Author Topic: Incompetence rules...  (Read 609 times)


  • Muthafuckin' Don!
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Re: Incompetence rules...
« Reply #25 on: March 12, 2008, 02:31:51 PM »
^^i just now realized thats the chick from jefferson airplane  :P
well, big props on that cause you're the first one on this board as far as I know. At least the first one who said it 8)


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Re: Incompetence rules...
« Reply #26 on: March 15, 2008, 07:41:14 AM »
Well, yes, you did get that right. When I was in college, they used to give me shit for the way I put together texts for business plans and such. That's understandable though - they expect a communications student to keep things accessible, so ultimately I adjusted my writing to that. I expected things to be different at the university though...

I filed my complaints, and at the uni they were quick to dismiss them. It wasn't the student's fault - he only did what he was asked to do, which was judging the text by a set of rules. Nevermind how they did give the essay writers full artistic and intellectual freedom as for how to put together the text. They still expected things to perfectly go along the set guidelines they'd set.

Anyway, I e-mailed them my reworked essay on Sunday night, and I just now got word that they okayed it. A translation of the e-mail I received:
"Ruben, I read the third version of your essay and I okayed it - you passed. This time you managed way better to adjust your writing to our purposes (I was glad to see [the theoretical references] had been replaced by more describing aspects). I have a feeling the way things went in your case was necessary, and it seems you learned from it - which is ultimately the goal behind [getting] an education."

I would normally consider that e-mail a shocker, were it not for the fact that this professor gets on my nerves with every lecture he gives, simply for pushing political ideals instead of being a neutral scientist.
I'd actually find it quite interesting to see just so much as a little excerpt from that paper, but as you might have figured I don't speak Dutch. Personally, from what I can tell about the situation, I'd probably be overwhelmed by a strong urge to punch the guy in the face for that email and, most particularly, that patronizing tone and the wise-ass comment at the end. The shock value this holds is due to the fact that we're speaking about university here. I'll comment on you saying universities are overrated below, but what this professor does, implicitly, is to raise his finger and preach down on you about respecting the alleged core values of the educational system and how you're not to tangle with anyone who "outranks" you in that system. Written like this, this is degrading and it suggests a teacher-student relationship applicable about as far as 5th grade in whatever form. Of course as a professor it's his job to evaluate whether your work as a student is, simply put, good enough, but at university you should be on an eye-to-eye basis with him as persons which this email quite clearly suggests he doesn't think you are.

Of course not all professors are like that, but I do get the impression that some of them are rather narcissistic in the end. They just love their positions, and love their power and alleged superiority. And to be fair, with the capacity of the average student, such an attitude shouldn't even be too far off. Thing is, they seem to have become numb to students who actually do care and do put their all in the things they do (and I'm not only speaking about myself here - another student, who I know is a great writer, also had some issues going on for this essay). These professors basically aren't even looking for talent anymore. The university is business as usual. Students pass or fail, and their grades are calculated through neatly composed guidelines. There's nothing left for them to judge and evaluate, and that's the one thing I can't stand. Working with your brain has become a mindless job.

Secondly, intellectual work that includes the term "artistic freedom" or anything similar (and I'll just keep working on the assumption that you're not making this stuff up) is of little value when judged by a set of fixed guidelines compiled on a neat list. Fucking duh. If this has really been described accurately by you (which I keep wondering about because I find it astounding, not because I think you're likely to talk crap here), it's a pretty absurd way of dealing with the issue and reminds me of the weak attempts at "progressive" methods/lessons/exercises I spent some time being subjected to, i.e. doing pseudo-creative crap resulting in working within the same restrictions and the same system having to meet the same expectations, just doing it in a way that seems kinda different at very first glance. I am starting to wonder what kind of university you're attending lol. It just reminds me too much of high school and all the phony bullshit there which had you doing nothing new and coming out with nothing but a slap on the back from stuck-up teachers and decent grades, too large parts of my school career consisted of.

