Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Okay, so I decided to do it. To be fair (or REALLY unfair), I've included two samples of student work. These excerpts/essays are from their final exam in World Literature. These students are seniors, 18 years old. I have left the essays exactly as they were written. These students will both be attending accredited American colleges in the fall. After 12 years of language arts (in their own language!), this is what they can do. I love the idea that I was the last one to "teach" them -- like the thumbprint of God, it is. Tell me you're not impressed with my young scholars.

(Context: the exam question required students to explore the larger cultural implications of the importance of fate and free will as demonstrated in three different works we read over the course of the year.)

Sample One: (one-paragraph excerpt from a four-paragraph essay)
"Although in the story The Inferno, some have the choice to either go to heaven or hell, and others do not. These specific "others" were born before Jesus Christ and must go to hell either way. The people who did have the choice were categorized in cantos. Those who were not sure where they would end up went into Paturgarory, which is where people wait if it is undecided, and how the decision is made is if the people make a name for themselves. In this story, it is a matter of freewill and fate, depending on who it is."

Sample Two: (entire essay)
"I will start this with a quote from the very talented rapper Immortal technique. "I believe man made god out of fear and Ignorance." This shows that humans have complete control of their life I didn't honestly read any of these stories this year but I can tell you that the characters made all their decisions and choose their actions on their own. These storys never actually happened so I dont think this essay question is legit. Its all just made up by a guy who was emo and bored and got lucky that people for some reason cared about their works. Sorry for never paying attention, don't take it personally."

Now, here's a quiz for you. It is multiple choice. You may refer to the above passages at any point during the quiz. The penalty for cheating is a lashing with my ruler. Good luck.

1. The student in Sample One believes:
a. Purgatory is a place where one makes a name for himself.
b. Ms. Ana does not actually read the final exams.
c. those who predated Jesus got the eternal shaft.
d. sinners are sentenced to cantos.
e. all of the above.

2. The student in Sample Two believes all of the following EXCEPT:
a. capitalization rules are for pussies.
b. authors and epic poets are men who work hard at their craft.
c. punctuation is optional.
d. apologies are best followed by imperatives.

3. Which word best describes the writer of Sample One?
a. decisive
b. outraged
c. noncommittal
d. lighthearted

4. Which word would you NEVER use to describe the writer of Sample Two?
a. polite
b. arrogant
c. opinionated
d. long-suffering

5. If I were a teacher and I had worked very hard all year to learn these kids right proper and if this were the final exam I had to grade, I would:
a. give them all A's for trying.
b. join them in the bathroom for a hit off the bong.
c. chain smoke (cigarettes) every day on the drive home.
d. call their concerned parents and work out a plan for their future success.
e. become an alcoholic.


Gorilla Bananas said...

The only thing I can say with conviction is that you shouldn't chain smoke or become an alcoholic unless you are having an affair with either of these young people. And 'Paturgarory' was an inventive bit of wordplay.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Yo, the answers to the questions is "e" except when there is no "e" then is "d". Check it.

"These storys never actually happened so I dont think this essay question is legit". This person simply shouldn't be doing exams.

kate said...

WOW, that's all I can say.

aishoka said...

I fear for the future. Now tell me this was an AP class. Although you do make me prouder of my own children (from a town/school system MUCH more poorly funded than yours!)

(My verification word is 'pogrard'--can you get that in Paturgarory?)

Ana said...

GB -- Okay, what if I just buy them cigarettes and alcohol and they can go screw each other?

Gadj -- **slapping ruler against stockinged thigh**

Kate -- Any room for me in the fishtank?

Aishoka -- A "pogrard" is the term used for people who make up words like "Paturgarory" (akin to "retard" but without the stigma).

Beverly Hamilton Wenham said...

Perhaps this was a a jest of some sort.
Ya know like, "she would never believe we were this dumb. She will find this humorous. Let us have a bit of jolly fun with Miss Teacher."
Yes, I choose to believe this is true.

EmmaK said...

Putting aside the grammar problems for a moment:
Student 1's work is gibberish, but
Student 2 strikes me as pretty intelligent and he makes a totally legitimate point, why should he/she study The Inferno which is is a fairy tale about Dante who is led through hell etc. I think he sums it up well. "storys never actually happened so I dont think this essay question is legit. Its all just made up by a guy who was emo and bored and got lucky that people for some reason cared about their works."

Religion is, after all, at best a mental illness and historically a form of brainwashing to get the masses to do what you wanted by instilling a fear that they would suffer in hell if they stepped out of line.

pulpexploder said...

But Ana, don't you know? If you don't believe in paturgarory, you don't believe in hell, and if you don't believe in hell, then you don't believe in God, and if you don't believe in God, then you don't believe in America.

Comment you should write on the second essay: "You grade, based on what you have learned this semester, is an F. Since the learning never actually happened, I don't think this essay is legit."

Ana said...

Emma -- I don't disagree with you about religion -- I am in complete agreement. But we don't read this text as a religious document, but a literary one. And then there's the whole issue of his admitting that he never read it. It seems that's the least one can do before they talk about legitimacy. But he's a fun kid! I'll give him that!

Brandon -- Had I taken the time to write comments, yours would have been perfect! Have you thought of a career in teaching?

Gadjo Dilo said...

Mmmm, Miss Ana. Whose stockinged thigh?

Ana said...

Why, mine, of course. As a warning, you know...