Re: grading ourselves to death

Bob King (
Fri, 6 Sep 1996 12:50:24 -0400

On Thu, 5 Sep 1996, Eric Crump wrote:

> *something* different--otherwise all my ranting is for nought & I'm
> worse than a failure. Complying with convention is the only avenue that
> isn't available. That road is closed.

Yes to this, and to the idea you express later about the "open road"
looking a lot like paradox! It does, I think. One of Gayatri Spivak's
metaphors is "within and against." One of Linda Singer's is "the
bandita." Both have to do with taking the paradoxes of trying to do
significant work within institutions as opportunities rather than as
problems. And I think you're exactly right that the only way we can be
prevented from doing this is if we paradoxically convince ourselves
there's nothing we can do. A _great_ book on using paradox is Paul
Watzlawick's _Change_. It's almost as if it's not conventions we need to
break out of, but conventional ways of thinking about and framing things.

The bandita might say, "okay, so you think grades are important, great!
that's something we agree on, so my class this semester will be talking
about grades, we'll "give grading a grade," and we'll send you our report
card." This uses paradox and reflexivity to effect change in the master's
house, rather than seeing paradox as a place to become self-policing,
"trembling worker bees," as you wrote. . .


> I like your estimation of what students may need to get from writing
> education:
> > bet that students will need to be effective information processors,
> > manage large volumes of inforamation and find what they need quickly.
> > I'll bet they will still need strong communications skills, collaborative
> > work experience, and the ability to consciously transfer effective writing
> > practices from one context to another.
> ...but I don't think most writing curricula (er, my *impression* of most
> writing curricula) contribute too damn much to any of those skills.
> College, in general, doesn't. Those are characteristics you'll find in
> folks who happened to develop interest in reading and writing early on and
> manage to nurture that flame of interest in spite of all the buckets of
> cold water dumped on it by the education system. Then when they get into
> the workworld, their interests and skills adapt to new situations and they
> thrive.
> --Eric Crump