California Professor Flunks (Awful) Pro-U.S. Essay

Drudge has drawn attention to a piece in today’s Washington Times:

California professor flunks Kuwaiti’s pro-U.S. essay

A 17-year-old Kuwaiti student whose uncles were kidnapped and tortured by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s invaders more than a decade ago said his California college political science professor failed him for praising the United States in a final-exam essay last month. Ahmad Al-Qloushi, a foreign student at Foothill College near San Jose, Calif., said he was told by professor Joseph A. Woolcock to get psychological treatment because of the pro-American views expressed in his essay.

“Apparently, if you are an Arab Muslim who loves America, you must be deranged,” said Mr. Al-Qloushi, who feared the failing grade could cost him his student visa. “I didn’t want to be deported for having written a pro-American essay, so as soon as I left his office, I made an appointment with the school psychologist,” he said. Mr. Woolcock did not respond to telephone and e-mail inquiries. College officials declined to comment, saying it is a confidential matter because Mr. Al-Qloushi and Mr. Woolcock have filed complaints.

Wizbang’s Paul has a link to what purports to be Al-Qloushi’s essay and e-mailed asking me to dust off my poli-sci professor hat and grade the paper.

I must say, I’d have given the exam a failing grade, too. It is an incredibly poorly written, error-ridden, pabulum-filled, essay that essentially ignores the question put forth by the instructor.

3. Dye and Zeigler contend that the constitution of the United States was not “ordained and established” by “the people” as we have so often been led to believe. They contend instead that it was written by a small educated and wealthy elite in America who representative of powerful economic and political interests. Analyze the US constitution (original document), and show how its formulation excluded majority of the people living in America at that time, and how it was dominated by America’s elite interest.

The question, if copied and pasted directly from the professor, contains grammatical errors. Let’s presume those are the hasty work of a student for whom English is a second language. Let’s move on to the answer. The thesis sentence shows signs of trouble:

This paper will CRITICALLY analyze the US constitution and how it was a progressive document FOR ITS TIME. And how it symbolizes and embodies what America is today a just and democratic society where all men and women are created equal and that men and women are free to pursue their own happiness and fulfillment.

The use of ALL CAPS in an academic essay is poor form. The use of sentence fragments and run-on sentences in college essays, also, is unacceptable.

The assignment is to give examples from the text of the Constitution supporting the Dye-Zeigler thesis, not refute it by talking about how the Constitution has evolved over time.

The right for men to choose their own representatives was unheard of in the rest of the world.

Untrue and only tangentially responsive. Certainly, the idea of democracy long predated the formation of the U.S., including the Greek city states and the existence of parliaments in some European states, notably the UK.

Yet in a young country which freed itself from the shackles of the greatest empire of the time.

Fragment.

The founding fathers were stalwart heroes

Opinion unsubstantiated by argumentation or facts. Unresponsive to the question.

who led the brave young men of this great land and in order to establish a democracy maybe not a direct or perfect democracy but one that guarantees the freedom of its citizens. It is ludicrous to assume that a direct democracy can succeed in the United States. Yet in the last ballots of November 2nd 2004 the people of the United States DID get a chance of influencing their political decisions in their country and that is thanks to the US constitution established by the great men of America like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Ungrammatical. No one asserts–nor does the question imply–that the framers intended to establish direct democracy. The institution of the Electoral College has evolved radically since 1789. What does the text of the Constitution say? What was the intent of the Framers in writing it that way?

The remainder of the essay strays further from the question at hand, talking about how great the U.S. has become in the intervening years. The conclusion:

America is a nation which has survived problems and many attacks on its soil yet the American will did not hesitate. America stood its ground and the Founding Fathers are the ones who built the Foundation that this ground were built upon. It is wonderful to have the freedom to argue Dye and Zeigler contentions and that is also due to the US constitution.

If the constitution was so negative then how did the United States the most powerful nation in the world today. If it was so negative how did the Soviet Union collapse in the Cold War? The United States constitution is a great document which for its time was extremely progressive and the evidence to the that is the United States̢۪ accomplishments to date.

What has any of that to do with the question?

F

My former colleague, Steven Taylor, is more generous, giving the paper “a low D.” His reasoning is similar, however.

I agree with Paul–as, I’m sure, does Steven–that the professor’s comments about the need to get “psychological treatment,” if true, are unprofessional and would be cause for sanction.

The unfortunately-named Professor Woolcock may well be a left wing kook who has a bias against conservative students. This particular case–aside from the alleged comment–does not tell us much. The thesis of the exam question is perfectly reasonable and, indeed, is not particularly in dispute. My own experience, both as a student and as a teacher, was that grading of essays is almost always about the quality of the writing and engagement with the material rather than the extent to which one agrees with the professor. I got ‘A’s from all of my liberal political science professors–and I certainly had a lot of them over the years.

One may challenge the premise of an instructor’s question if one is clever. But this still does not excuse one from dealing with the substance of the question at hand.

Update (2011): My co-blogger, “Leopold Stotch,” notes in the comments below:

For me there’s something deeper going on—not with this particular case, but it represents a trend among conservative students to blame all bad grades on liberal bias. In fact, what I find is that my conservative students tend to gloss over material that confronts their worldview. Thus when I cover Marx, my conservative students dismiss the material and my lectures, then write poor essays on exams, and then complain of my liberal bias when they receive their grade.

A good point. Folks on both sides of the aisle need to do a better job of investigating other possibilities before automatically shouting “Bias.”

Update (1-17): Betsy Newmark observes,

Not answering the question is the single most common mistake that students make in writing essays on tests. I can well imagine that this is not a lesson that the student learned in his Kuwaiti schools. This was a learning opportunity for this student, but, unfortunately, he learned an entirely different lesson.

Indeed.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. And, indeed, my “low D” was generous, given I really don’t know enough about the class and what was taught, discussed, etc. I am always hesitant to issue a grade for work produced in another professor’s course. Still, an F is no stretch–and indeed, as I wrote my post I ended up heading more in the failure direction.

    Bottom line: it isn’t a very good response.




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  2. For me there’s something deeper going on — not with this particular case, but it represents a trend among conservative students to blame all bad grades on liberal bias.

    In fact, what I find is that my conservative students tend to gloss over material that confronts their worldview. Thus when I cover Marx, my conservative students dismiss the material and my lectures, then write poor essays on exams, and then complain of my liberal bias when they receive their grade.




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  3. Didsbury says:

    I’m not a political science professor, but I have taught theology as an adjunct in a college setting, and prior to that, was a TA in seminary. In these capacities, I graded the papers of several international students. Generally, students working outside of their mother tongue are given more grace than those for whom English is a first language. This essay shows that he probably barely passed the TOEFL. As one who teaches theology using French (my second language), I’m inclined to be more sympathetic to grammar shortcomings in others. Of course, this doesn’t excuse poor content, which is another issue altogether.




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  4. Zed says:

    In fact, what I find is that my conservative students tend to gloss over material that confronts their worldview. Thus when I cover Marx, my conservative students dismiss the material and my lectures, then write poor essays on exams, and then complain of my liberal bias when they receive their grade

    why does this sound familiar, oh yeah, I blog and read blogs, nevermind




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  5. Maniakes says:

    The unfortunately-named Professor Woolcock may well be a left wing kook who has a bias against conservative students.

    I am a former student of Dr. Woolcock’s. He is a self-described Marxist, and he does actively attempt to persuade conservative students. He forbids critisism of Marx during class discussions. However, I have never known him to mark down an essay on ideological grounds provided it answers the question and is well written and supported.

    As an aside, I would not describe him as a kook. For all that I disagree with him, he seems to be extremely intelligent and well-informed on political theory (if not on real life).




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  6. Zed: I miss your point.




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  7. Leopold: I had the same reaction to his comment.




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  8. Zed says:

    Maniakes,

    no offense, but as someone who has read and can appreciate Marx’s intellect, I would have to say that one who is “extremely well informed on political theory and real life” would also see where Marx faulted in desperate and unmanagable idealism.

    Leopold,

    I was just making a smart remark about how there are many bloggers who get mad when the political shape of things distrupt’s there world views, but it is unfair to expect everyone to really know what they are talking about and I would even go so far to say that the majority of bloggers stay away from issues in which they are not experts, but all the same, as James puts it, people need to be open to other possibilities before they start screaming bias.

    Though, concerning bias at school, I’m really not one to talk, after changing my major 5 times I flat dropped out of college, I really had problems with my instructors, they never fit into my world view, but that is a long story, one with many, well, it’s long.




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  9. Tom Carter says:

    As for all-caps, I think the last sentence of the post deserves that kind of emphasis.




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  10. McGehee says:

    One may challenge the premise of an instructor’s question if one is clever.

    I won’t claim to be clever, but I did get excellent grades from an excellent professor by arguing the contrary of what seemed to be the direction of his assigned topic. In fact, he used my first paper for his political theory class as an example for the other students on how it’s done.

    That was many, many beers ago…




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  11. TallDave says:

    The grade is not the issue. The issue is teling someone that being pro-American is a mental disorder. He should have recommended an English tutor for his senence structure, not a psychiatrist to “cure” his love of America. I guess we know his priorities lie: indoctrination ahead of education. Unfortunately, this reflects an all-too-common atttude on campuses.

    The irony in the teacher’s complaining about getting unsympathetic reviews of Marxism is truly remarkable. Communism killed 100 milion people; do you suppose that was in the lesson plan? Or did that fact “challenge her worldview?” It’s almost like being miffed at that those Jewish students “gloss over” Mein Kampf.

    While I’m sure there are good, objective liberal academics, the fact is they have their Mary Mapes just like journalism does; the liberal echo chambers in both professions lead to groupthink in which radical ideas become mainstreamed and ethics gets thrown out the window. If you’re a college student, watch out for those essay questions.




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  12. Maniakes says:

    Zed, perhaps I was unclear. I said (or at least meant to say) Professor Woolcock was NOT well informed on real life. One particularly glaring example of this was his claim that Cuba’s health care system was superior to the US health care system.

    He struck me on brief aquaintance as someone who was extremely intelligent, and compotent in his own relatively narrow area of expertise (political philosophy), but whose understanding of the rest of the world was very limited and distorted to fit his preconceived notions.




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  13. Let me play Devil’s Advocate and say that I do not think the essay too bad. Consider:

    1) It’s been written by someone who hardly speaks the language. The grammar should therefore be excused. How would you do if you’d have to write an essay in Arabic on Kuwait’s history after having studied the language for 5 months?
    2) We’re talking about a kid of 17. He’s not a senior in College or a graduate student.
    3) He has a decent argument. If the Founders were truly elitists who did not act in the interest of the people, then the subsequent benefits to the people of the United States as governed by that Constitution would not have occurred. Since they have occurred, the Founders were not elitists who oppressed the people. In that respect they also deserve the epithet ‘heroes’ that our young author assigns to them.

    Grade: B-




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  14. m.croche says:

    “Unfortunately-named Professor Woolcock”?

    What is this, the playground?

    Professionalism indeed.




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  15. Chris says:

    Conservative TA-

    I still don’t see how you can be that generous with a grade. He never directly addresses the question, and I think you’re being generous with your insight into his response.
    His age also has nothing to do with it. If he’s in college, he should be expected to write like a college student. Just a thought.




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  16. Chris says:

    P.S. – It couldn’t help his cause that he refered to FDR as “Frederick.”




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  17. Cody says:

    I don’t even get why conservative TA feels that “America conquered other nations so the Constitution is great” argument works. I dunno if winning WWII was due to our democratic process.
    The essay is filled with patriotic chest-thumping and reminds me of the empty space-filling junk I would have written as an undergrad if I had nothing relevant to respond to the question with.




