Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Teaching w/o grading: Response on Assoc of Humanist Soc listserv

you can post back to humanistsociology.org listserv at ahs-talk@primatix.com Here's today's message to humanist sociology list folks, on what I have labeled "grading without grading":

First, thanks to our forebears who share ahs folk history with us.
I am saddened and hurt by the second wave of messages claiming that one's low grades are a threshold criterion for having one's teaching taken seriously. My position is clear. I don't believe in grades, and because I took my own input in class seriously, believe (former) students who say that my buddhist-sounding attempts to grade students by not grading was a personal and political highlight of their time at Indiana U.
I have never known what anyone else, let alone one of my students, needed to know. I don't believe in grading eggs, let alone people. A career as a criminologist has only helped cure the conceit that I know how publicly to grade other beings.
From the first two jobs I was genteelly fired from on, colleagues have dismissed my teaching on grounds that I have become popular with students (which has not always been true).
Somehow, I ended up with enviable formal educational credentials, and yet even in professorial retirement, I can't dream of being qualified to rate a student I scarcely know for evaluators of the student's academic record I will never know. I'm arrogant enough to believe that if I am unqualified to grade or otherwise pass judgment on students, no one else is either.
Taking grading seriously saddens me most because of the pessimistic message that in one's own immediate relations that matter, I become a better teacher the more my students fail to learn.
I'll post this at my blog: http://pepinsky.blogspot.com

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