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November 23, 1971 - Image 4

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1971-11-23

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1:

114 Ar40wn fa'ii
Eighty-one years of editorial freedom
Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

futures past

4

The great grading mess: An examination

by dave hudwinI

1

420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, Mich.

News Phone: 764-0552

Editorials printed in The Michigan Daily express the individual opinions of staff writers
or the editors. This must be noted in all reprints.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 1971

NIGHT EDITOR: ALAN LENHOFF

Behind Write-On Tue.

SPLASHY HEADLINES spread across the
nation's newspapers this week when
two University students were caught
handing in identical papers to the same
class. An odd quirk brought the story
nationwide coverage - the papers h a d
been purchased from a clever modern
business, Write-On Inc., specializing in
custom written term papers.
However, the straight news reportage -
in publications such as the New Y o r k
Times, the Detroit Free Press and As-
sociated Press - obscures the 'more fun-
damental and disturbing implications of
the event. The revelation that a couple of
college kids cheated, employing a Vonne-
gut-like twist, is in itself the l e a s t
important event.
THEPRIMARY onus must fall on a
system of university education more
concerned with paper credentials, than
in close personal dialogue and interaction.
From an early age, students learn that,
in order to "make it" in society, they
'must acquire a college degree.
They attend college, often without
questioning the premises behind their at-
tendance - and shortly find themselves
working towards achievement on tests
and papers only because these are the
requirements the degree imposes. Hence,
there is a tendency to work primarily for
material rewards, and to lose sight of the
education goals which stand behind it all.
The system forces into college m a n y
students who shouldn't be there. The
rigors and methods of an education are
not appealing to every person.
In a broad sense, there are thousands
of ways to become educated, including
working, travelling, and reading inde-
pendently; society insists otherwise. It is
no surprise that students are brought to
cheating under these artificial pressures.
NOT ONLY is the system's stress on
certification to blame, but also the prin-
ciple of large lectures, rigidly conducted
recitations and the requirements that
virtually every course has.

Not surprisingly, faculty members too
are channeled into a set procedure. Few
professors have, the presence and the
flair to engage an audience of students
on a continuing basis - even in the area
of their most intimate knowledge. Pro-
fessors are compelled to lecture just as
students are forced to listen. The format
is double ineffective.
Additionally the faculty is under pres-
sure to "publish or perish," and good
teaching often is secondary. Students,
bored and lackluster in their classes, play
directly into the hands of enterpreneurs
like the management of Write-On.
WRITE-ON'S proprietors apparently
feel no compunction for ethics, or if
so, they adhere to a wildly offbeat moral
code. The thrill of easy money is appar-
ently electric and its enticing flavor sup-
ercedes other considerations.
Denying all moral considerations,
"Write-On," and its competitor "Creative
Research" are' not intended to help stu-
dents, but to multiply their alleged $4,000
a week take as quickly as possible. They
exploit students under pressured d e a d-
lines, charging outrageous prices for the
easiest assignments.
ARE THERE solutions?
One is simple. Students must "write-
off" Write-On. If they do not patronize
them, its business cannot be conducted.
If they do, they can count on another
administrative foul-up. The number one
interest of the term paper outfitters is
profit; little details like duplicate papers
are always prone to be revealed in the
furious ring of the cash register.
But the greater problem lies with the
educational system itself.
Only when the university ceases to
function as a repository to certify stu-
dents and begins to provide an environ-
ment directed exclusively towards learn-
ing, will the pressures to cheat be render-
ed superfluous.
--RICK PERLOFF