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  18. Vanyogan says:

    [“…show how its formulation excluded the majority of people living in America at that time, and how it was dominated by America’s elite interests.”]

    The paper neither answers the question or argues against the premise effectively. A “D” would be generous.

    The focuss of the question is formulation, exclusion,and elitism, thus the premise of the question as written could be correct. There were no women, blacks, or native Americans “formally” involved in the formulation. Those groups would be a certain majority of the people.

    On the other hand, you can argue that the founders were husbands, fathers, and slave owners. Therefore the interests of women and slaves were represented albeit not necessarily to those groups liking. The Federalist Papers document thoughts considered in formulation and add more to inclusion. As for elitism, that one is easy. The point is irrelevant because the counter result does not exist in history to my limited knowlege.

    Name a country or government that was not founded or formulated almost exclusively by the elites of that country or resulting government?

    I think that the student tried but failed to argue, perhaps due to lingual limitations, that the Declaration of Independence is an all inclusive “mission statement” of the United States.

    You can’t separate the Declaration from the Constitution. The Constitution is merely the first draft “procedure” for acheiving the mission. It is not possible to achieve full inclusion in the context of the era or the problem at hand. It’s a work in progress and it always will be.




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  19. delagar says:

    “The issue is teling someone that being pro-American is a mental disorder”

    We have only the student’s word for it that this is actually what happened.

    I’m a professor. I’d have failed that essay for not responding to the question — I might have given him a break for grammar, since he’s a non-native speaker, but failing to respond to the question in my classes is always an automatic F.

    Then who knows what happened in the conference? The student claims he was referred to therapy because he’s pro-American. I can imagine other ways that sentence got said — the student protesting the grade, insisting that he received the grade because the professor is anti-American, because the professor is a leftist, so forth, the student getting more and more furious, and the professor saying, finally, “You know what, we need to end this now. And I think maybe you should seek some counseling.”

    Then the student decides that what the professor meant was that the student needed counseling for being pro-American.

    Just my POV. From the other side of the desk.




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  20. Bob Roberts says:

    If the Founders were truly elitists who did not act in the interest of the people, then the subsequent benefits to the people of the United States as governed by that Constitution would not have occurred. Since they have occurred, the Founders were not elitists who oppressed the people. In that respect they also deserve the epithet ‘heroes’ that our young author assigns to them.

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc

    It took at least 150 years for the document in question to approach its current form, had to be modified multiple times to correct for instances where the rights of certain governed individuals were not recognized, and the entire system could have swerved into the tank and collapsed multiple times, but for the individual actions of a few. This does not exclude the possibility that the Founders were elitists; many were well-off landowners with slaves, none of them recognized the basic humanity of Africans and American indigenous, and at least a few maintained a low opinion of the working classes.

    I’d expect more of a TA. You’re fired.




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  21. Platypus says:

    Wearing my med school professor’s hat, I would have flunked the guy. For me, a fundamental issue in grading a student is did he answer the question on the exam. I would have discounted his incomplete command of the English language, as it’s not an English class. His political views are irrevelant to the grade, despite the provocative nature of the question. But I can’t ignore the fact that he could not or would not answer the question at hand.

    I would have been happy had he written an answer that directly challenged the premise of the question. A well reasoned, but contrary, argument could have gotten an A and I am always on the lookout for students who are engaged enough to challenge what is being taught. But he ignored the question and tried to fill the space with non-caloric, tangential filler, the way students without a clue write exams, irregardless of their politcal beliefs.




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  22. Vanyogan says:

    [“none of them recognized the basic humanity of Africans and American indigenous, and at least a few maintained a low opinion of the working classes.”]

    Alexander Hamilton, was a bastard child from the West Indies, perhaps of slave blood, and could be considered working class origin. Hamilton was an abolitionist and founded the abolitionist society of New York. Your statement is substatially false.

    I think it’s reasonable to say that the native Americans of the era, had no desire to be included or governed. The point is irrelevant.

    You’re fired…




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  23. jack says:

    I think you’ve all been punked by the wingnuts again…

    I mean “studentsforacademicfreedom.org”?

    The horrors our students must go through to get an education in our nation! It’s a sweatshop!

    And rush/drudge/wash times picking it up?

    I suppose it will make it to hannity tonight as well…

    geez guys!




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  24. The grade is not the issue. The issue is teling someone that being pro-American is a mental disorder. He should have recommended an English tutor for his senence structure, not a psychiatrist to “cure” his love of America. I guess we know his priorities lie: indoctrination ahead of education. Unfortunately, this reflects an all-too-common atttude on campuses.

    But that part of this “story” is heresay, is it not? Even if the professor said this to the student behind closed doors, what do we know of the conversation/argument that lead up to him making that statement? At age 17, I can image the filter the kid runs a conversation through when recounting it to somebody else. They could have spoken for 20 minutes about anything and everything and have had it boil down to “he said I should see a shrink” afterwards. That’s more than I get out of my daughter for an entire day of school!




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  25. cheney_usa says:

    I noticed all the grammatical errors also, but he is a 17-year-old foreign student.

    Cut the kid a break.

    BUT, his essay sucked and did not address the essay question.




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  26. TallDave says:

    delagar,
    The professor apparently does not dispute that point.

    Bob Roberts,
    It’s a little silly to complain that while creating one of the most democratic, egalitarian, balanced, and libertine republics in the history of the world, the Founders did not also free the slaves and give women the right to vote. I give you an F for historical perspective.

    Leopold Stotch,
    Did you in fact mention the 100 million or so killed under Communism, and how that reflects on Marx? It baffles me how leftists can legitimately scoff at creationism but enthusiastically teach and endorse Communism.




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  27. TallDave says:

    To be clear, creationism should be scoffed at. My point is that communism is equally discredited.




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  28. TallDave says:

    Liberal Avenger,

    As I noted before, the professor has apparently not disputed the point. Now that the issue has been aired publicly, if he had a more legitimate reason for demanding the student seek pyschological help, the burden is on the Professor to either supply that reason or deny that he ordered the student to seek such help.




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  29. decon says:

    Given the reality of grade inflation, I’d say this paper deserves a C at the worst. And that would be at an elite private university/college.

    But before criticizing the grading, it would be quite helpful to know the conditions under which the exam was written. If time was sharply constrained (i.e other questions, only 20 minutes to write etc…) then those of you focusing on grammer, composition, etc… are full of it or doing your students a real disservice. If time is unconstrained (i.e. take home exam, two hours for this question) then you have a point.

    What is really wrong with this essay is that it is essentially non-responsive. But we would need to know what the student was taught and/or expected to know. What was on the syllabus?

    As for the Professor, I’d give him an F. The exam question presumes an answer that concurs with Dye and Zeigler’s point of view. It leaves no room for a measured disset, or at least makes the presentation of a critical viewpoint very risky for the student. Surely there were different view points presented in the classroom or assigned reading?




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  30. The aggrieved student is a bad writer – period. His argument is poorly constructed and poorly supported.

    I dare say a conscientious conservative professor would have eviscerated the student’s essay in the same manner.




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  31. A Hermit says:

    “I would even go so far to say that the majority of bloggers stay away from issues in which they are not experts”

    Posted by: Zed at January 16, 2005 21:27 Permalink

    That might be the funniest thing I’ve ever read in a blog comment…

    It’s interesting to see conservatives (who presumably back the President’s desire to see more ‘strict constructionists” in the judiciary) arguing for the progressive, changing nature of the Constitution. Do I see a self-contradiction raising its head?




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  32. delagar says:

    TallDave: The fact that the professor has not disputed the point does not mean that the professor concedes the point.

    You are apparently not familiar with how grade appeals work. You are apparently not familiar with the Buckley amendment either.

    The professor cannot say a single word about anything to anyone about this. It would be unprofessional for him to do so.

    That’s why neither he nor his administration are talking. They can’t.

    You should look into the legal and ethical situation on campuses these days.




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  33. I’m with Conservative TA. I’d flunk the question:

    “Dye and Zeigler contend that the constitution of the United States was not “ordained and established” by “the people” as we have so often been led to believe.”

    That’s an ‘in your face’ statement, and the kid gave it right back to him. Since we have someone here who essentially confirms the student’s opinion of the professor (i.e. he’s a Marxist ideologue), I’m giving the student the benefit of the doubt.

    ” They contend instead that it was written by a small educated and wealthy elite in America who representative of powerful economic and political interests.”

    More propaganda. Also ungrammatical. As someone else commented, all constitutions are products of ‘elites’ almost by definition. The student’s answer seems to intuitively grasp that.

    “Analyze the US constitution (original document), and show how its formulation excluded majority of the people living in America at that time, and how it was dominated by America’s elite interest.”

    Why not ask; “Did the Constitution represent the interests of the majority of the people, or only the interests of a wealthy, privileged elite?”?

    I think the kid read accurately between the lines, and did address the issue. He gave a grown-up’s answer; the perfect is the enemy of the good. It looks like the prof is the one who isn’t facing the issue.

    And, I’m not sure what standards there are for grammar and syntax these days, but the guy who wrote that question isn’t in a position to criticize anyone else.




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  34. not a prof says:

    The problem with the essay (in the portions iincluded here, and aside from the grammatical errors) is that it is a polemic, not an analysis of Dye and Zeigler’s thesis.

    Dye and Zeigler’s book, The Irony of Democracy, is a standard introductory textbook for political science classes. From the beginning of the book the authors note they are looking at elite theory vs. the idea of pluralism.( Elites include both liberal and conservative elites in this analysis, btw.)

    They demonstrate ways in which the elite have been more supportive of democracy than the masses, as well.

    The question the student was supposed to address, again from the introductory paragraph, was historical and limited to the time in which the framer’s lived and worked. The student should have addressed the clauses in the Constitution about taxes, commerce, protection of property, the slavery compromise, the representation compromise, the background of the founders…not recent electoral politics.

    I don’t know if the student addressed the above mentioned issues in the rest of the essay, but if not, then the student failed to answer the question.

    I can also see a situation like that described above, with a student/prof interaction about the grade leading to a “see a counselor” moment.

    But I don’t know the student or the prof, and can only speculate about the moment in question.




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  35. Vanyogan says:

    “1) It’s been written by someone who hardly speaks the language. The grammar should therefore be excused. How would you do if you’d have to write an essay in Arabic on Kuwait’s history after having studied the language for 5 months?”

    This is an excellent point not excusing the paper. Here is a real world example.

    I once took an industry safety certification test with a group of peers in Russian at the ministry of oil and gas. We had a group of about six people and one or two professional translators. The administrators spoke little if any English. One of our group spoke native Spanish, fluent English, and had been fluent in Russian performing his work without a translator for some time. Of the group only this one person elected to complete the test without a translator. He was the only person who failed the test. They allowed him to immediately take it again with a translator. He passed easily.




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  36. renato says:

    OK the problem I have is with the question itself. I don’t know what exactly the class was concerned with – is it a general PoliSci class or upper-level, concerned (at least in part) with studying political theories – but the question posed by the professor is loaded.

    Wouldn’t a more ‘honest’ question have been to ask students to write an essay either refuting or supporting the Dye-Ziegler thesis, providing supporting or refuting arguments from the text of the Constitution?




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  37. sansho1 says:

    I agree that the student did not answer the question, and for that reason deserves to be marked down. But look at the question:

    “…They contend instead that it was written by a small educated and wealthy elite in America who representative of powerful economic and political interests. Analyze the US constitution (original document), and show how its formulation excluded majority of the people living in America at that time, and how it was dominated by America’s elite interest.”

