Thursday, October 7, 2010


First, since most of the professorial types responded to my comments on Basic Comp with some degree of condemnation, then I must ask. Have you ever had a student whose composition is not even close to college level work? (It sounds like Withywindle has.) Well, in that case, what do you do? What if what you recommend has no effect? Do you pass them regardless?

Second, somebody asked where I got that Cicero quotation. The link wasn't exactly clear.  It was from Book II of Cicero's On Republic:
Here's another link and translation of that sentence:
there never yet existed a genius so vast and comprehensive as to allow nothing to escape its attention, and all the geniuses in the world united in a single mind, could never, within the limits of a single life, exert a foresight sufficiently extensive to embrace and harmonize all, without the aid of experience and practice.

I still think the translation I read was more elegant, but I don't have the book with me right now.


Withywindle said...

"Ever?" "Ever?" The vast majority don't.

Why, you give them Bs, Cs, and Ds, and since most of them just want to pass a requirement, they don't care.

Flavia said...

I see them, but I don't see a lot of them at RU. I taught remedial comp for one semester at my previous non-TT job, and there I saw more of it.

But RU requires a "C" to pass comp, and that helps. I give lower grades than that, especially on individual papers, and sometimes students do so poorly they have to retake the class. Once in a blue moon I get a student whose skills are so bad I send him to remedial comp (which has to be passed with a C before the kid takes regular comp).

Most often, I send students to work with tutors at the writing center. This is a mixed blessing. Their papers improve, and often I hear that they're working really intensively/frequently with their tutors--but it can be hard for me to tell how much clean-up their tutors are doing. If the paper is a C or better, and it's clearly the student's work, I have to grade it accordingly. But I have misgivings, sometimes, about how much the student has truly learned.

But really. The most (only?) gratifying thing about teaching comp is that we do so much writing that, over the course of a semester, improvement is really visible in a way that isn't true in most other courses.

Whether that learning is retained, especially if the kid is majoring in, say, pharmacology, and not writing a lot of papers, is another story.

Alpheus said...

"College level" means really different things at different colleges. But yeah, I've passed students who couldn't write decently. If they show any significant improvement -- which, as Flavia points out, they usually do -- it seems cruel not to give them a halfway decent grade.

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