T HEY ENTERED the lecture
hall with hearts beating
quickly and stomachs churning.
Giving each other weak smiles and
commiserating with their fellows,
they sat down and put their books
under their chairs.
A thousand unrelated facts
gleaned from prolonged cram ses-
sions clogged their brains as they
took out pens and pencils. They
nervously glanced over their
shoulders at each other, aware
they were being tested and eval-
uated against the rest of the class.
"You have one hour to finish
the exam," the professor intones
gravely as the competitive regur-
gitation of information begins.
THIS SCENE is overdrawn, but
not much. Testing and grading
have long been targets of the crit-
ics of education and their abolition
the hallmark of many experiment-
al schools.
Here at the University formal
examinations and letter grades are
a deeply ingrained tradition and,
attempts to create some flexibility
within the system with pass/fail
and other innovations have come
slowly.
The thesis of 'those interested in
educational reform is that testing
and grading are counter-produc-
tive. Their brief goes along these
lines:
Students are intrinsically moti-
vated to learn because of an in-
nate curiosity about the w o r I d
around them. Grades provide an
added incentive only because stu-
dents have not yet had an oppor-
tunity to discover the joy of learn-
ing for its own sake.
Furthermore, they say, students
eventually come to work for the
grade rather than a basic under-
standing of the course material.
They study only items they expect
to be tested on, discouraged from
deeper exploration of areas that
interest them. Examinations be-
come ends rather than means.
This system sours relationships
with instructors because they must
evaluate students. It turns
professors into authority figures
who must be appeased rather than
resource personnel who happen to
know a great deal about one field

Finally, they believe that going
to school is not supposed to be
fun - it's a job and should be
approached that way. Students
who do not achieve in terms of
grades are letting down their par-
ents and the state, which support
their education.
LIKE MOST complicated issues.
there is some truth on both sides
of this argument. One difficulty is
that grades have at east t h r e e
separate functions - they serve as
motivators, sources of feedback
and as evaluation devices for a
society that has become a merito-
cracy.
If grading is to be eliminated,
each, of these functions must be
replaced, but they all require dif-
ferent solutions.
First, there are a multitude of
other motivators available other
than a letter on a transcript, Peer
encouragement, rewards by p a r-
ents and instructors and personal
satisfaction from learning are all
factors that if fully utilized could
help replace grades.
Second, feedback could be pro-
vided by informal tests, written
evaluations of a student's w o r k
and conferences between students
and their instructors over their
progress.
Finally, enough good jobs and
places in graduate and profes-
sional schools should be m a d e
available so that qualified appli-
cants don't have to engage in cut-
throat competition with others,
who are also qualified.
IF THESE SOCIETAL "good-
ies" must be based on academic
performance, there should be an
opportunity for those not inter-
ested in them to work without
grade point averages and test
scores.
The system assumes everybody is
alike and does little to allow for
diversity. People who come to a
university for a true education
should not be shackeled by tradi-
tional evaluative methods.
Those who wish a job ticket or
a place in graduate or professional
schools might still be required to
compete, but this burden should
not be spread to everyone.

'4

but who have no further claim to
divinity.
Traditional grading methods.
moreover, pit one student against
another, causing competition ra-
ther than cooperation in the pro-
cess of learning. Students are urg-
ed to do better than the other guy
instead of measuring their per-
formance against their own abil-
ities and past progress. A stu-
dent's goal is to beat the median--
a figment of a statistician's imag-
ination - rather than some self-
set objective.
In addition, they contend that
time-limited exams and s t r i c t
grading discriminate against those
individuals who don't do well un-
der pressure. "Clutching" despite
a good knowledge of the material.
they are victims of a rigid format
of evaluation.
Finally, traditional methods of
evaluation make learning an un-
pleasant experienced by creating
anxiety. The tests, assignments

and the final apocalyptic moment
when a grade is given are aver-
sive stimuli, as the psychologists
might say.
SUPPORTERS OF the present
grading system might agree with
a number of the criticisms made
by the reformers, but quickly point
out that some of the "bad" fea-
tures of traditional grading meth-
ods are necessary. They argue:
Students require the expecta-
tion of an exam to get them to
spend the time necessary to mast-
er a subject. Tests and grades,
while not a requirement for learn-
ing, are excellent motivating fac-
tors that increase students' per-
formance.
Though there may be excep-
tions, results on examinations and
papers correlate fairly well with
a student's understanding of the
course material.. Without an ex-
amination, students would n o t
have to learn portions of a sub-

-Daily-Terry McCarthy
ject which they might not want
to learn, but they need to master.
It's necesary to evaluate s t u-
dents' knowledge because corpora-
tions and graduate and profes-
sional schools only desire the top
students. The resources of society
in terms of jobs and advanced
training are limited and should be
granted on the basis of merit as
measured by grades.
The competition that results is
a positive factor, they argue, be-
cause only through competition
do people achieve excellence. There
is a deep competitiveness, probab-
ly biological, in our nature and
to stop competing would be to stop
achieving.
If some people cannot s t a n d
the pressure involved in competi-
tion they.deserve to be left by the
way-side. Life is a struggle - full
of pressure and deadlines - and
people had better learn to take in
school before they get out into
the real world.