    All Professor Woolcock had to do was insert the phrase may support the view that the document between “formulation” and “excluded” and all would be well. But in not saying so, he makes clear that he supports the Dye/Zeigler thesis, and unquestionably applies an implied pressure upon the student to not just support the thesis, but to agree with it as well. I find this unacceptable. Since I don’t know the professor, I won’t generalize from this question that he is a poor professor. Even if he is, I won’t engage in the conservative hobbyhorsing that he is “emblematic” of the “endemic liberal bias” that “dominates academia”. Crappy question, though.




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  38. For me there’s something deeper going on—not with this particular case, but it represents a trend among conservative students to blame all bad grades on liberal bias.

    Horowitz and his merry conservative inquisitors have opened a Pandora’s box with that one. In recent months it has become increasingly common to accuse professors of “liberal bias” when some dumbass student gets a bad grade. Horowitz is making it very easy to bad students to build these frivolous cases out of thin air as long as the professor can be accused of “liberal bias.

    I will remain skeptical (for now) about anything the student “said.” Let me remind you this comes from an article in The Washington Times, and we know well how low their journalistic “standards” can be. Until someone interviews the teacher, I will not give credence to the alleged words of the disgruntled student or the scandal-mongering article by the Moonie Times. It seems to me like the article is written for wingnut consumption. Just like the “war against Christmas.” Bet anything this week O’Reilly will be very outraged about this case, and will cite this Moonie Times’ concoction.




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  39. not a prof says:

    It would be helpful for those who are discussing this issue if they were familiar with the text in question.

    It would also be helpful if those who are discussing the question were familiar with theories that explain governance.

    As Dye and Zeigler note: “Critics of this elitist theory of democracy claim that it is ‘conservative,’ that it legitimizes elite rule…But elite theory neither endorses nor condemns elite governance, but rather seeks to expose and analyze the way in which elites function in a democracy.”

    Apparently so many Americans have been innoculated by polemics of both the right and left that they cannot approach an idea without finding a bias against their pov. In this case, and in this time, it seems to be the right that seems to cry victim whenever they are asked to analyze an issue unemotionally.




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  40. W.B. Reeves says:

    Re: TallDave

    “The professor apparently does not dispute that point.”

    Is this your way of saying that you don’t know whether the professor disputes the point or not? Just how is it “apparent” that he concedes the point? Or is it simply that you are unaware of his addressing the point one way or another? If so, this is not evidence but ignorance.

    “It’s a little silly to complain that while creating one of the most democratic, egalitarian, balanced, and libertine republics in the history of the world, the Founders did not also free the slaves and give women the right to vote.”

    Exactly why is this “silly”? Because you say so? Since when is it “silly” to measure rhetoric against actions? Somehow I doubt that you would excuse the hypocrisies of the Soviet regime just because the Russian revolution overthrew Tsarism.

    “Did you in fact mention the 100 million or so killed under Communism, and how that reflects on Marx? It baffles me how leftists can legitimately scoff at creationism but enthusiastically teach and endorse Communism.”

    If you can’t make the distinction between Marx as a socio-political theorist and the actions of a related political movement which occured long after his death, I can’t see that you have standing to criticize those who would trace every malfeasance of US history back to the founders.




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  41. History teacher says:

    The people that want to fail the question miss the point of asking the question. This professor asked the students to demonstrate understanding of an argument. He was not, at that point, asking for agreement, disagreement or any version of higher order thinking. That’s an acceptable, although not optimal, use of an essay. I might ask for a description of the theory, places in the Constitution that confirm the theory and finally the students’ take on the theory but I don’t think it is a terrible question as formulated.

    This is not a controversial idea, I teach it in my high school courses. It was an inadequate answer. I would have given it a D at best in my junior/senior Politics and Law class.




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  42. not a prof says:

    Renato- Dye and Ziegler’s book is an introductory, 100 level political science text that is used in conjunction with other texts and readings.

    “Elite” is not a negative word in the context of the book. It is a descriptive term based upon levels of education and income and access to sources of power.

    Do conservatives now want to deny there is an elite in this country? That obolishes the complaints against Hollyweird then, I suppose. Or an intelligensia. Or are conservatives only offended when elite is applied to those with money and power who sit in government?

    Do conservatives, therefore, support direct democracy rather than representative govt? No electoral college? No think tanks, etc. funded by conservatives that give money to political campaigns for candidates that support their goals?

    Just wondering.




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  43. sansho1 says:

    Not a prof, it’s fine to have a biased point of view. Bias is an unavoidable outgrowth of having an opinion. What is unacceptable in the formulation of the question is that it implies that the professor’s bias must be reflected back upon him in order for the answer to be correct. It may be merely a matter of poor phrasing, but Woolcock should have a little more discipline than what the question displays. I don’t need any additional knowledge of Dye and Ziegler to know that.




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  44. Vanyogan says:

    It is a crappy question. This is a political Science class. I have no education in this area but any notion of politics or results thereof must first be addressed in the context of competing interest and self interest. These are and remain the most important factors in our contitutional government. The document itself is just a nuts and bolts “how to”. I think the premise of the question is beyond reasonable expectation of the time or the task. Does anyone believe that you could simply declare slavery unconstitutional. It didn’t work 100 years later, what fool thinks it would have worked in 1789?




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  45. W.B. Reeves says:

    Vanyogan,

    Err, slavery was abolished by Constitutional amendment prior to 1889.




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  46. praktike says:

    Hmmm … this seem to suggest that his FrontPage Mag article was written by someone else, no?




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  47. Tony Meineke says:

    Patrick R. Sullivan wrote:

    And, I’m not sure what standards there are for grammar and syntax these days . . .

    That’s for goddamn sure.




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  48. Vanyogan says:

    W.B., my mistake. I was really referring to that slight barrier to success, the Civil War.




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  49. Kip W says:

    I agree that a low grade is appropriate. Should a student be excused from writing correctly in college? He’s just a foreigner, so we’ll patronize him and give him a ‘pity A.’ That’ll give him a complete education!

    Remember the purpose of college is for students to learn. If grammar doesn’t reflect in the grade on a written assignment, it doesn’t seem like there’s a point in teaching it, or any way to reward those who learn how to do it. Sending him out the door with a sheepskin just for showing up shortchanges him and devalues everybody’s diploma.

    The assignment was specific. It doesn’t matter if he flew around the room healing the halt and lame if he didn’t address the question. Let him contradict the thesis, if that’s what he can support. Let him show how they failed to do thus-and-such, but don’t let him wave the flag and expect an A for it, and go bleating that his own failure indicts evil liberals in academia, unless all he’s looking for is brownie points from the right wing.




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  50. BartCopFan says:

    The paper was a failure. the question was weak. However, the real problem with the nature of this assignment and the nature of higher education altogether is the reliance on letter/number grades. My alma mater solved these problems instantaneously, eliminating grades and replacing them with a studetn’s self-evaluation of his/her work and the professors evaluation of the work performed in the class. My transcript looks like the phone book of a small town, but I never got into a dispute about wantign to be on the A side of an A/B, or needing 5 bonus points to boost my GPA. People who go to college to get grades, not an education, are probably the majority of students today. And the resulting problems – grade inflation, hysteria about bias, constant rejustification of assessment schemes (“well, foreign students should get a pass on the letter grade segment dealing with grammar”) and constant preening and comparison between classmates (How many more studetns ask “well, what’d you get?” rather than “What’d you write about?”).

    The paper was a failure, and the professor should have supported that it was a failure with a detailed, two-paragraph evaluation. A-F is a lousy system, contrary to the goals of education. gradeless schools like mine are less popular today, but far more powerful. All the professors on this board should strongly consider abandoning grades as an assessment tool.




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  51. not a prof says:

    sansho1- the question is part of the student’s essay and reflects the position stated by the textbook authors, as the student notes by attributing the authors.

    The wording is the student’s, not the professor’s, and so any complaints about that issue are offbase because they reflect the student’s use of language.

    It is not a crappy question because, again, the question asks the student to understand the arguments put forth by the textbook that look at demographics and historical context.

    It does not ask the student to agree with the argument, but it does ask the student to understand the argument. If you want to refute an argument, you need to understand it first, unless you simply want to shout the other side down…and that’s not what education is supposed to be about.




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  52. disgusted->amused says:

    A libertine republic would be fascinating. I didn’t know it was accepted among the conservatives that we have one.

    lib·er·tine
    n.

    1. One who acts without moral restraint; a dissolute person.
    2. One who defies established religious precepts; a freethinker.




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  53. Lolly Bee says:

    Did anyone else catch another obvious issue here?

    Beyond the “liberal bias” crap, and the Marxist question crap–

    This student didn’t read the text! That’s why he didn’t/couldn’t address the question.

    I’ve seen so many essays like this in 15 years of teaching English. Students pick up a few random, disconnected ideas from class discussions, then jump to a few conclusions and paste together a string of cliches and other ready-made phrases and call it a paper.




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  54. not a prof says:

    It is a crappy question. This is a political Science class. I have no education in this area but any notion of politics or results thereof must first be addressed in the context of competing interest and self interest. These are and remain the most important factors in our contitutional government.

    This is exactly WHAT the text addresses, and what the question, as formulated by the student’s introductory paragraph, is designed to address.

    However, the body of the paper does not address the issue. Again, the text supplied the student with the points of argument with which the student could choose to agree or disagree…based upon an understanding of the clauses of the Constitution.

    The student, however, failed to acknowledge that he had read the text or understood the argument or knew the clauses of the Constitution and instead wrote a polemic that had nothing to do with an argument based upon elite theory.




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  55. MonkeyBoy says:

    This fight was discussed by Jesus’s General and his loyal army of strictly heterosexual commentators on 12/27/2004 and also 12/28/2004 (after a certain monkey pointed out that the essay was online.)

    The essay was so damning that I figured nobody serious would persue this story. But I guess there is always room for willful ignorance.




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  56. Bob Roberts accuses me of “post hoc ergo propter hoc” reasoning. He is wrong.

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc goes like this. 1) I throw a banana on the streets (the constitution). 2) Elephants walk by in the next hour (the people are well-off). 3) Throwing bananas on the streets causes elephants to walk by (the constitution has made the people well-off).

    But I said nothing of the sort. My example went like this. 1) Hypothesis: throwing a banana on the streets (the constitution) prevents elephants from walking by (prevents well-being of the people). 2) Observation: elephants walk by (the people are well-off) despite the banana on the streets (the constitution). 3) Conclusion: throwing a banana on the streets (the constitution) does not prevent elephants walking by (the people are well-off).

    In short, I did not say that the Constitution *caused* the well-being of the people. I said that the Constitution had not prevented the well-being of the people. How oppressive can such a Constitution be?

    Bob Roberts also writes:

    “It took at least 150 years for the document in question to approach its current form, had to be modified multiple times to correct for instances where the rights of certain governed individuals were not recognized, and the entire system could have swerved into the tank and collapsed multiple times, but for the individual actions of a few.”

    Fine. But what document are we talking about? The very same Constitution created by the Founders! The entire process you describe was made possible, shaped by and within the parameters of this Constitution. Think of it like your DNA: you are Bob Roberts as much now as when you were 4 years old. Hopefully since then some changes have taken place though… 🙂

    In reponse to some other comments that the question was itself biased: I agree. Where I teach, however, this is something students are allowed to notice and discuss. Nobody would be as silly as to tell a smart student who does so that (s)he has not answered the question.




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  57. Chris says:

    Not that it helps answer this question any, but I was a student of Professor Dye’s. As has been stated here already, the concept of “elites” were never narrowly defined either as conservative or liberal. As for the question itself, Professor Dye used a similar question in the course he taught using his own book. Basically, he was looking for either a legitimate refutation of the question or legitimate agreement. But he was not looking for a polemic which did not answer the question either way.

    I have to side with the Prof on this one. The student didn’t answer the question – grammar mistakes or no. He should have failed.