The description of the assignment reads the following (translated, of course):
"The central question in this course is how and in what ways culture and human behavior are related. Therefore it is relevant to acquire insight on one's personal situation. How did I become who I am, what are the things that influence me, who or what makes how I may turn out in the future? For that reason, the student will be writing a cultural autobiography. In the prescribed literature, you will find plenty of social-scientific definitions and concepts, as well as analyses which may be helpful for writing a cultural autobiography, for which the main objective is to display how the 'small' autobiographic story is entwined with the 'bigger' concept of culture."
"It will be an arranged attempt to look at the development of your own life, your experiences, convictions and environment [...]"
"[...] In the narrating part of your essay, you will focus on the following aspects. If any of these aspects is irrelevant to your story, you must make clear why so. Discuss only what matters in your situation, and only discuss that which you are willing to share. Do not feel obliged to write down things you don't want to share. All of the following aspects must be illustrated through the use of examples.
1. Background in terms of social environment. What kind of family were you raised in? How would you describe your background? Do you identify with that, or do you feel like you got away from it? Make your case through the use of examples.
2. Environment. Where have you lived? Did you ever move? What impact did it have on you? Why? In what sort of city / area / village / community were you raised? Describe the environment and mention the important details.
3. Family situation. How is or was the situation at home? Could you get along with your parents? What's been the influence of authority? What pedagogical principles do you recognise in the way you were raised? What influence did friends and fellows have on your identity? Illustrate through examples of typical situations.
4. Diversity: cultural, religious and political. Do these (or other) forms of cultural diversity influence your life? In what way? Make clear how. Also the absence of such aspects can be interesting: what does it mean to you if you were raised in a apolitical or irreligious manner? Describe examples and once again illustrate your point.
5. Turning points. Have there been any recognisable turning points in your life? You can think of changes in the composition of your family, moving, social mobility, etc. What influence did that have on you? Illustrate through examples.
6. Continuity and discontinuity. Can you recognise typical patterns of continuity or discontinuity between the generations of your grandparents, your parents and you? Does that influence you or not? Make clear how. (For example, compare your choice of career to that of your parents, but also look at the friends they have and your own friends: can you recognise a pattern of continuity, or maybe not at all?)"
"Bear in mind that this part of the assignment must be descriptive. The different questions stated here must not be answered literally. Use illustrations to build up your story."
"You are free to choose any way to compose your essay (for example through an elucidation, a real 'story', an interview, or even a dialogue), but no matter which route you go, remember that your narrative must be clear, and that the goal is that your essay is to be analysed."

P.S.: the whole assignment description was written rather poorly (!!!) and it grammatically doesn't make a whole lot of sense, so don't blame me for the pathetic structures in the sentenses - I tried to translate them without letting them lose their (lack of clarity in their) meaning.

They did especially stress the artistic freedom when they gave a briefing for this essay in class. They explained that that was the way to get high scores. Creativity and introspection. What else was there for me to do? It's a rather simple assignment for an even simpler introduction to cultural anthropology. So I did go creative. The student's response to my first version was the following (once again written poorly formulated...):

"Dear Ruben I found your biography to be very enjoyable.I am very much impressed with your literary and vocabulary skills, but I don't think they benefit the content of the story. First of all your vocabulary makes it so that many parts become hard to grasp." I'd suggest you get a dictionary if you don't know the meaning of a word?
"You do describe a number of points from the assignment. Only it is described so that it has become hard for someone else to figure out in what ways culture gave shape to your identity. Example, I don't see a whole lot about the way you were raised." What? I wrote many paragraphs on the way my early childhood went, from my boredome in class to the things I did after school, and about the lack of punishment I got from my parents...
"I haven't read anything about discontinuity either. You don't give enough examples to show in what way certain factors influenced you. In other words it's too poor when it comes to content." lmfao, just about the entire essay was based on making claims about my background, and how it always used to hold me back, how it took me years to liberate myself from that... There's an absurd number of illustrations given on that, yet this student managed to miss that. WOW.
"Other than that, the structure of the text isn't very clear either. You telled" (lol @ that error) "[...]the story chronologically but all the components are to be found loosely mixed. Politics are spread all over the story." I thought I was free to organize the essay any way I thought best? I first started with a background sketch and then built up my life chronologically, mentioning the prescribed aspects whenever they became relevant. What else was I to do, make the text a mess of a summation of the points? The assignment told me exactly NOT to do that. How am I to help it when politics did influence all throughout my life, yet in different ways? Should I have kept that quiet, because some ignorant student can't grasp the implications?
"There's a lot to be said about the style. There's a few minor errors, but in general you write very considerate. The way you construct sentences does get confusing every now and then." Erm... My sentences made perfect sense. The punctuation and constructions did make them more difficult than your average chicklit, but they were linguistically perfect. They are what writers would call "full sentences". What's wrong with that? I thought this student was attending a university...
"I advice you to rewrite your biography somewhat more functionally. Put in all points and illustrate them. Aside of that some simpler use of language might make the whole more analysable. Because the way it is now it makes it very tough for a fellow student to analyse. Good luck." So... I had already mentioned all the aspects, but the student failed to recognise them. The structure was functional already, but the student failed to recognise it. The language already made great sense, but the student failed to recognise the meaning.