I

Al

" - __ _ ._

.-

All they, are saying

7

Black community's demands

AFTER SEVERAL weeks and a history
of racial incidents in the Ann Ar-
bor Public schools, a coalition of black
parents and students called a strike last
week.
During the duration of the one day
boycott, school authorities reported that
over 80 percent of the black secondary
school sudents failed to attend classes.
Some elementary school students a 1 s o
participated, many of them attending
classes at the Community Center, while a
14 member student-parent steering com-
mittee drew up a list of demands.
Lois Owens, who moderated the meet-
ing where the demands were agreed upon
by the black community, put the issue
simply: "Brutality has once again enter-
ed our schools and black people are as
usual the victim," she said.
Since then, the school board has ap-
proved a modified version of the de-
mands, including more safety procedures,
creation of a core of black studies cours-
es, revamping of counseling services -
making them more responsive to black
needs - and serving the needs of non-
middle class whites.
But even with 'the implementation of
demands or the year old Humaness in
Education report, the consistent feeling
in the community is doubt - doubt that
schools will remain racially quiet or that
racism will disappear from Ann Arbor's
educational institutions.
WHILE MOST whites seem to believe
that violent racial incidents are a re-
cent phenomena here, caused solely by
black provocation, black folks know dif-
ferently.
According to a letter written by con-
cerned members of the black community,
the recent disturbances started last
month at Huron high, "not as outgrowths
of black student aggression, but because
"a group of white students, who identify

themselves as Greasers chose to confront
and punish a black male for socializing
with a white female." The resulting rac-
ial tension flowed from Huron high school
to Pioneer, the letter charges, where "the
presence of police and their hostile tac-
tics precipitated the violence."
But this version doesn't quite coincide
with some of media stories or police re-
ports which fingered blacks as trouble-
makers. After all, a white girl was stab-
bed.
Part of the discrepancy is caused by
blacks' failure to report incidents to the
so-called proper authorities. But after
years of enduring white hostilities in
these schools as well as in the com-
munity, the prevalent attitude remains,
why tell anyone anything if it won't make
a difference?
Nevertheless, black parents and s t u-
dents called a strike against Ann Arbor
public schools and most responded.
One Pioneer student commented, I
thought we left because of our safety. "If
we're striking to end oppression, those
white kids will be gone and graduated
and we'll still be striking." She's right,
and the boycott ended after one day.
BUT MAYBE R. Bruce McPherson, su-
perintendent of schools, is sincere in
his efforts to implement the demands.
Now that blacks are unifying, and parents
are working with students, ignoring
blacks is no longer easy. Yet it remains
to be seen what will happen if the de-
mands are implemented.
The only unexpected demand revolves
around the needs of non-middle c 1 a s s
whites. By including this class in the
demands; some white hostility may be
subdued. Since many of these whites see
backs as a threat, many times they ini-
tiate disturbances.
Some blacks have criticized the inclus-
ion of assistance to poor whites in the
demands. They argue that this smacks
of the Marxist tenet of unifying the com-