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  58. schade says:

    Just because the professor’s question was not stated neutrally doesn’t mean it was a bad one. I’ve been around the college block enough to recognize a question screaming for refutation when I see one. Take a chance, show off a bit, and blow your prof’s mind. I’d give a 17-year-old (presumably) freshman a pass on not having the werewithal to recognize that.

    BUT if you’re going to do so, you still absolutely must follow the instructions in the question: “analyze the…original document” it said. Where did that happen? He goes on about disagreeing with Dye and Ziegler, yet nowhere does he offer any true substantiation, just vagaries. Even if this was done in a timed setting, merely rattling off various presidents from Washington and Lincoln to Reagan and Bush I/II is not analysis of the document. This is *not* a college-level response. This wouldn’t have even flown in my high school AP-level courses, I imagine.

    As an aside, I too had an incident where a prof, I felt, graded me rather capriciously, even downgrading me on a class presentation where, because of *his* lousy time management of the lecture, I had to attempt to present 45 minutes of material in 20. When I approached him to point this out, and petition for some sort of make-right opportunity, he refused. When I — with good cause, I believed — became upset (I had put a lot of work into the class: the presentation wasn’t even a requirement, I took it on voluntarily), he suggested that I had personal problems outside of the class, and that my grievances weren’t really with him. But this was 10 years ago, and since I am fairly liberal — and I would guess he was pretty well, too — what bias could *I* go cry about, and to whom? Oh yeah…




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  59. Vanyogan says:

    [“The people that want to fail the question miss the point of asking the question. This professor asked the students to demonstrate understanding of an argument. He was not, at that point, asking for agreement, disagreement or any version of higher order thinking. That’s an acceptable, although not optimal, use of an essay. I might ask for a description of the theory, places in the Constitution that confirm the theory and finally the students’ take on the theory but I don’t think it is a terrible question as formulated.”]

    The question fails because it refers to a document that has very little to do with representation and exclusion of individuals nor does it document the formulation. The Constitution is at best tertiary to addressing the premises of the theory in question.

    The individual representation questions were at least initially left to state legislatures. The accuracy of “we the people”, and “do ordain” are dependent fully on the process in which the document was adopted. The constitution itself does not preclude any individual from representation nor does it preclude the theorists from amending the text more to their liking.

    The question asks to document apples with orange peelings.

    It’s a crappy question…




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  60. patriotboy says:

    The kid is the president of the school’s College Republican club. Funny how no one ever mentions that.




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  61. pedro says:

    Conservative TA: To conclude that the founders weren’t elitists from the premise that the Constitution has not prevented people from being well-off is absolutely ridiculous. You cannot seriously argue that elitism is a sufficient condition to ensure the impossibility of progress. You deserve a severe grade in elementary logic.




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  62. RW says:

    Interesting post, to say the least.
    I recall a while back that a blogger put up their final thesis on their site for all to see…..it was largely written in the first person (violating rule number one) and pretty much cemented the notion that the college degree was worth as much as a used square of tissue.




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  63. Vanyogan says:

    “This is exactly WHAT the text addresses, and what the question, as formulated by the student’s introductory paragraph, is designed to address.

    However, the body of the paper does not address the issue. Again, the text supplied the student with the points of argument with which the student could choose to agree or disagree…based upon an understanding of the clauses of the Constitution.”

    not a prof,

    I can’t dispute your point. The question is poorly worded in my view and even I have a better understanding than the student could have. The bias may be the references to “We the people” and “do ordain”. Why would you ask only to support this point of the question with the constitution? The question seems to focus on the founders, the formulation of the constitution, and elite theory(presumably the text). I don’t think the Constitution is best evidence to support the theory.

    You have to address the founders as individuals and the references available to formulation. The Constitution as originally presented excluded nobody from representation and was fully amendable. The 3/4 rule is not intended to short change slaves. Quite the opposite, it is intended to limit slave owner and slave state influence in Congress and the Electoral College. So even that clause is counter productive to supporting the question.

    Maybe the intention of the question is substantial but from the student’s point reference, in a different language, it’s troublesome.




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  64. Demosthenes says:

    To those objecting to the professor’s question:

    Isn’t that a good way to get an ‘A’ on a paper? If the student had an opposing view to the professor and/or the authors of the assigned reading and expressed that viewpoint in the paper–backing up said viewpoint with research, examples, etc.–then that’s a helluva paper, no?

    This might prompt some of Mr. Al-Qloushi’s defenders to say that going in the opposite direction of a professor is a good way to flunk a class. Whether professors truly hate conservative opinions (as so many conservatives seem to believe), and grade papers accordingly, is an open argument waiting for some concrete examples. But that’s not what happened here. Al-Qloushi failed not because he’s an Arab-American who loves America but because he wrote a lousy paper.




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  65. Doctor Biobrain says:

    I agree that this paper deserved an F. Some leeway is deserved for the grammer, but the grammer is poor even by loose standards. But the bigger issue was in not answering the question.

    Some people here seem to have a problem with the professor’s question, but they shouldn’t. It wasn’t a morally based question, i.e., it wasn’t suggesting that you agree or disagree with the authors’ views. It was simply to uncover whether you understood and could explain what those views are. Before you can possibly agree or disagree with someone’s opinion, you must understand what that opinion is. And this poor student’s problem was that he already disagreed with the author’s opinions, which inhibited his ability to understand them (assuming that he had even read the text).

    So his problem wasn’t whether he agreed or disagreed with the text, it was that he didn’t demonstrate an understanding of the text. Had the student written a similar essay which agreed with the text without providing constitutional evidence and without explaining the author’s opinion, he would also deserve an F. One of the tenets of a real education is the ability to set aside preconceived notions in order to allow yourself to understand all points of view. Again, you need to understand an opinion before you can agree or disagree with it. Had he first established his understanding of the author’s opinions, he could then have written why the author’s were wrong. And that is exactly what the professor was asking for in the question: not agreement, but understanding.

    I should add that, his answer wasn’t even a good disagreement with the text. I’ve never read the text in question, but the student’s statements referring to the good things about America does not refute whether or not the constitution was written by and for elitists. Many people had a good life in Nazi Germany, but that in no way condones the Nazi horrors. Similarly, one could easily argue that our founding fathers were elitists AND that America is a great country. Hell, that’s my point of view! Life is not black and white, and good things can have bad attributes and vice versa.

    There, what grade do I get for this?
    (with the understanding that I’m an unliterate CPA and not a poli-sci professor)




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  66. A Texan in Germany says:

    I must credit the College Republicans at Johns Hopkins for making me the Democrat I am today.

    I joined the CR’s during freshman orientation; I quit going to events when I overheard one of the officers make a snide remark about those of us on financial aid… and plenty of heads nodded. I was far too meek to respond the way I should have:

    “Well, I’m very sorry that my daddy’s a redneck construction worker with a high school diploma and not some corporate lawyer or doctor able to pay for me to screw around getting a poli sci degree at a private college.” (I was a female computer science major – still a bit of an oddity at JHU, even around 2000)

    It did wake me up to the notion that perhaps these are not people with my or my family’s best interests at heart.




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  67. In response to me, Pedro writes:
    “You cannot seriously argue that elitism is a sufficient condition to ensure the impossibility of progress.”

    If we’re disputing this, we’re not arguing about logic, but about the definitions of elitism and well-being. This also applies to the comments of Doctor Biobrain. I took the elitism of the essay question to be a Marxist elitism: oppression by the rich powerful of poor minorities. Under such a definition, when the people are well-off there is no elitism. Of course if we start changing the definitions of elitism and well-being it is possible to reconcile them – by matter of definition.

    In general I think people in this comments section are far too quick to judge and far too harsh in their grading. I’m a conservative, and I believe in standards. But seeing multiple points of view is also something for the professor, not just for the student.




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  68. Doctor Biobrain says:

    I should add that it’s insightful that the people who are attacking the question are stating implicitly that it is impossible to demonstrate an understanding of an issue that they don’t agree with it. Basically, if you don’t agree with an opinion, you can’t be expected to explain it.

    And that’s how they treat everything in life. Agreement or disagreement come before understanding. You first decide that you agree with it, before learning what it is. And that is the antithesis of real education. That is also how we ended up in Iraq. You find the results you want, and pick the facts that make those results happen.




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  69. not a prof says:

    Chris- don’t waste your time trying to explain the context because, as Vanyogan so aptly demonstrated, it doesn’t matter to some here that they fail to understand or even know what they’re talking about—it’s enough to know the prof was a leftie. They can then twist the circumstances to fit their preconceived notions.

    But, one last time, the book does talk about the Constitution in relation to elite theory, Vanyogan’s insistence that no such correlation can be made to the contrary. This statement merely demonstrates Vanyogan’s ignorance, not anything pertinent to the issue at hand. Like you, I also took a course that used the Dye/Ziegler text…and I kept it.

    The student was supposed to respond to the reading and he didn’t. He probably thought that it was enough, like in some circles, to masturbate to the image of our great leader and get points for technique.

    I hope all you conservatives, and especially the student whose work has been noted here, have enlisted to fight the coming campaigns in Iran and Syria.

    Or are you too elitist to put your lives where your jingoisitic mouths are?




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  70. Former UK student says:

    One possible thought — having been educated in both the US and the UK, I can say that there is a significant difference in how a good exam answer approaches the question. A good US exam answer takes the question at face value and provides answers to its component parts, drawing on the source material for the course. That kind of answer will get you a passing grade in the UK, but that’s about it. A good UK exam answer will challenge the question, explain the biases and flaws underlying that question, reformulate the question, and then answer that. A very difficult task, admittedly, and one at which this essay appears to have failed completely. But to the extent this Kuwaiti student was initially educated outside the US, that would go a long way toward explaining the willingness to disregard the question asked. I know that my grades on my first UK exams suffered in comparison to my last US exams precisely because I was unaware of this significant difference in what the examiners were looking for.




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  71. Foobar says:

    maniakes:

    If believing that the Cuban health care system is better than the US’s is grounds for accusing the professor of being poorly informed about real life, then I’m not convinced of your argument.

    Anyone able to put aside idealogy cannot ignore the fact that in many objective measures, Cuba beats the US. Take infant mortality for instance: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/1739773.stm .

    Certainly the availability of expensive equipment such as MRI machines is severely restricted, in part due to US sanctions, but Cuba’s ability to provide cost effective health care to all of Cuban society, including the poorest is definitely commendable. Do I need to describe the state of health care provision to the poorest citizens of the poorest states of the US ? For well insured Americans living in cities on the coasts, there is no question: wealth will buy you the best health care on this planet.

    -F




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  72. eugene says:

    My concern with Conservative TA’s approach is that s/he isn’t distinguishing between a polemic and an analytical essay. The student in question responded with a polemic to a question about analysis – and it was a pretty poorly written polemic that as someone else noted, suggests he didn’t do or understand his assigned reading. As such he deserves a failing grade for the assignment – but the English skills issue suggests to me a C- and a full page of explanatory comments about the paper’s problems. I know you want to find a way to excuse this person’s paper, but no such way exists. The paper is so poorly written and lacking an argument that it cannot be given a decent grade.

    I also think we need to keep in mind how “liberal bias” is often used as a stand-in for explanations of individual behavior. The professor in this case might have suggested psychological treatment, and would have been wrong to do so – but he wouldn’t have said it because he was a liberal. He’d have said it because he was an asshole.




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  73. NonAmerican says:

    @Former UK student: I second your comment. I’ve had the exact same experience.




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  74. Doctor Biobrain says:

    Conservative TA – Again, the problem isn’t that he disagreed with the text or the Professor. It’s that he didn’t answer the question. The question did not require agreement or disagreement of the opinion. It required understanding of the opinion. You can understand something without agreeing with it. In fact, it is required that you understand something before agreeing or disagreeing.

