Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Judging Each Other

These past few days, I've been in the process of determining final grades/marks for all of my students since the semester has just ended. I find this absolutely agonizing. There are dimensions of it that can be rewarding, such as noticing the progress, growth, and development that the students have gone through. Some of them put great care in their final papers and final projects. I especially love it when they use nice fonts or add illustrated cover pages to their papers. I treasure how different each student is, and the various ways those differences show through.

But I absolutely cannot stand having to make final evaluative judgments of their work through the course.

Some might think that I find it difficult because I teach philosophy, and it must be hard to evaluate philosophy papers. But actually, that's not the hardest part. What's hardest is that it just feels wrong to have to do this at all. The truth is that everyone is in the process of developing, and I would rather just meet the students where they are and help them move farther along a path that makes sense to them than worry about establishing some single "objective" standard and measuring how close or far away they are from this standard at the end of the semester.

Why do we do this?

What is it exactly that we are trying to communicate, by doing this -- and to whom?

Is this the best way to do so? Is it clear and unambiguous?

Do we judge each other too much? When is it ever justified to judge each other? Why can't we just appreciate each other instead?

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