Re: authenticity

Nick Carbone (nickc@MARLBORO.EDU)
Fri, 23 Aug 1996 16:56:30 -0400

Beth, Phyllis, and Darlene

I only know as much about the study as you all do from the snippet. That
summary is the whole article from the magazine. So (Darlene's semed
especially good ones) I appreciate your questions about the methodologies
and assumptions, including the one about career choices. A family can't
be properly started without some passion, nor maintained very long
without devotion and compassion. The same with teaching of course. I
think it was also important that valedictorians are cited as
'well-rounded and professionally happy'; so that whatever definitions and
terms and preferences the researcher has, the peopel involved made
choices they can live with.

The gist of the study sounds like it is that these people excelled at
following rules, doing what is required to do well, to get A's. However,
the judgment implied from the summary is that though they do that well,
they don't seem to be engaged in what they do beyond what it takes to get
those grades. Given the small sample (obviously would have benefited
from wider sampling), and the fact that the researcher 'followed' them
for all these years, I suspect that the methodology will claim to be more
qualitative than quantitative.

But all that aside for now, the gist as stated above seems to gibe with
observations made here that students learn what it takes to get an A,
learn how to play by the rules that grades invariably represent. To me,
a general trend in the discussion has been that getting students to write
for 'real' reasons, reasons that have to do with personal motivation and
not grades as motivation, because they really care about what they think
and what they want to say and to whom they are saying it, is hard to do.

In that sense a lot of what we do when we are forced to grade, as many
have described what they must do at semester's end because the
institution demands it, is find ways to grade that are not based on fixed
rules--counting grammar errors, etc.. We try to move students away from
grades as motivation, as forms of coercion, an act many have said is hard
to do because students, and the valedictorian, in most general cultural
cliche is an icon of this, want to know what they have to do to get an A.

To the extent that reading of what's been said on the list of late is
correct, and assuming the sumary of the study is accurate and that the
study itself has some validity (though I wouldn't assume reliability),
the findings seem to confirm our prejudices about the difference between
students who write for a grade and those who write for ''real' reasons.

Since our classes are not measurements of students in careers, but
represent academic settings, the idea that students who come into them
having had good grades is likely to show an abibity to work hard and like
learning more than it will indicate the passion and involvement we
ascribed to 'real' writing seems a safe conclusion.

Though I do gotta say, I'm more usually wrong than right where matters of
logic and deduction are concerned. It's why I keep barbecue sauce on my

Nick Carbone, Writing Instructor
Marlboro College
Marlboro, VT 05344