    And while it is possible that the student did understand the text, he did not demonstrate an understanding in his answer. Therefore, he did not deserve to pass. Had he agreed with the text, only citing evidence of sexual harrassment in the workplace, the Rodney King beating, and a rich man in the Whitehouse, while not citing evidence from the Constitution, he would also have deserved to fail.

    Again, the question wasn’t about agreement. It was about understanding. Disagreement is acceptable, but only if understanding was demonstrated first. That is the basis for a true education.




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  75. @Doctor Biobrain. In principle I completely agree with you. The problem, in practice, is this: when people understand a point of view x, disagree with it, therefore coming to position y, frequently the very reasons they give for disagreeing with x and coming to think y are taken -by proponents of view x- as evidence that they have not understood x.




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  76. Vanyogan says:

    [“And that’s how they treat everything in life. Agreement or disagreement come before understanding. You first decide that you agree with it, before learning what it is. And that is the antithesis of real education. That is also how we ended up in Iraq. You find the results you want, and pick the facts that make those results happen.”]

    Oh good grief, biobrain. You have already admitted you haven’tread the text. How can you, personally, possibly argue that the student has no understanding of the text when you haven’t read it.

    A counter argument can demonstrate understanding of a premise without directly referring to it. The question is at best poorly written and the professor presumably writes in his first language.

    I agree the kid get’s a D or an F.




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  77. John Iceknife says:

    Vanyogan wrote:

    “I think it’s reasonable to say that the native Americans of the era, had no desire to be included or governed. The point is irrelevant.”

    That’s not just incredibly wrong, it’s bizzare. Why would you assume that people already beaten down by the results of the French-Indian Wars would have no interest in the formation of a government taking place on our native soil? Even if no one at the time had shown any interest, how is it irrelevant to the point that we were not fully represented, in the context of the professor’s original question?

    We weren’t directly represented, but there’s more of us in your government than you might know.
    Cornplanter’s words before the Congress in 1786 and the Iroquois concepts of unity in government were widely reported from Georgia to New England.

    William Livingston, delegate to the Constitutional Convention from New Jersey, had lived for a year among the Mohawks, and was quite familiar with the Iroquois. Joseph Brant and other noted Iroquois were inducted into the Masons, and Charles Thomson, secretary to Congress, was a fully adopted member of the Lanape (Delaware) Nation. Thompson was the primary author of the Bill of Rights contained in the Northwest Ordinance, which more strongly resembles The Iroquois Great Law of Peace in its respect for individuals and recognition of the potential abuses of the power of the state, than it does any work of european origin, or european system of government.

    Pickney, Ramsay, Mason, Franklin, and Madison were all known to have been strongly influenced by Iroquois culture, government, and in some instances, fellow masonic lodge members who were Iroquois.

    It’s safe to make your assumption in one type case, for instance that of my own tribe. I’m Cherokee, we didn’t care because The British promised to leave us alone in our territories, so we sided with them in the Revolutionary War.

    Dismiss the myth of the homogenity of Native American Culture. The British and Rumanians have much more in common, than do the Apache and Hopi, who live in much closed proximity to one another. There’s very little you can say about Native Americans that will apply most tribes, and it’s not just a matter of surface tradition, it’s a matter of radically dissimilar cultures.

    Back ON Topic…

    My professors never got annoyed with me or gave me a bad grade for including my own opinions and ideas – when provided as contrast to the assignment, and stated in the assignement *after* the required portion was completed. The topic in question is a good example. No rational person could begin to claim that delegates or any of the rest of our nations founders were not members of the economic elite. Taken just within the context of the subgrouping of white land-owning males, they were the wealthiest, most highly regarded socially, and so forth. In other words, they were the elite. Heck, by definition, being a part of the process made them elite. What I would have argued after demonstrating the point was how hard these worthy men were working to extend the power of government, not from themselves, but from the very people who had appointed them, back *to* those same people. They were the elite, and they took an old hardpacked road to equality and covered it with well rounded cobblestones. Each generation that followed benefitted from the anti-elitest convictions of those elite white land-owning men, and each generation poured more law in to cement the stones. Each generation walks the road, and wears it ever more smooth and even with our good use.




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  78. Mr Bob says:

    As a conservative college student myself, I’d have to say (without all the information) that he should have gotten a low grade on that. He did not address the question. You can tell his emotions, rather than his intellect and study drove his paper. He could have addressed the question and point by point, ripped it to shreds, but he didn’t he changed the subject.




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  79. Doctor Biobrain says:

    Another way of writing that question is “Assuming that D&Z are correct, cite evidence from the constitution backing up that point of view.” In such context, it’s obvious that it was a hypothetical question.

    And even if you read the text and believe that it is impossible to cite anything from the constitution to defend D&Z’s views, even hypothetically, then the essay would need to explain why. It is not enough simply to say “America is great, therefore the founding fathers were not elitists and in no way discriminated against the non-elite” (which, IMHO, is a better version of this student’s paper). A correct disagreement would be “D&Z’s opinions are wrong because…” and then would procede to demonstrate how the constitution proves D&Z wrong. Specifically, he would have to show that the constitution was written for the benefit of “the People” and that the writers of the constitution had “the People’s” interest in mind when they wrote it. Citing real world examples is entirely out of the question, as the question demanded proof from the constitution.

    Again, agreement or disagreement is not enough to properly answer this question. A proper answer required a demonstration of D&Z’s views, using the constitution as the basis of that answer. I should add that I really think the student hadn’t read the text, as he gave no indication of what it said.




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  80. Vanyogan says:

    [“” They contend instead that it was written by a small educated and wealthy elite in America who representative of powerful economic and political interests.”’]

    Not a prof,

    What clause(s) in the Constitution proves the above to be true?




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  81. Doctor Biobrain says:

    Conservative TA – I really think you’re finally on the right track with this one. But the whole reason he deserved an F wasn’t because he gave “X” as his point of view and the teacher assumed that he didn’t understand “Y”. He deserved the F because he was supposed to give an understanding of “Y”, but didn’t. Had he agreed with “Y” and given his opinion of “Y”, without showing understanding by using examples from the constitution, he would also have deserved an F.

    That’s why teachers ask for understanding, and not agreement. Giving argument “X” or “Y” does not demonstrate understanding, so the question asked for understanding, not agreement. Even disagreement required citing evidence from the constitution.




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  82. Vanyogan wrote: “A counter argument can demonstrate understanding of a premise without directly referring to it.” Indeed.




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  83. Doctor Biobrain says:

    Vanyogan – I do not need to have read the text to understand what it says. The question gives the basic tenets of what the text says, and I have read similar things elsewhere. Hell, I think I could probably score a B on that essay, without having read the text. All one needs to do is understand the idea that our Founding Fathers may have been elitists who designed our government for their own needs, rather than the people. Beyond that, it simply requires an understanding of the constitution, and to be able to cite things from it which benefitted the elite. That sounds fairly simple, and I haven’t had a poli-sci class for over 10 years.

    And it was obvious that the student didn’t demonstrate an understanding of the text, as he didn’t even address any of it. A cleaned up version of his argument was “America is great, and therefore the constitution favored the people, and not just the elite.” And that is illogical, and did not demonstrate understanding. I agree that America is great, but I also believe that the constitution was written by elitists who often favored their own interests. Even he concedes that the document was progressive “for it’s time”, suggesting that he understands that the constitution does not hold up to our understanding of freedom for all. But the question isn’t asking for a rationale of why it wasn’t progressive by our standards, but rather way’s that it was not progressive. And further evidence against his understanding is that he states that the constitution “guaranteed freedoms for all” and embodied our belief that “all men and women are created equal”. It is as if he didn’t know that women, black men, and non-property owners were not given the same rights as rich men in the original constitution. He clearly demonstrated a lack of understanding.

    As for the poorly written question, I’m certainly hoping that it was a paraphrase from the student, and not a straight quote. I don’t see how any professor could have written that poorly, and I’m a bad writer.




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  84. Jon H says:

    I wonder what social status the Kuwaiti student enjoys when he’s back home.

    Is he, perhaps, unaccustomed to being questioned?




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  85. ketemphor says:

    A couple of pieces of idle speculation:

    1. The header question starts off with “3.” This leads me to believe that this was quite possibly the third of multiple choices for an essay assignment. If he didn’t like this question maybe he should have chosen a different one. I’m assuming that he didn’t have to answer all of them since if he did his grade was due to all of the parts and not just this one.

    2. The essay is typed in all of its grammatical incorrectness. If this was done “in-class”, I would assume that it was likely written out longhand. Why would this kid go through the trouble of typing in the essay replete with errors? My guess is that this was a take home assignment and was already on disk when it was turned in.




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  86. A side point:

    Some commentators are faulting the question as poorly constructed or intellectually flawed. That’s hardly an excuse for a bad answer, even if shown true (but I’d say that evidence for the question being bad so far has been mostly through “proof by assertion”).

    Regardless: Apparently there was a choice of questions that could have been answered, so it’s even less of an excuse for the student to have made such a bollix of his answer to claim that the question was “bad”.

    And can we just agree?: The student didn’t answer the question, but went on some extraneous rant (and even then failed to support these “arguments in non-answer”). The paper deserved an “F”.

    Cheers,




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  87. Vanyogan says:

    Vann wrote:“I think it’s reasonable to say that the native Americans of the era, had no desire to be included or governed. The point is irrelevant.”
    John
    [“That’s not just incredibly wrong, it’s bizzare. Why would you assume that people already beaten down by the results of the French-Indian Wars would have no interest in the formation of a government taking place on our native soil? Even if no one at the time had shown any interest, how is it irrelevant to the point that we were not fully represented, in the context of the professor’s original question?

    We weren’t directly represented, but there’s more of us in your government than you might know.
    Cornplanter’s words before the Congress in 1786 and the Iroquois concepts of unity in government were widely reported from Georgia to New England.”]

    John,

    Thank you for the informative b!tch slapping I deserved. Off the cuff never works for me.

    But don’t your points refute, rather than support, the theory that the that the Constitution and founders were not influenced by the interest of Native Amreicans? After all, the statement I was refuting declared that that the founders had no notion of the humanity of blacks or native Americans?

    My main points are that the text of the question seems to specifically seek Contitutional references to support the premises of the question. I simply don’t see how you can do this by merely quoting clauses. Your references are much more substantive which further demonstates my point. I think the question could have been much more clear.

    I think the Constitution itself,is tertiary to arguing for the texual premises of the question. It’s confusing to me how to address the points beyond a very simplistic response. Maybe me and the kid should have read the book…




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  88. KevinNYC says:

    Does the student’s answer at any point demostrate familiarity with the text of the Constitution?




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  89. Doctor Biobrain says:

    I’d just like to point out something that was implied in my earlier postings. Which is that this question really wasn’t about the Dye & Zieglar text. They were mentioned at the beginning, but only to give context about what kind of answer was expected. But the real question only involved understanding the constitution, and citing examples from it which demonstrated that it was written by elitists who were instituting advantages for themselves.

    Of course, I’m guessing that the D&L text gave examples of this, which would make answering the question even easier, but it seems hardly necessary. Had this student understood the D&L text and wanted to disagree, he should have given the examples that they gave, and then refuted them. But again, this question was solely about the constitution and not the D&L text. And the student’s essay did not cover either, but rather explained why he didn’t want to consider the question.




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  90. another prof says:

    Leaving aside the grammar issue, any fair grading rubric for the question as posed would have accurate and appropriate quotations or citations to the original document (the constitution) as one important component and correct explication of those citations as the second. Next would be coherent links of these to the hypothesis as stated would be the third. Needless to say, the essay does not really discuss the document at all.