fi rI s I tIET' "~I1
s p:
JI
,'TTr -rTTy
71

is give youth a chance
By CHRIS PARKS
5GC EXECUTIVE Vice President Jerry Rosenblatt, well-known for
his unflagging enthusiasm for the electoral process, paid us a 0
visit again last weekend to discuss the latest project for getting i the
nation's youth involved in the system.
Following a brief presentation on the topic,, he handed us a
press release, called a "Guest Editorial." The release, prepared by the
president of the Association of Student Governments (ASO), a nation-
wide organization representing 380 college campuses (not the Uni-
versity), lays out the premise for youth action in national politics and V,
announces an Emergency Conference for New Voters to be held in
Chicago the first week in December.
In order to channel these po-
tent energies, ASG has planned a
conference of young voters for the
3rd, 4th and 5th of December in
Chicago. Envisioned as a massive
meeting of the young and commit-
ted who are willing once again to
"give the system a chance" the
conference is expected to form a
"youth caucus" along the lines of
the present black and women's
caucuses, and draw up a youth
platform. *
It will also discuss plans for
getting "delegate power'in the
national party conventions which
will "insure that one or both of
the national parties nominates a
candidate acceptable to the young
and the poor in this country."<>r:''
THE MAJOR ASSUMPTION of Cean Gene
the entire project, that American
youth as a group have some common interest substantial enough to
weld them together/ as a political unit, is certainly open to question.
All available eevidence, in fact indicates that as a group youth are
quite as divided in their goals and beliefs as the general population.
Even on a single campus the differences are great. Any common
ground between the Youth Americans for Freedom, the Young Demo-
crats, RIP, and the Young Workers Liberation League for example
would be sparse indeed.
This difficulty in defining what a "youth caucus" would repre-
sent is revealed in statements of the project's promoters. According
to one organizer the platform of the caucus is likely to include planks
opposing the present administration, calling for an end to the
Indochina war, favoring protection of the environment and support-#'
ing minority rights.
These are certainly laudable goals; so laudable in fact that there
isn't a major candidate, with the exception of Nixon, who wouldn't and
hasn't fully endorsed all of them. Nixon himself, in fact is only dis-
qualified by the first item.
WHAT THESE PLANS REPRESENT, in reality, is a great leap
backwards in political consciousness, a regression to political positions
which have already been adopted by the established parties (who isn't
for peace and preservation of the ecology?)
Worse, it represents a return to tactics whose bankruptcy was
proven to the satisfaction of all but a stubborn few four years ago.
An assassin, and not the "power elite", we are told, prevented
young people from winning nothing less than the "presidency in 1968."
While this is undeniably an attractive fantasy, a realistic assess-
ment of the situation renders such a judgment dubious.
It is far from clear that Kennedy would have been nominated, had

"President Nixon must know what he's doing ...
He has more facts than we do."
I.

Letters to The Daily

No peace
To The Daily:
MONDAY some 100 people from
Michigan went to Washington as
part of the 14-day Daily Death
Toll demonstration organized by
the Fellowship of Reconciliation
and Clergy and Laymen Concern-
ed.
After seeing our senators and
congressmen, we gathered on the
steps of the Capitol for a memorial
service for the 300 Vietnamese who
die each day in the war which
continues in Vietnam and else-
where in Indochina. We then
walked in procession to the White
House. There on the sidewalk, one
of our number ran straight
through us, enacting an Ameri-
can bomb falling on Indochina.
Others of us. repnresenting Indio-

dochinese casualties are not -
and that the war continues and
hundreds die every day because
of the action of American pilots
and the use of American war ma-
terial. Without American military
involvement, the war would im-
mediately end. Until it does, this
country will continue to be re-
sponsible for the terrible suffer-
ing of the non-white peoples of
Indochina. May this country know
no internal peace till the war in
Indochina ends.
-Prof. John Bailey
Dept. JofNear Eastern
Languages and Literatures
Nov. 16
Halftime omission
To The Daily:
THE FOLLOWING WAS to
11Q70 hos sri riA i r +he hqlf-

this great mistake brought to a
total and immediate end, so that
both Americans and Vietnamese
alike may live in Peace. Thank
you"
Perhaps you are in error in
thinking that an organization
which seeks to entertain students
cannot also have political inclina-
tions. Yo-yos and Vietnam are not
necesarily in conflict.
-Homecoming Central
Committee
UniversityActivities
Center
Nov. 2
Salutations
To The Daily:
TUESDAY'S "Salutary Feast"
article was the greatest piece of
radical doublethink you've ever
printed. An admitted token candi-

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