Re: grades

Bob King (
Tue, 27 Aug 1996 09:40:49 -0400

On Tue, 27 Aug 1996, Dave Lewis wrote:
> Aaack! so, okay, like, I go to school for 11 1/2 years demonstrating my
> abilities by performance; then near the end of the 12th year, I take this 1
> or 2 day multiple choice test that determines the direction of the rest of
> my life? Tell me I'm mis-reading your thinking here! (I *am* troubled =8-)

Okay! I admit the idea of multiple proficiency exams has it's troubling,
even absurd, side. But isn't it even more troubling that I go to
school for 11 1/2 years and have my life framed in a binary way -- college
bound (good) and other (bad). We are so used to academic culture being a
social dominant and the single "gateway" to whatever might be left of a
good life (i.e., a living wage and time to see one's family and friends,
too) that it can be difficult to see past that, I think.

Academia is basically a monopoly culture, regardless of how its
grading/measurement/assessment/evaluation/feedback practices are
structured. Given it's a monopoly culture, a colonial sort of power,
it's important to soften the edges whenever possible, so I'm in favor of
"alternative assessment" or "no assessment." But I also think we need to
think about how to break up the monopoly that academic culture has.

Here's the bit I'm working on. I'm thinking about situations where
testing and the like are *not* experienced as awful. For example, I
imagine most of us are glad there are two driving tests in most states --
a driving proficiency test, and a written test where you actually have to
know cognitively that a double yellow line means don't pass. How harsh
can you get!

But nobody that I know of gets worked up about that kind of mean old
test, or the eye test either that goes along with. So I'm wondering if
there is a correlation between situations which are what I
would call generally meaningless (which I'll be so bold as to say means
most of high school and higher ed), and the perception that tests are
harsh and inhuman, and a correlation as well between situations
which are meaningful and the perception that tests are no big deal.

Two things on my table -- measurement and meaning. I'm

-- There are maybe some intesting overlaps between the two.

-- There may be confusion when the overlaps are not noticed, and a sense
of absurdity when they are noticed -- both of which may be
symptomatic of. . .

-- Vested interest on all of our parts in not taking seriously the
absurdity of education's dominance in our society, instead turning
this seriousness into cynicism or careerism.

-- Responsibility, as public employees, to work both towards humane
schools, and towards a greater array of viable alternatives to school.

Bob King