Hi there. If you're reading this, it's either because you know me or you spend way too much time hitting "I'm feeling lucky" on Google. Either way, welcome.

Illumination is a perpetual work in progress, so please pardon our dust. The intent of the place is to provide space where I can lay down my thoughts and observations about the world around me and the things I do. That means it could be filled with nearly anything, from silly accounts of my gaming antics to thoughtful political discussion and anything in-between.

Whatever it turns out to be, please have a look around. It's only a few minutes of your day and you might find something worth your time. If you see something you like, leave a comment and let me know.

Friday, November 5, 2010

GPA (on Applied Philosophy)

I really try to avoid using this as a rant space, but some bones need to be picked.

Try not to flinch, Haulman. That apple’s looking smaller and smaller from way over here.

“No work is perfect; it can always be improved upon,” is, as a guiding philosophy for an artist of any kind, an admirable approach. Provided it doesn’t become the pathological ‘no work is ever good enough’ version (sadly far too common), it can be a constructive boost to creativity as well as providing the impetus necessary to generate a truly honed final product.

That belief and the willingness it provides to polish an acceptably good work into a true gem can be a great strength to an artist who is willing to take the time needed to not just complete a work, but to refine it has generated some of history’s most memorable works.

I get that. I agree with it.

But the moment you try to apply that philosophy to a grade-book? That transcends the pathological form and dives straight into the foolish.

A philosophy can be taught, but trying to enforce one only demonstrates a self-righteous arrogance that any artist worthy of the name should be ashamed of. Doubly so in an academic context where content, although subjective, can be fairly and impartially judged on a very simple criterion: did it fulfill the objective of the assignment, and how well? If it’s informative, how well did it inform? If persuasive, how convincing was the author’s point?

Writing, unlike many other subjective subjects, does have benchmarks that can be used to render a fair grade. This is a sophomore-level college course, so let’s be polite and assume that we all know the basics of spelling, grammar and academic verbiage. So other than obvious mechanical blunders (that demonstrate lack of revision process more than anything else), the grading has to be on something more ephemeral: the effectiveness of the work in communicating what it was meant to communicate. How it does so, how well it does so, and how the various elements work together in creating that whole can be judged. No work is perfect, but an assignment can be graded on a clearly-delineated scale and can (and should!) receive full marks if it performs to the standards of the rubric.

“No work is perfect, it can always be improved upon” is a lesson plan, not a grading scheme. Trying to enforce a philosophy doesn’t make a man a philosopher or even a teacher; it just makes him a pompous ass. He can at least be an honest pompous ass about it and nitpick the work to find the points to mark off rather than the vaguely passive-aggressive and wholly deplorable behavior of quietly subtracting score for no apparent reason.

Or maybe this is about penalizing an opinion you disagree with, at which point we have a lying, pompous, passive-aggressive ass.

Or at least that’s my philosophy on the matter.

No comments:

Post a Comment