The people who wrote, supported, or promoted No Child Left Behind can all go piss up a rope.

No, seriously. The emphasis on testing, the arbitrary definitions of content mastery, and teaching to the test have made today’s students into some terrible writers. In our senseless pursuit of so-called mastery of a very narrow range of subjects, we have neglected to teach people how to use language.

I am currently in the thick of grading rough drafts for my lower-level course, all 53 of ’em. The students at my highly-selective liberal arts college write in such a way that might not have been acceptable when I was in high school. The very best writers do write well, but there isn’t a great deal of middle ground. Some choicer moments:

  • One student referenced the “Dali Llama.” I’ve been to Dalí’s house for cryin’ out loud, and I can’t say that I’ve seen that.
  • “Likely hood”
  • A student understood the directive “write a research paper” to mean “talk about why teachers should not sexually abuse children, liberally using opinions and colloquial language.”  Um, no.
  • Many students seem to not understand the difference between how one talks and how one should write an academic paper.
  • Still more think that a research paper is nothing but a string of long, direct quotes from articles.
  • No, some random website is not a peer-reviewed source. I don’t care if they use a few smart-person words. Not. Peer. Reviewed.
  • Subject-verb agreement, anyone?

I’m almost done, and I will care so much less for the final drafts. Then, my grading will be a matter of making sure they made the requisite changes suggested on the rough draft. Did it? Good, you get a boost. Didn’t? You lose at least 20% of your points. Easy peasy.

EDIT: The fact that there is a song called “Piss Up A Rope” restores my faith in humanity.

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