The failings of computerized grading Regarding "Essays get the electronic red pen" (Jan. 12): In my 25 years as an instructor of English, I have often hoped for a method/way/rubric that would help with the sometimes painful reading of divergent essays. But I worry about this proposal, not as an instructor, but as a literate person.
Writing is greater than simply a recitation of facts and stuff. Just ask any novelist. I worry that such reductionism will become commonplace, and we shall be judged by computer software at McAfee court; we shall be doctored by the Microsoft Medic; we shall be interviewed by Norton Human Resources Search Engine.
Can we go too far? Are we there already?
Let me grade my papers in the privacy of my home where they belong. Dan Danforth Regina, Saskatchewan
It's unfortunate that computers grading essays is a "solution" that addresses a condition and not the cause.
If professors cannot handle the workload from increased classroom size, institutions as well as professors ought to be working on ways to reduce the number of students that professors must evaluate.
Any person who advocates a computer to grade papers over a human, clearly gives cost efficiency priority over quality education. Students will stop being creative and essays will be of cookie-cutter quality.
It is a teacher's job not only to give information, but also to assess in a subjective manner whether the student has learned that information. Computers grading tests is like a computer providing a restaurant critique: It's not always what the cook prepares, but also how it is laid out on the plate.
Too many students means not enough professors. Hire more professors or let in fewer, students, but don't let computers grade essay tests.
Jay Munson Seattle, Wash.
This will turn out to be like any other technological fix: If it works, there will be an incentive for someone to develop a computer program that generates essays that get good grades, or one that edits essays so they get good grades, or both. (Already, programs such as Microsoft Word 6.0 question word order, voice, and sentence fragments when they are included in documents.)
Then, the whole grading process would be pointless - every paper turned in already would have been checked and edited so that it would score well.
I think it would be better to require students to write with pen and ink under the supervision of a proctor, and submit all drafts for any graded work. Then the teacher would know it was the student's work.
Jim Timm Portland, Ore.
Star-quality governor ...
In response to your article about Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura ("Ventura wrestles with 'tripartisanship,'" Jan. 28): Ventura's election campaign - which many people embraced because they felt he was "one of the people" - was centered around an informal motto of "I don't know about that, check back with me after I'm elected."
Now that he has been elected, he plays the role of governor just like you'd imagine a governor to be in an Arnold Schwarzenegger film: He governs by intimidation and deflection.
After a reporter asked why the governor's Cabinet appointments lacked any African- Americans, Ventura simply pointed out that the capitol press corps wasn't very diverse either. Like many action films, the shallow characters get old very quickly.
Michael Menner Minneapolis, Minn.
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