidental atheist. If I only knew what they knew about Mr. Jesus, see, or the real truth about evil-lution, why then! They write me arguments for God, witnessing documents, tales about how they prayed for a sunny day before a softball game and LO! Sun came! (S-o-n, gittit?) They tell me that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics, and every scientist knows this! So Darwin was Wrong! How can I not be moved!

What am I to do with these papers? Give an F to Jesus?

Fail these tools, and they believe what their preachers and daddies have been telling them, that them liberal professors hate the Religious Right: pass them, and I am passing stupid work.

They make me ill, these papers.

On the plus side, the kid's standardize test scores came back yesterday, and she broke the test. Scored post-high school reading and on the 11th grade level in science; nearly that high in math. What a little whiz-bang. Guess we'll keep her. (We were going to sell her on e-bay, to buy gas with this summer.)


zelda1 said...

So, I thought that I was the only person that her students were trying to convert. One of female students said to me after she took her final, "Ms Zelda, I'm gonna be praying for you." I smiled and thought, "Yeah, you better be praying for your grade." And, she didn't surprise me with a rapid desire to study. In fact, her test result made an all time low for even her. said...

From a student this semester:

"I supported my arguments as to why, for me, and it never seems to be good enough when the bible is the source, (there doesn't have to be another source when it's THE source and authority for me)."

In a ten page paper, she cited the Bible once, and that was her only source in a paper that condemned two entire cultures of people to hell and wrote eight of those pages as to how people can attain salvation.

The assignment: Write a compare and contrast paper on two works of art.

I gave her a low C. Because nope, can't fucking fail them but sure as hell can't bring myself to give a better grade than that. It deserved to fail, absolutely, but then I get accused (to my dept) that I failed them over religious beliefs.

She still bitched that I graded her harshly because of my own beliefs...which she DOESN'T know. I reminded her that a C = average and no, it wasn't over a difference in beliefs, but keeping on task and supporting your arguments!


The Other Liberal Professor said...

I don't understand why you can't fail them.

They didn't do what you asked them to do=F.

Why, in the Humanities, do we want to grade # of pages turned in, instead of what is actually on them? Isn't part of the student's responsibility learning to follow instructions?

If the student appeals the grade, so what? You are right. You will be supported. Passing that kind of crap only perpetuates it.

Soapbox time for me. Sorry.

zelda1 said...

TOLP is right on. I agree. If they don't follow the assignment, they fail that assignment. So, I am getting emails from my students, is the grade posted on ISIS my final grade. Duh, which way'd they go. Oh and why did I make an F....well, could be cause you only came to class on exam day you bint and turned in crap assignments and did you read the bit in the policy and procedures that I count off a third of a letter grade for missing class and you can't make up quizzes which count ten percent and how in the fuck can you get participation grades if you are never, never in class? Okay, as I am wiping spittle off my face from screaming as loud as I can while I write this, and I smoothe my gown down and regain composure. Good soap box.

Mouse said...

I do fail them for not following the assignment.

but you know, I didn't have one God argument this semester.

Anonymous said...

Sad you want to flunk students because they don't have the same convictions as you do. Be it no belief, Zen, Jewish. Zeeze...
What if they had the power to have you fired for your beliefs.

Mouse said...

We don't fail them because of their beliefs. I fail them because they do not meet the requirements of the paper asssignment: A "you should believe in God" paper is not an argumentative synthesis on Genetically Modified Foods, you see; a "You should believe in God paper" is not a character analysis of Adam or Eve.

Sugared Harpy said...

You are right. OF COURSE they should fail.

But I am an adjunct and as of today, at two different schools, it's Failed Students, 4; Adjunct, 0.

I have even had a student wander into the department office THREE WEEKS after the end of the semester asking, "Um, I never took a final in my art history class. Did they do one?" Yes, you asshat, there was a final exam.

My dean MADE me administer him an make up exam. I had just failed him already. Despite clear arguments, I had to give it to him.

The other three times I've failed a student for shoddy paper work and they've appealed the grade? Not supported.

Sadly, this single mother needs work too. It's not okay, it's not right, but it just is.

It also doesn't mean I don't fail people, I DO. But it had better be soooooo clear that there is no way to dispute it. Because I will not be supported. Neither will my adjunct colleagues at either school I currently work for, or at least their track record is as awesome as mine.

Is it the way I want things, HELL NO. I clap at your soapbox.

And, yes, what mouse said.

delagar said...

Also, the papers I m speaking of, even when they fit the assignment, as they often do, have made no effort to construct a good argument or search out credible supporting evidence. What evidence they present (and usually they present none, relying on the simple fiat of their own opinion and God Says So), is either what they've heard around (all those professors know evil-ution is wrong, they're just pretending) or what they're making up in their own heads (dogs and coyotes look alike for the same reason trucks and Hummers look alike, 'cause the same guy designed'em! <-- and yes, that's an argument I got in an actual student paper).

Given that the assignment for these papers is to write a argument synthesis with credible sources that will work to persuade your audience, should I not fail a student who supplies me with shoddy, sloppy arguments and no credible sources (or no sources at all)?

And when I do then fail that student, will that student, to his dying day, believe that I have failed him because he believes in Jesus?

Or, as Anon puts it, for his beliefs?

And then all over the right side of the Sphere we have to hear about those Leftists and how they hate God -- when actually, of course, what we hate is willful stupidity.

BlackenedBoy said...

Maybe you should make a point to say early on the semester that you've received papers from students before attempting to convert you and that any religious theme, unless it pertains directly to the assignment in question, would be inappropriate.

Congratulations on your daughter, by the way.

How old is she?

BlackenedBoy said...

I for one do believe in God, but find that making any argument attempting to prove His existence would be extremely difficult.
In that, at least, the students are at an inborn disadvantage, given the central role of faith in Christianity.
However, there have been a number of documented miracles that defy scientific explanation, and I think that a combination of personal conviction and judicious citing of these events could make for a strong case.
Certain elements of science itself could be used; in my mind, the theory of evolution is one of the greatest indicators that there is a God, seeing as how perfectly natural selection has served to protect and sustain life on Earth.
The genius of DNA, the unique circumstances that have made our planet habitable, and a number of other things have served only to strengthen, not weaken, my faith.

delagar said...

The kid is 10.

Also, to be clear, I wouldn't mind a paper arguing in support of religious faith that had excellent arguments and was supported with credible sources. That paper could be written, and I would give it an A. The reason I give these students low grades -- Ds, Fs -- is not their subject matter, but their shoddy work.

It's as if (now where would they have gotten this idea?) they believe that because they're arguing for Christ, they don't actually have to do anything of the real work involved: make the arguments, do the research: the reader should just take their word for it. God says it, it must be so.