Re: Grading, Plagiarism, Webbed Writing and ...

Steve Finley (Finley@TTDCE1.COED.TTU.EDU)
Mon, 12 Aug 1996 15:34:41 +0000

>From Beth Baldwin:

"I would also say, though, that those kid students are remarkably like
adult students (say grad students, for example) who operate from a similar
array of motives."

Yeah, exactly. I didn't make it clear that I was comparing kids to
young students, but rather to ALL students. I think the fact that
the dynamics of the teacher-student situation might contribute to
students' acting like children in many ways (even with 28-year-old grad
students) may explain all the well-intentioned but often
incompletely-worked-out attempts to come up with another way of
looking at the teacher-student relationship--like, for instance, the
teacher-knows-and-student-doesn't presumption, which, despite
screaming protests to the contrary, is largely true in many, perhaps
even mos,t subjects. That doesn't mean we don't want students to
discover things on their own, but the fact that we DO want them to do
that doesn't necessarily mean that we've Subverted the Dominant
Paradigm, yak yak, by showing how oppressive it is to think of the teacher
as knowing more than the student, blah, blah. This strikes me as yet
another way in which students are a little like kids: They really do like
some structure--not overly much, but some--and they want to know that
you're in control of things and can handle things (in the classroom, that
you know what you're doing). It seems to me that those who are at the
extreme anti-control end often seem to be saying that any control or
advice or conveying of previously established information is somehow
oppressive and limiting. It's obviously true that any of those things can
be DONE in oppressive and limiting ways, but hell, anything can be done

Sorry to sound so patronizing to students, and no, I didn't teach English
with a riding crop in Nazi Germany. It's just pretty clear to me
that we need to find the balance point between students working
things out for themselves and teachers who let them know what's going
on, things they couldn't know on their own, etc.

And fro (the otherwise intelligent and interesting) Eric Crump:

" I think we ought to appreciate students who thwart [the
monolithic authority of the school, etc.] cleverly,
creatively, and even productively."

Gack. Power to the people. You know, if it weren't for The Man,
man. . .

And from Marcy Bauman:

"The cynical me thinks that there's no way to construct situations
that can't be turned into games."

Or maybe it's just that we academic types are so good at changing
filters that we can choose to LOOK at any situation as if it's only a
game--being reductionist, in other words, or afraid that the truth is
that it's "only" a whatever."

Marcy's example of the "game" seemed kind of innocuous to me, anyway:

"I remember once in high school being asked to write a book
report on the historical implications of _All the KIng's Men_ -- and
writing a book clearly and distinctly about Warren's writing style, in
the style of the book itself. My "cleverness" prompted the teacher to
overlook the fact that I hadn't really completed the assignment because I
didn't _ever_ mention any historical implications, in which I had not the
slightest interest. But it was a _History_ class."

Makes me wonder if this is the kind of thing Eric means by
overthrowing the oppressively monolithic. Even if there were something
to be gained, in a history class, that is, from doing an assignment
on the historical implications of an assigned reading (and, likewise,
to be missed if the assignment weren't completed at least
approximately in that way). Damned fascist machine.

But anyway, is it really true that every attempt, or most attempts, at
creativity, brilliance, cleverness, etc., is/are met with the crushing blow of
the oppressor, or "mistrust and cynicism," or whatever? Some of this
strikes me as overblowing the problem. I haven't seen many cases of
true brilliance, going beyond the mediocre, etc., that are met with
disapproval. Perhaps, though, we should distinguish between mere
cleverness and true creativity or brilliance: that is, it seems to
me that there's a big difference between someone who does the
assignment and then some, and does it in a creative way that surpasses
expectations, versus someone who uses his intelligence to reduce his
workload and his responsibility to both the class and the instructor,
standing back proudly to admire his work. This latter type, the kind
whose genius seems to be limited to figuring out ways in which they
don't have to do the kinds of things other people have to do, really
drive me crazy, and I think generally are worthy of more contempt than

Anyway, it doesn't seem to me that an intelligent student who does
the assigned readings, is interested (or finds a way to become
interested) in the material, and does the assignments and tests in
good faith--that is, uses her intelligence to do at least as much and
as well as what's been assigned, tested, etc., rather than to find
ways to weasel around with the "system"--has anything to
fear in the classrooms of virtually any of the teachers I've ever
known. And I'm afraid that the cool-cynical approach in which we
deliberately point out to students that the whole thing is a game,
etc., is unnecessary, limiting, reductionist, and defeating, and may
be based on an overdramatization of just how oppressively
authoritarian and narrowminded teachers and the "system" generally

s. finley