Link: Standardized writing is an oxymoron

A New York Times article about machine-graded essays prompted me to write this comment:

The beautiful thing about writing (I say as a writer and as a writing teacher) is that it precisely is NOT objective, and of course we teachers are judging subjectively (so are employers, consumers, and voters, by the way).
The only way a program can grade is by comparing a sample of writing against a very narrow standard. The essays students are asked to write on standardized tests are artificial topics and the testing situation is also artificial (time-limited, w/o access to resources, revision, etc). Standardized writing is an oxymoron.

Update: I also like how this commenter points out the humanness of writing:
Creativity is human. Critical thinking is human. Empathy is human. Moral dilemma is human. And above all — meaning is human.

Technology should exist to empower, and strengthen, human relationship and meaning. Never should we allow it to replace it.

3 responses to “Link: Standardized writing is an oxymoron

  1. So, the goal is to give professors more time for other tasks? Like what, the Reeks and Wrecks? Why draw the line at grading essays? If a computer program can grade essays as well as a professor (which I doubt), it can certainly give lectures and respond to student inquiries at office hours. How very Player Piano.

  2. I hadn’t thought about Player Piano in this context, so I’m glad you mentioned it.Of course, conceiving of teaching as if the students were just so many interchangeable parts boggles the mind.

    • Well, it helps that I re-read it so recently! I need to stop with the Vonnegut–I find ways of slipping references into just about every conversation I have these days (not to mention the blog posts).

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