    The thesis of the essay should focus on those sections of the constitution which are particularly important for supporting the hypothesis as stated in the question (Preamble? Article 1? Article 2? etc.?). A strong essay might also point out those portions which do not seem to support the hypothesis.

    This question is, in my view, designed to test a student’s ability to work with original documents and to use them in support of an argument.




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  91. Anarch says:

    Quick question: that “3.” before the question looks very suspicious. Would it be most people’s interpretation that this was one essay choice amongst many and that the student chose to do this particular one? If so, the fact that he was the president of his College Republicans begins to take on a slightly… uncomfortable tone.




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  92. Southpaw says:

    What clause(s) in the Constitution proves the above to be true?

    This, Vanyogan, is exactly what the essay in question was supposed to answer. Had it done so, you wouldn’t need to ask this question.




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  93. Anarch says:

    I see that ketemphor made the same point before I did. Anyone else concur?




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  94. Doctor Biobrain says:

    I, too, noted the #3 on the question, but had thought that it was one of several manditory questions. Do we have reason to believe that this was a one question test? If so, it certainly appears that he had a choice of several questions. In fact, the reason I had thought that it was one of several manditory questions was because his answer was so bad and he hadn’t appeared to have read the text. So it wouldn’t make sense that he would have chosen it.

    But, then again, if he was the President of the College Republicans, then maybe he purposefully took it on as a challenge to the teacher. His answer seems to be more of a refusal to consider the question, rather than someone who just didn’t know the answer and was BS-ing. It seems that perhaps the D&L text offended him and he purposefully selected that question because he was so offended by it. Of course, that’s a lot of supposition on my part, so I don’t really know.




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  95. another prof says:

    One of several questions they could choose from, according to the above story.




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  96. another prof says:
  97. Southpaw says:

    If he hadn’t read the texts, it wouldn’t matter which question he chose to answer. I’d guess Biobrain’s right – the kid picked #3 because it gave him a forum to “refute” the liberal professor.




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  98. chuck says:

    TallDave wrote:

    Did you in fact mention the 100 million or so killed under Communism, and how that reflects on Marx? It baffles me how leftists can legitimately scoff at creationism but enthusiastically teach and endorse Communism.

    1) Creationism and communism have nothing to do with one another. One purports to be a theory of science and an explanation of the origins of the universe. The second is a critique of capitalism and the assertion of a new system of economics. The two have nothing to do with another, not in content nor in structure. Moreover, one speculates on origins, while other depicts one possible future. so I don’t see how you get off comparing the two.

    2) If the ideology of communism (itself (rather than corrupt and murderous leaders like Stalin) “killed 100 million people,” then how many did Christianity kill? Hitler, after all, was a Roman Catholic, so should I lay all his murders at Christianity’s doorstep. For that matter, how many did capitalism kill over the years? I’ll bet that number’s not exactly insignificant either.

    So get off your high horse.




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  99. Vanyogan says:

    The kid probably got the right grade.

    On elite theory of founders, duh. But somehow I doubt we’d be having this discussion if the Constitution had been signed by Bubba, T_slam, and Beatrice Flatbottom.

    On the question, it could be more clear.

    On the founders efforts, you have to play the ball as it lies. They hit a great shot from the rough, under a bunch of trees, over a lake, to broad fairway, albeit in need of some fertiliser and a good hard rain.

    Word.




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  100. chuck says:

    If the Founders were truly elitists who did not act in the interest of the people, then the subsequent benefits to the people of the United States as governed by that Constitution would not have occurred.

    Non sequitir. How are the founding fathers supposed to know the future?

    If it was not an elitist document, why the need for the electoral college? Why are blacks considered to be 3/5 human? To call the original document elitist is pretty uncontroversial. That is not to say it is without merit (it had a lot of merit), but the founders themselves would have called it elitist. A representative democracy was the furthest thing from their minds, and you can read that in their correspondence. Doesn’t make all their ideas bad (the Constitution includes many Enlightenment concepts that we admire to this day).

    By the way, benefits don’t “occur.”




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  101. Vanyogan says:

    [“Non sequitir. How are the founding fathers supposed to know the future?”]

    Couldn’t resist. RE: Hamilton Federalist No. 1.

    […To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives. An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty. An over-scrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere pretense and artifice, the stale bait for popularity at the expense of the public good. It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. [B]History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants…[/B]]




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  102. conchefritter says:

    I’d give the kid a C… If I was teaching 4th grade social studies.




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  103. roy says:

    I’m no professor, but I used to be a student and didn’t suck at it. In nit-picking the grade, most of the defenses for this essay are based on what the student meant to write. You only get graded for what you actually write. The student may have had a brilliant argument in mind, and perfect understanding of the question, but none of that made it on the page.

    I wrote a couple essays like that in college, but only when I didn’t study.




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  104. Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    The grade is not the issue. The issue is teling someone that being pro-American is a mental disorder.

    Pardon me, but we do not know this is so. We have only the comments of the student, someone with an ideological bias against the professor, someone who is an ESOL student, and someone upset at a low grade.

    Under these circumstances, I would be very unwilling to accept their version of events as definitive. Consider the possibility of a shouting match where the prof. suggested getting counselling, and the student misinterpreting that remark as being about their political beliefs.

    The irony in the teacher’s complaining about getting unsympathetic reviews of Marxism is truly remarkable. Communism killed 100 milion people; do you suppose that was in the lesson plan?

    Blaming Communism on Marx is as useful as blaming the Crusades on Jesus. Criticise Marx on what he said, not on that which people later used his writings as justification.




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  105. Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    3) He has a decent argument. If the Founders were truly elitists who did not act in the interest of the people, then the subsequent benefits to the people of the United States as governed by that Constitution would not have occurred.

    It was said that, at the height of the largest land empire ever established, that of Genghiz Khan, a virgin carrying a sack of gold could ride from China to Europe without being molested.

    This does not, however, mean that the Mongols were pacifists, democrats, good neighbours, or particularly pleasant to be around.

    Try again.




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  106. Raya says:

    The question is poorly worded, to be sure; it should have read “….Analyze the U.S. Constitution (original document) and show how its formulation DID OR DID NOT exclude the majority of the people living in America, &c.” That said, the key phrase here is “original document,” which makes it clear that to be successful, an essay responding to this question MUST perform a close reading of the actual wording of the U.S. Constitution. This essay fails even to pretend to address the question, instead serving up unsupported opinion that scarcely even *alludes* to the text of the original document, much less quotes from or analyzes it directly.




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  107. AudioAquatic says:

    The Beard thesis (of the economic interests behind the Constitution) is nearly a hundred years old now and is about as controversial as a loaf of stale bread. It owes little or nothing to Marx, and certainly did nothing to precipitate the rise of 20th Century totalitarianism. Orestes Brownson made the same argument in the 1840’s. (By the way, Marx wrote many thousands of pages before he decided on his crowning achievement: the purges of Stalin. However, knowing this, you need not bother reading them). One might just as well belabor the domination of the academy by rogue Kantians who impose their politically suspect reasoning on impressionable little patriots, in full knowledge that Kant’s ideas directly contributed to the rise of the Third Reich and the extermination of the Jews. Another philosopher you don’t have to read!




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  108. Fred Vincy says:

    It’s hard to judge the fairness of the grading without seeing peer papers and grades. Presumably, this is a a freshman class at a not great college, so my guess would be this is not the worst paper this prof. has ever gotten, so I’d be interested to know more.

    I will say, though, that the choice of question is poor, since it does seems to require the student to accept Dye and Zeigler’s hypothesis. A better question would have asked the student to _evaluate_ the hypothesis.




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  109. Michifan says:

    Maybe I’m missing something, but shouldn’t the President of a College Republican organization be an American Citizen? Maybe he’s be best suited to be President of the College Republican Fan Club instead…




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  110. Mathwiz says:

    I’m a professor. I’d have failed that essay for not responding to the question—I might have given him a break for grammar, since he’s a non-native speaker, but failing to respond to the question in my classes is always an automatic F.

    I’m not a professor, but RTFP (Read the F***ing Problem) is such a common student mistake I’d give a student a break. If the student actually knows the material and just misreads the question, zero-tolerance policies like “automatic” F’s are needlessly punitive.

    But this essay shows no evidence that the student knew anything about the topic. It really looks as if he had no idea WTF the question was about and just tried to bluff his way through with the kind of “USA! USA!” rah-rah cheerleading that had probably worked for him in the past. That didn’t work this time, and an F was a reasonable grade.

    The student might still have salvaged the situation by trying to convince the professor that he really did know the material and just misread the question, perhaps due to difficulty with the English language. That might have earned him a second chance to get it right, or at least a passing grade of D. But instead, he probably just went ballistic, thus drawing the “psychological counseling” remark. (Actually, he probably just needed a “time out.”)

    But of course, none of this will matter in the right-wing blogosphere. All they’ll see is “Leftist professor flunks pro-USA essay; says essayist needs ‘psychological counseling'” and any and all exculpatory details become irrelevant, and anti-American bias becomes the only possible explanation for such an outrage in their tiny little minds.




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  111. Jon H says:

    I suspect the kid is mostly mad that the professor wasn’t willing to engage in some grade inflation.




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  112. Peter says:

    hope that deranged mf is a frosh, b/c that’s a downright dumbass frosh mistake. i’ve gotten slammed by making that mistake – more than once – and i never screamed ‘bias’ – much less ‘BIAS’.

    on the matter whether the pros should be reprimanded in some way for making this dude cry, yeah – he should probably be sanctioned somehow. and the student should seek help, too.

    p.s. i though this thing was a joke at first, then i remembered what it’s like listening to people who watch Fox News.




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  113. BartCopFan says:

    I’m reposting this because I still believe it, and wanted to correct the typos.

    The paper was a failure. The question was weak. However, the real problem with the nature of this assignment and the nature of higher education altogether is the reliance on letter/number grades. My alma mater solved these problems instantaneously, eliminating grades and replacing them with a student’s self-evaluation of his/her work and the professors evaluation of the work performed in the class. My transcript looks like the phone book of a small town, but I never got into a dispute about wantign to be on the A side of an A/B, or needing 5 bonus points to boost my GPA. People who go to college to get grades, not an education, are probably the majority of students today. And the resulting problems – grade inflation, hysteria about bias, constant rejustification of assessment schemes (“well, foreign students should get a pass on the letter grade segment dealing with grammar”) and constant preening and comparison between classmates (How many more students ask “well, what’d you get?” rather than “What’d you write about?”).

    The paper was a failure, and the professor should have supported that it was a failure with a detailed, two-paragraph evaluation. A-F is a lousy system, contrary to the goals of education. Gradeless schools like mine are less popular today, but far more powerful. All the professors on this board should strongly consider abandoning grades as an assessment tool.

    —-

    In addition to the student’s failures to have properly read the question, to display an understanding of the required text, to have supported his argument with textual examples from the Constitution, and to address the points his first paragraph stated IN ALL CAPS he would address, Mr. Al-Qloushi, as noted above, should be regarded as skeptically as possible for using Horowitz’s forum to cast the most favorable light possible upon his failure. Mr. Al-Qloushi is a student seeking either good grades or nototriety, as I addressed above.

    Even the reamrkable fluidity demonstrated in the previous comments on what grade Mr. Al-Qloushi should have received from people in general agreement that his work was deeply flawed – C for effort? D for bad writing in a second language? F for failing to respond to the question that was asked – make evident the flaws of grading. His own flaws are now notwithstanding, what matters is the fairness and worth of the professor’s value system.

    Call it what it is – a lousy effort to cover up the fact the writer was unprepared for a test. Leave it at that – no number or letter needed.




