Sunday, December 13, 2009

Steve McQueen, Research Papers and Ten Bucks

My mind has been turned to muck. This is the direct result of grading 100 four to six page research papers over the last ten days. I’m telling you I can’t take it any more. Come to think of it, I don’t have to take it any more – until next year.

Grading these papers has actually made me stupider. I know what you’re thinking; is stupider a word? Doesn’t the use of stupider, at the very least, reflect indicate bad grammar? Didn’t I just get done telling you that grading them research papers made me stupider than I was before?

Allow me to share a few examples of antiknowledge that lingers in the recesses of my brain as a result of reading these research papers:

The Woodstock Festival was held to protest the War of 1812.

The Vietnam War was fought between the United States and Korea.

Adolph Hitler and the Nazis were communists.

George Washington owned a Coca Cola bottling plant.

There were a few good papers but the truth is I put heckuva a lot more work into grading than my students put into writing the papers. The lack of effort was no surprise. This is the fourth year I’ve been assigning research papers to high school juniors. I used the word assigning because I sure as heck don’t appear to be teaching them anything.

A couple of years ago a student turned in a paper on thr influence of Elvis Presley on American culture. He wrote that Elvis was so angry over his daughter’s marriage to Michael Jackson that he refused to speak to her for two years. For the benefit of those who don’t follow American pop culture, the king of rock and roll died at least a decade before Lisa Marie’s marriage to Michael Jackson.

This year’s assignment called for the class to compare a post 1900 American movement to a pre 1900 American movement. Five students didn’t even respond to the prompt. Three students wrote papers advocating the legalization of marijuana, citing highly respected academic sources such as,, and

I’ve got to ask, were the authors of the three papers high when I gave the assignment???

Did I mention that the papers were really bad? The average score is in the low 60s. Man, last night I had a dream about grading bad research papers.

I gave the unit by best shot. I’ll try some new approaches next year.

I'm guessing Steve McQueen never graded a research paper in his life. He was too busy driving fast cars, running around with hot chicks and beening the king of cool.

It's not like the only thing going on in my life has been bad research papers and antiknowledge. For example I found ten bucks in the street last week.