Monday, October 02, 2006

The Pains of Grading

I try to be a bit informal with my students and I never get too uptight about exactly how they choose to discuss the material on their exams. I figure if they have the information correct, basically understand the big concepts, and are able to support their points - that I can over look a little informal language.

But, I have just read an exam that makes me want to sit down and give my entire upper-division level American Foreign Policy class a lecture about appropriate word choice for exams. The offending sentence reads: "Our exclusion from the League of Armed Neutrality demonstrated that Europe is subject to douche-baggery."

First of all, I think douche bag can only be used as a noun and second -- when the heck did such terms become proper language for exams? I can just roll my eyes at how later in the essay the student refers to the French as "sorry Frogs," but surely at some point I have to address this lack of judgment.

I think one reason I am offended about this is that douche bag really is open to interpretation about what the heck it means. Maybe, instead of broaching this topic to the class in terms of 'inappropriate language' I can approach from the perspective of 'imprecise' language. Sounds more scholarly and less prissy that way.


elementaryhistoryteacher said...

When I heard one of my son's friends (20 years old) use the DB term I questioned him on it and asked him what it meant. He had no clue. When I told him he was appalled. I wonder if your student actually knew...

drhistory said...

It's possible... but doubtful. That does remind me of something that happened in my survey class about 2 weeks ago. I was giving a lecture on the "American Empire" - you know - how U.S. got Hawaii, Philippines, etc. And although I don't expressly try to portray the U.S. as a bunch of jerks, its hard to see them any other way.

So one of my student's makes the comment that the U.S. acted like real "D-bags." To which I replied, "Yes, they did. Although I have no idea what d-bag means." About 3 seconds after the entire class started laughing, I figured it out. :P