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  114. seamus says:

    Contending that the economic implosion of the USSR somehow invalidates the theory that the first draft of the Constitution was elitist is absurd and simplistic. Everything about the essay reeks of quasi-religious America worship, instead of critical thinking. The student could have pushed back against the contention of the authors, but he instead spewed fact-free, jingoistic platitudes.

    Failure.




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  115. Lurch says:

    If woolcock identified signs that the kid was suffering from a nervous disourder such as depression then perhaps he was doing the kid a favour, so that he can sort himself out and maybe pass next time?




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  116. Just Me says:

    I don’t think his answer was good, and deserved a poor grade.

    I think the question was not well written, and could have been better formulated.

    I think if the teacher did tell him to attend counseling, the teacher is pretty wacked and deserves to be disciplined in some way.

    Someone asked up above:

    “If the ideology of communism (itself (rather than corrupt and murderous leaders like Stalin) “killed 100 million people,” then how many did Christianity kill? Hitler, after all, was a Roman Catholic, so should I lay all his murders at Christianity’s doorstep. For that matter, how many did capitalism kill over the years? I’ll bet that number’s not exactly insignificant either.”

    I think it is hard to seperate entirely the corrupt leaders from those who murder-and frankly Christians are forced to swallow Hitler and the Crusades, even if they believe the leaders were not acting Christlike in what they did. Also, the facts are that communist governments have killed far more people in one century than Christians had at any other point, and that includes the crusades, Hitler and the murder of native Americans.

    Interesting reading is at this website-takes a while to read, but worth it.

    http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/welcome.html




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  117. Jon H says:

    “I think if the teacher did tell him to attend counseling, the teacher is pretty wacked and deserves to be disciplined in some way.”

    If the student was foaming at the mouth, demanding an ‘A’ and screaming about political persecution, then the teacher’s comment would have been reasonable.

    We don’t know. All we have is the story of the student, who has shown himself to have low integrity and honesty, because in marketing his story he has concealed his membership in the campus GOP Youth, and not admitted that his essay was pathetic. (This kind of bad ethics and poor character seems to be an entrance requirement for the Young Republicans.)

    Frankly, I think this is a kid, who like so many Republicans is from a privileged background, is used to getting his way, and is trying to get the professor fired because the professor had the gall to give him a bad grade.

    He might also be hoping for a profitable spot as a conservative Arab pundit on Fox.




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  118. Jon H says:

    BartCopFan writes: “The paper was a failure, and the professor should have supported that it was a failure with a detailed, two-paragraph evaluation.”

    Maybe he did. He wouldn’t be able to produce that evaluation, I believe, by law. This isn’t an academic issue, it’s a political issue, and it’s going to be tried on FOX News.

    The student certainly isn’t going to produce such an evaluation, should one exist. Nor is the student going to honestly relate the interaction.

    The use of the incident as propaganda, by the student and the right-wing media elite, pretty much requires that the professor’s evaluation be ignored, that the facts of the incident be ignored, and that it be spun as purely an anti-American liberal professor keeping down a persecuted conservative student.

    The student can’t play the victim if his true role in the incident becomes known in full.

    If the student really believes his essay got an F due to politics, then he probably does need counseling to help his delusions of persecution. But he probably knows full well that he slacked off, wrote a crappy essay, and got a well-deserved F.




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  119. Just Me says:

    Jon H your argument pretty much went down the tubes, when you stated this:

    “Frankly, I think this is a kid, who like so many Republicans is from a privileged background, is used to getting his way, and is trying to get the professor fired because the professor had the gall to give him a bad grade.”

    Um, how are you so certain that only republicans are all from a privileged background? Used to getting their way? First of all, there are democrats out there who come from privileged backgrounds who are more than likely also used to getting their way, and I also argue with your premis that republicans by definition are from privileged backgrounds. I am a republican, while I didn’t come from a poor background, I certainly didn’t come from a privileged one and I worked hard for every grade I got in college, although I admit I think I could probably answer that question better right now, having not read the text or taken the class than the student did, but your assumption about republicans, republican students and whether or not they think the world owes them something needs a lot more support than the generalization you just gave it.




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  120. Jon H says:

    “Um, how are you so certain that only republicans are all from a privileged background?”

    I said no such thing. I said “many”.

    Many is not “all”.




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  121. Just Me says:

    Many is a weasel word, so when you say “many” just what do you mean? 90%, 70%, 51%?

    And even then, “many” is a generalization. Do you actually have stats that say just how many republicans come from privileged backgrounds? What about democrats?

    What do you define as a “privileged background?”




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  122. Jon H says:

    Many means many, which is less than most. Many privileged people are Democrats.

    Sorry you’re so very sensitive. Here’s a tissue.




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  123. Buzzcook says:

    As with so many complaints about the ills of liberalism, “there is no there there”.

    Any poster here (or to any of the blogs that are covering this non-controversy) has to make an unrealistic number of assumptions to say this student’s essay is worthy of defense.

    The only argument that has even the most tenuous credit is that it was wrong for the proffesor to recomend psychiatric counseling. But the person making that claim also claims that this essay was given a poor grade because of its political content. That latter claim is laughable on its face.

    What is the conservative position anyway? Is it that the framers were not elites? Is it that the constitution did not protect some interests of some of the framers? Is it that elites can not contruct a document that is favorable for the “people” as well as the elites?
    What exactly is the big deal here?




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  124. The assignment:

    “Analyze the US constitution (original document), and show how its formulation excluded majority of the people living in America at that time, and how it was dominated by America’s elite interest.”

    From which, our host gets:

    “The assignment is to give examples from the text of the Constitution supporting the Dye-Zeigler thesis….”

    Pretty clearly, that’s not correct. No mention of “examples” at all. The direction is: “show how its formulation…”

    That is (you can Yogi Berra-like, look it up); the result of its formula. Which is literally what the student did. Except he disagreed, rather than agreed.

    If the prof had wanted examples of something (anything) he should have specifically asked for them. He didn’t. The kid actually read the question more carefully than ninety percent of the commenters (including the host of this blog).




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  125. Liberal TA says:

    I’m a liberal, but I think F was a little harsh. Still, this is not a good essay because the guy doesn’t answer the question, nor does he engage the text. One could write an excellent essay refuting the authors by doing a close reading and refutation of the author’s arguments. But the student doesn’t do this. That he is a non-native speaker is a factor, but being 17 is irrelevent. How does one learn otherwise? Aren’t “standards” something to which we should aspire? Use of caps is very unprofessional, kind of childlike. Use italics instead. I’d probably give the essay a C, but I’m a fairly lenient grader.

    As to said Marxist professor’s assertion that Cuba has a better healthcare system than the US’s, that might be a bit extreme a statement, but Cuba does have a lower infant mortality rate than the US.

    Also, although most here probably parse the distinction, there is a large difference between Marx as a thinker/political economist and Marxism as a design for political action. Marx, as most conservatives will even admit, is one of the greatest political economists to ever write. To be charitable, he would have seen communism in its Leninist/Maoist guises as tragic distortions and misapplications of his own theories.




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  126. James Joyner says:

    Patrick R. Sullivan:

    You may need to revisit your English courses. “Analyze the US constitution (original document), and show . . .” in the context of the lead sentences rather clearly means give examples from the text of the Constitution. How else would one analyze the Constitution in light of the two lead sentences?




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  127. MonkeyBoy says:

    This is how I interpret what happened. If you read Al-Qloushi’s article in FrontPageMag.com, he states:

    Professor Woolcock didn’t grade my essay. Instead he told me to come to see him in his office the following morning.

    Now the big question is why didn’t the prof mark-up and grade the essay? I think the meeting started off by the prof saying that if he did grade it then Al-Qloushi would fail the course (particularly since he had failed the midterm because he didn’t complete it). And since the essay was so off base, the prof would explain why and then give Al-Qloushi an opportunity to re-write the essay and possibly pass the course. At some point after this initial remark, Al-Qloushi started foaming at the mouth and the prof suggested counciling.




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  128. The student did not demonstrate that he had read and understood the argument from Dye and Ziegler, which appears in my 1970 edition of The Irony of Democracy. The authors are open about offering elite theory as a competing explanation to pluralism; the onus on a student is to demonstrate an understanding of the argument (had the question been “compare and contrast” the answer might have been rated a bit higher, but it would still be weak.)

    Somewhere toward the beginning of the comments somebody observed that the grammatical errors could be let slide as this was “not an English class.” Oh come. The professor and the student are using English.




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  129. ViniTheHat says:

    you mean pablum. not pabulum.

    you get an F!




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  130. RuthAlice Anderson says:

    Citing Woolcock’s contention that Cuba’s health system is better than the US system as evidence of being ill-informed is not the best example. By many objective standards, Cuba’s system is better than ours. The US system is “the best in the world” may be an oft-repeated phrase, but there’s not a grain of truth in it. America has a shockingly high hospital mortality rate thanks in part to the the very thing we brag about — easy access. You may have to wait in line in Canada for a heart bypass, but at their centers of excellence, you can be assured the doctor has done it more than twice before operating on you. You are more likely to survive breast cancer, heart attack, leukemia and a host of other diseases in at least 7 other countries. Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate and a higher vaccination rate. In fact, looking at mortality and vaccination indices, the US ranks down there with some developing countries.

    It’s not the best health system, just the most expensive. For some people, cost is the measure by which they judge excellence, but for most of us, that’s simply insane.




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  131. synykyl says:

    The article in the “Washington Times”, states that “For their final exam, Mr. Woolcock had students write an essay on one of several topics that he circulated.” (emphasis mine)

    Unless you’ve seen the other questions, I’d go easy criticising the “biased question” the student chose.




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  132. “‘Analyze the US constitution (original document), and show . . .’ in the context of the lead sentences rather clearly means give examples from the text of the Constitution.”

    No it doesn’t. If the instructor wanted examples from the Constitution, all he had to do was say so (was there a copy available to the students during the exam? Seems a bit much to expect them to have memorized it). The student literally answered the ‘question’ asked.

    And it’s quite amusing that everyone is missing the irony of a Marxist hoist by his own petard: the business from Engels about what one wills is obstructed by what another wills, and what emerges is something no one willed.




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  133. russellmz says:

    look, if you going to write an essay showing how the constitution was not written for the elites nor by the elites, it might help to, i don’t know, show/cite/quote examples where the constitution was not for/by the elites.

    was it an exam or take home? even if it was an exam and no copy of the constitution was avaliable, most people could list examples how the constitution was for/not for the elites from memory, like a bunch of people in this thread already have.

    -first amendment (say what you want, government can’t stop you)
    -second amendment (you can own guns to protect against government and stop the forced housing of soldiers {this one may be another amendment, going by memory})
    -senate (level playing field for small states vs big states)

    vs

    -slavery
    -electing senators (voted in by state legislature, not directly)
    -electoral college

    he failed to show in any way how the original constitution was not for/not for elites even though he had plenty of material for bith.




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  134. biblemike says:

    It is amazing to me how so many seemingly intelligent and well-read people can go off on so many tangents when discusing a simple to understand event. There appear to be three issues here that are readily and logically addressed.

    1. The question on the exam was presented in a manner that reflected the professor’s bias. That is nothing new. Every college student faces that and must learn to adjust to it. It it inappropriate for the professor to set up the question that way? Of course it is. Could have been done better? Of course. Was he required to? NO. Like it or not the student has to answer the question as asked and if he disagrees he can make his editorial remarks after he has responded to the question.

    2. This student did not address the question nor did he propose a response that refuted the bias of the instructor. He simply filled the space with generalistic expression reflecting his own bias but without addressing the question and thereby earning the F grade.

