Grading

The amount of things that I could say about grading would overrun Orange County’s coastline. It always stresses me out. Recently it has made me want to cry because I have had so much to do.

And then I read one of the essays and I nearly did cry.

Sometimes when I read what the students have to say, I get really excited because they are very smart and see the world in a way that makes me hopeful for the world. There have been a few times that the students have been so on target and so insightful that I’ve almost blogged about it (and next time that happens I will post about it). But this time, it wasn’t the insightfulness that made me emotional.

To be completely fair, I had a stack of grading to get through, and I was feeling more than a little overwhelmed. With two sets of essays, four sets of responses (mini-essays), and all the family obligations that come with Thanksgiving, along with my own work, I had more than enough to keep me busy for the break. So by the time I got to this essay, I was a little on edge. But I’m fairly certain that I would have reacted badly no matter the situation.

See, this essay was about how people who are homosexual shouldn’t be allowed to marry because it goes against what the Bible says.

Sure, I had to deal with an essay that goes against what I believe, but that wasn’t my issue. I can handle lots of dissenting opinions, and I whole-heartedly embrace differing view-points. I had already gone through lots of essays that presented ideas that disagree with my own. So it wasn’t the view-point. They were actually very clear about their view-point which I respected. What made me ill reading it, and what made me want to cry when I’d finished it, was the presentation of a┬ábigoted perspective in a tone of absolute righteous wrath. The phrases they used, the words they chose to describe their perspective absolutely astounded me. Sentences that made it seem as though God hated anyone who was different (from normal I can only assume since they didn’t explain, though I’m not sure what normal is); phrases that said homosexuals were monsters and implied they deserved their mis-treatment; and overall the idea that people who truly believed in God would never question what was written in the Bible. It makes my heart hurt to think about the fact that I would read these words anywhere, but it makes me ill that I read these ideas in a student paper.

And it was through processing this that I realized that what I really face every time I grade – I face setting aside my personal understanding of the world so that I can focus on what the students are saying and the way they are communicating it. And while that is difficult, what makes it overwhelming is that I can see where their biases show through like beacons on a dark night. And to top it all off, I can see that they don’t even notice their biases or how those impact their writing. But they are freshmen and most of them are true freshmen, right out of high school, so my comfort is that with more experience with life, they will perhaps see their biases.

But that may just be my own bias.

2 thoughts on “Grading”

  1. I never really understood why you’re forced to respect someone’s religious opinion, when they use it to act like complete tools. Believing in an invisible sky fairy doesn’t justify being openly prejudice like this. Especially since his religion changes its stance on morality to fit the times. Ten years from now, I bet nearly all of the churches will be distancing themselves from people like him.

    And it’s amazing that someone like this can take the morale high ground when, for one thing, they believe themselves to be superior to anyone whose not Christian and, secondly, they’re only following those guidelines in the Bible because they’re being blackmailed. At least no one has to threaten me with an eternity of torture to get me to be nice…

  2. I choose to respect the opinions of others because I would like for people to respect my opinions. I don’t have to agree with anyone, but I have made the decision that I will allow people the space to be themselves, regardless of what that self is. So for me it’s not a matter of being forced or anything. It also helps that I can understand where these students were coming from, so while I couldn’t agree with them, I could see their point. If I didn’t understand that, it would have been much more difficult for me to enter into the discussion. I had other students that wrote obnoxious manifestos, but those weren’t as emotionally charged, and working through this manifesto helped me with the others.

    And I’m not sure about the blackmail part. I know there are some who feel that way with the whole “Believe in God or go to Hell,” but they were freshmen college students, so I think it was more that they hadn’t ever really had to work through their thoughts on their beliefs. It’s hard to go against everything a person has known and most people seem to shy away from that experience. My hope is that they work through their beliefs and move to a less didactic stance.

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