For the past 13 years, English and writing classes have been a staple in my education. Year to year and teacher to teacher, I have consistently maintained a good average in my writing classes, but I also have been troubled by the subjective grading techniques clearly shown by all English teachers and professors.
When it comes to writing, people have varied opinions about what constitutes the most effective formula for a quality piece of literature. I could read one book or essay and think it is incredibly written, while someone else can read the same exact book or essay and not like it at all. It is all a matter of opinion. So how do we expect people to be graded fairly in this subject?
To be clear, I am not suggesting that we should not have writing classes or that we should not grade people based on the quality of their work. I am instead proposing that we change the way that essays are graded. There should always be more than one person who reads and grades students’ writing. Whether it be a professor and a teacher’s assistant or two professors who work together, both should grade the essay and then average the two grades to get the final grade. This way, there are multiple people reading and grading the students’ work from separate angles. One professor may put more emphasis on the use of persuasive techniques such as ethos and logos, while another professor may feel the most important part of a good essay is how emotion is articulated.
I am a very logic-based writer and arguer, so my writing technique may be extremely effective for some, while others may not be persuaded by facts and statistics. Some people prefer emotional appeals such as personal stories and individual incidents that change their minds on subjects. Therefore, if I have a professor who is more of an emotional reader, then there is a chance that I won’t do as well in that course, which is unfair.
When it comes to creative writing, I think that it shouldn’t necessarily be graded at all. I believe people should be encouraged to write and think creatively, so for a professor to put a grade on someone’s imagination is just cruel. It is impossible to objectively grade a piece of creative writing because what one person finds fascinating, another could find boring. For example, some people love science fiction, while others are completely bored by things like “Star Wars” and “Stranger Things.” That being said, students should still learn storytelling techniques to improve their writing from a technical standpoint, but they should not be graded on their creativity.
While I disagree with the idea of teachers and professors grading students on their creativity, I am perfectly fine with publishers judging writers on their creative stylings because they have to make appropriate business decisions. They need to make choices based on finances and what story is most likely to sell, unlike the professors who are grading the essays of students.
Math, science and even history, for the most part, are very objective subjects. They usually only have one correct answer, while English allows people to be more open-minded and creative. When an author writes, he/she is giving the audience a piece of themselves. To fairly grade someone on that is a very hard thing to accomplish. However, with the ideas laid out in this article, I do believe we can improve writing courses at Montclair State University.
-Published in The Montclarion on Dec. 7, 2017