Last Thursday’s Gazette included an article by Walter Williams, professor of economics. His article asserts that colleges and universities have come up with the stupid and ‘loony’ idea professors should “grade students based on their ‘labor’ rather than their writing ability.” Dr. Williams’ columns are regularly provocative, worrying readers about the subjects of his writing. Notice that he is writing on content outside his area of expertise.
While the headline says higher education is ‘brainwashing’ students, he never writes about that. The core of the approach he criticizes simply encourages faculty to grade students on the strength of the ideas in their writing instead of lowering their grades because of their grammatical errors. If a black student writes an excellent paper that includes improper wording, he would have that student get a low grade, regardless of the power of the ideas in that paper.
In my 30 years at Coe College, I read many student papers. I always brought spelling and word usage errors to their attention. However, I simply asked them to correct these and then receive a grade that was appropriate for their understanding of the content, and the quality of the analysis used. That is not brainwashing.
For this paper, Williams may have no misspellings or non-standard English. He writes in acceptable English as he sets up a “straw-man” and then knocks it down. Yet the quality of his ideas and analysis deserve a grade of F.
Professor emeritus, ret.