    3. There is no way for any of us to know what occured in the professor’s office. Were those statements made? If they were made in what continuing context were they made? The professor can’t tell us nor can the school as they are forbidden to do so at this time. The student has not given a detailed explanation of what occured in the office either. This is an area that can’t be addressed adequately until all the evidence is in. Comments made in the heat of argument are just that and generally have no otherwise signicant weight.

    The professor blew it with the question. Unfortunately, under the system he can do that. The student blew it with his answer. Unfortunately, he did not answer or otherwise address the question. The rest of the world blew it by getting involved in another he said he said argument after the event.




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  135. Andy says:

    I remember hearing a news interview where someone in Iraq posited something along that lines that some insurgents who had murdered some people couldn’t be Iraqi because Iraqis are Moslem and Moslems do not kill other Moslems.

    It struck me as a particularly un-Western (and un-modern) mindset that forms absolute conclusions that are based entirely upon a belief system and nothing on actual rational factual observation.

    This kid’s answer instantly reminded me of this type of thinking – if the US is a great country today, therefore the Founders must have done a good job creating the Constitution and criticism of their motives or what they actually did is unwarrented. So maybe the whole thing IS a cultural thing – he was answering the question using the sort of proof that he was used to by relying solely on America’s greatness today to answer the question – which we are interpreting as some sort of rabid pro-Americanism – and which wouldn’t fly in a Western college course because it isn’t based upon our form of rational analysis and critical observation.

    If this was a cultural thing, in the student’s own mind, he did a fine job and probably couldn’t understand why the professor wasn’t giving him a good grade. The suggestion of “counselling” could be referring to how to think and analyze according to Western methods if one is to suceed in a Western educational environment. If the student didn’t understand this critique, it would be easy for him to consider it an attack an being “pro-American”.

    Looking at this through the cultural prism though, I do find it troubling that the kid is the President of the Young Republicans. It would be like me going somewhere else and after only being in the country for a few months started meddling in politics that I hardly understand there. Troubling.




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  136. Just_a_Teacher says:

    Having taught well over a thousand students in my life, I can say that they come in all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of thoughts and opinions. It wasn’t until last year, though, that I had a student who I fully believed needed “psychological treatment.” However, I did not share this thought with the student. I feel that Prof. Woolcock should not have said such a thing, if he in fact did say it, even in an attempt at humor (unless he had developed a good/joking rapport with the student, which doesn’t seem to be the case here). Not knowing the student or the professor, I can’t really speak anymore to that.

    As for the question that was asked, I believe it is easy to understand, and provides a good jumping off point for the students to write their essays. It asks them to think and argue from a source (or sources if you include the course text) in support of their opinions. It provides that basics of any essay question.

    That the student chose not to answer the question that was asked is not the fault of the question. The student may think that today’s America is so wonderful that such a question is a kind of blaspheme, but that is not a reason not to answer the question. Imagine, if you will, someone in a science class discussing cosmology having a test question in which he or she was asked to give examples of scientific evidence that the Big Bang occurred. If the reply was basically, “I believe the Catholic Church has done a whole lot of good for the people in the world, and I’m glad to live in a world where we can question the beliefs of those who have helped us out so much,” you wouldn’t give the student a passing grade (regardless of your feelings about the church).




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  137. ChetBob says:

    I have to agree with the poster above that this paper indicates that Mr. Al-Qloushi didn’t read the material at all.

    There does not seem to be any portion of the essay that indicates a familiarity with the actual contents of the Constitution at the time addressed by the question or at any time.

    I am familiar with many students with English as a second language. In my opinion, as shown by his article at frontpagemag.com [ http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=16550%5D and in his essay, for 17 yo imigrant college student his vocabulary and mastery of syntax is fairly sophisticated.

    I went to a “top 30” University in the U.S. My basic rule of thumb was if I could directly answer the question with ANY material that showed I had read the material and/or attended the lectures, I was guaranteed at least a “C.” If I added some indication in the essay that I had actually thought for a couple of seconds about the material and remembered those fleeting moments of engagement (whether in agreement or disagreement) I could boost my exam to a B or better for sure.

    What amazes me is that the student himself actually posted this obvious attempt to completely bullshit his way through the exam. Up until I hit the link on frontpagemag.com I was suspicious that the essay was a satire of what the satirist thought the students essay must have been like.

    This essay cannot be defended by anyone who believes in academic standards of any kind, even the most minimal.




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  138. ” -first amendment (say what you want, government can’t stop you)
    -second amendment (you can own guns to protect against government and stop the forced housing of soldiers {this one may be another amendment, going by memory})”

    I think we have an excellent example above of someone listing some things from the Constitution (the Bill of Rights). What’s missing is any connection to the theory stated in the instructor’s assignment.

    A list is not ‘analysis’. Further, those three items certainly don’t support the idea that the Constitution was written by and for elite interests.

    The student’s response is far superior.




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  139. Brian Ritzel says:

    Shorter Exam Question: Did you read Dye and Zeigler?

    Shorter Exam Answer: No.




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  140. MonkeyBoy says:

    Shorter Exam Question: Did or will you read Dye and Zeigler?

    Shorter Exam Answer: No. They are communists.

    (according to Al-Qloushi in FrontPageMag it was a take-home exam).




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  141. Polianna says:

    College is where many first learn to game the system — anything from organizing a network of connections to flattering professors to “grade-grubbing.”

    It’s only natural that the College Republicans would learn a lesson from their mentors on FOX and Town Hall who have spent decades now accusing the academy of indoctrinating students with “liberal bias.” The only question is why it didn’t happen sooner. I mean, aren’t these kids a little slow on the uptake? The right has been pouring money into campus Republicans for years, and only now are the kids starting to really reap the benefits.

    If you were in college to expand your understanding, there would be no idea so heinous that your only option would be to melt down into a frothing neanderthal. Professors should not be expected to cater to set ideologies, much less to the fairy-tale history this kid seems to believe in.

    But, I have to hand it to the kid — he’s playing it beautifully. I mean, that FrontPage article is a real piece of work. “Poor me! I am a persecuted, freedom-loving immigrant! My only crime is that I love America too much!” And the Washington Times certainly took the bait. (Although, what wouldn’t they bite at?) I guarantee you he’s got an internship lined up already. The kid’s definitely got a great career ahead of him!




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  142. russellmz says:

    patrick: “A list is not ‘analysis’. Further, those three items certainly don’t support the idea that the Constitution was written by and for elite interests.”

    i “list”ed it because it was an outline of what he could have used to flesh out and analyze examples TO OPPOSE THE THEORY. unless you’re complaining i didn’t spend three hours writing an essay i wasn’t assigned out in full in the comments section of a blog.

    and if you had read my comment, you’d have noted i said he had ammo BOTH on how the constitution was for/not for the elites. the first group of items were if he wanted to suggest it was not for the elites. the second group (which was separated by “vs.”, meaning opposed) had examples that supported the idea the constitution was for the elites. sheesh.

    i’m not even going to bother with the part where you compared my 2-minute outline with the other guy’s take home exam essay and declared his superior.




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  143. C. Bennett says:

    Yikes — a bad exam (in my opinion), a poor response from a international student (that happens), and then the officious “re-grade” in public of an exam with the giant red F! It’s a student! In a small college! In a poorly-worded exam not in his native language!

    Can you guys possibly take yourselves any more seriously? Do you provide public regrades for any disputed exam scores? Can you dust off your “exam evaluation hat” any time there is a student-faculty grievance that becomes public.

    This is a scary site — public student humiliation for anyone with a grievance; real-time regrades; full explanation of foreign-student weaknesses in grammar, syntax, source cites, insights, …

    This sort of public “instruction” gives me the shudders — it’s as though there is a national arbitration site, something like the National Academy of Sciences, that speaks with final authority on student-faculty grade and counseling disputes.

    Lighten up. Take a deep breath. If you decide to accept the burden of grade resolution and definitive regrades, you’re going to be very busy, indeed.




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  144. russellmz,

    All I can say is; glass houses…stones…not throw.

    Btw, contrast the Foothill College instructor’s ‘question’, with a grown up poli sci guy:

    http://www2.truman.edu/jprz/dyez1_2.htm

    ——-quote——–
    Political Science 161

    Questions for Dye and Zeigler, Chapter 1

    1. What is the irony of democracy? Briefly summarize elite theory.

    2. Briefly summarize democratic theory.

    3. What is the practical solution to the problem of popular government in a large country?

    What is the Iron law of Oligarchy? Why is the government considered the most powerful of society’s institutions? According to the authors what is the difference between elites in a democratic society and a totalitarian one?

    4. What are the eight basic features of pluralism?

    5. What features do pluralism and elitism have in common? In what eight ways does elitism differ from pluralism?

    6. Discuss elite threats to democracy. Discuss mass threats to democracy. Why are democracies particularly vulnerable to terrorism? Why do the authors feel that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were not successful, at least initially?

    7. Discuss how the authors defend an elitist interpretation of American democracy.
    ——–endquote——–




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  145. ChetBob says:

    This guys written English is better than that of more than half my native-born classmates as an undergraduate in a much more prestigeous school.

    What a bunch of whiners. The right’s rejection of intellectual discipline continues get more and more faniciful.




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  146. Sarah says:

    My only question, which I haven’t seen yet here, is what others in the class got. It’s a junior college, so I don’t expect essays that will wow most bloggers (folks who write for fun). Were there other non-flagwaving essays written in a similar style that also failed? Is the prof’s grading scale straight across the board for all students, regardless of their views?




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  147. Dr. Woolcock was my teacher in three political science courses; one of which was the poli sci 1 course Ahmad was in. The attacks on the professor disgust me, and moreover are frequently based on crude hearsay and imaginative fabrications. At no time during class did I feel the professor to be a Marxist or a Communist of any kind, as some bloggers have claimed him to be. One term he graded one of my most conservative papers with a higher score than any other paper of the class. He also spent multiple classes speaking about the faults of communism. I have seen both conservative and liberal classmates both succeed and fail equally. If any of his other current students were questioned, I am positive that almost every single one would support my description of the professor. The assignment Ahmad was given had been handed out weeks ahead of time, in which he was expected to meet with either the professor or a TA at least once to discuss his essay. The essay was also meant to be somewhere in the range of ten pages. Therefore, even if his atrocious writing were ignored, he would have failed solely on the basis that his paper would only span about two and a half pages with strategic spacing (therefore even if he had written on the topic, he only would have done about a quarter of the assignment). The topic was meant to be written about, not agreed with. A respectable essay arguing either point would have earned a respectable grade. These allegations are highly reminiscent of the McCarthy Hearings, making communists out of any enemy of the accuser, for the accuser’s personal gain. Then again Ahmad may be a fan of the late senator; I fear that these will not be the last Ahmad’s acquisitions. How many more decent names will be unjustly stained before people began to examine the truth?




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  148. Joe Parente says:

    A poster on my board posted this story yesterday. I clicked through to the Front Page Magazine article the kid wrote and saw the essay. I agree it failed to answer the question one way or another.

    http://frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=16550

    In the original article, the kid claims this: “Most of all we remember our one-week-old baby cousin who died while the Iraqi invaders were stealing incubators from hospitals to sell them for profit.”. Well, that’s a “fact” that has been proven false.

    That he “remembers” it, plus that “He recently became President of Foothill’s College Republicans.” makes me wonder whether he ever talked to Professor Woolcock. If the class was Republican Propaganda 101, he would have gotten an A+




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  149. Brian Zuelke says:

    Requiring our educators to be completely bias-free is ludicrous. Education will always be indoctrination until students are given the tools they need to critically evaluate what they read, see, and hear. That kind of education is severely lacking in our public institutions, and abroad it is apparently not lacking. It might be useful to look ouside our country to see what is going on.

    With proper learning skills, students will be inclined and equipped to pursue knowledge themselves. That’s the best education money can buy — it’s free!




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