I sold my soul and did as he asked. I toned my language down. I made my points clearer. I did change every single thing he pointed out in my text, even when I strongly disagreed with it. The result was a watered down version of the way I intended it, but hey, gotta get them grades, right?

"Dear Ruben, I checked upon the second version of your autobiography. Unfortunately I don't see a lot of change. You did make a few changes in the content, but on the whole it's not enough. Especially your vocabulary still is to decadent." I bet he doesn't have a clue what he's saying here. "That causes the meaning behind many of your statements to remain unclear. With a more functional choice of words a lot of issues would have come across more clearly." (The student used a ridiculous blend of three sayings there that are impossible to translate) "Also the structure still isn't very insightful. Headers only help when they relate to the content of the text which they don't all do. All in all I find this autobiography to be insufficient." Poor student probably got confused when I used a linguistic re-appropriation to refer to the people of a city I once lived in... And "detox" for a header at a paragraph about a radical change through getting rid of some useless friends, did he really not understand that, even after I explained the meaning in the paragraph? Fucking incompetent asshole.

To display the difficulty of my vocabulary (since that seems to be his main problem with my text - it left him unable to cope with the other aspects), here's a short summary of some of the most difficult words I used:

Totstandkoming = to come into existance
Buitensporig = exceedingly
Sociaal geďsoleerd = socially isolated
Sympathie = sympathy
Krachtig trachtten te bewoorden = expressed through powerful words
Eenpartijstaat = one party state
Gesuggereerd = implied
Intrigerend = intriguing
Bibliografie = bibliography
Graadmeter = indicator
Bekrompen = narrow-minded
Vernuftig = advanced
Opvoedingsidealen = pedagogical ideals
Fungeren = functioning
Excellentie = excellence
Geďntegreerd = integrated
Contra-emanciperende bewegingen = counter-emancipatory developments
Genetische biologie = genetic biology
Almachtig = almighty
Stimulans = stimulance
Narcistische drang = narcissistic urge
Realiteitsbesef = concept of reality
Erkenning = acknowledgment
Virtuositeit = virtuocity
Verfoeiend = damning
Inconsequent = in-consequent
Metafysische werkelijkheid = metaphysical reality
Conflicteren = to conflict
Acceptatiegrens = limit of tolerance

These are the words that I used on the first two pages that might raise some eyebrows with the freshmen in high school. But an elderly student? Come on now. Because of the tone I used to damn my environment, I had to use carefully selected words. A simple description in bland language wouldn't have had the same effect. It didn't affect the content of the text either, it's just that this poor student couldn't grasp it.

So I did file a complaint, addressed to the professor. His response:
"Your complaint as if the studentassistant would be incompetent is ungrounded. The pieces all have to be judged by a fixed format and the student strictly stuck to doing just that.
"The accusations about the praising of literary competence, yet comments being made about the choice of words, which presumably would be contradictory, is incorrect. The studentassistant noted for your first version that he praises the original way in which you attempted to write your essay, yet exactly your 'flowery' style takes away from the clarity of the points of the assignment. I fully share his views. The second version is regarded as insufficient because too little had changed. This too I find a reasonable judgement. I think you had an incorrect impression of what was expected from the essay assignment. The purpose is to write a piece which can be analysed by others through the criteria of analyses. Your essay, as the studentassistant already noted, is not very suitable for that. He made a useful suggestion to adjust the structure and look for examples which comply with the elements which are to be analysed.
3. In conclusion the complaint about studentassistants being in a 'powerful position' through which they get to decide about the fate of a fellow student. This is incorrect. The decision whether or not to dismiss an assignment by a student is exclusively mine; I decide whether or not to cosign the conclusions of a student. In your case I did."

So no, the "student assistant" shouldn't have been more clear and precise in the way he addressed my essay. The description of the assignment isn't lacking. We weren't given a wrong impression of the nature of the assignment. Who cares that we haven't been told exactly by what means these student assistants were to judge our texts? It's my fault (and that of the fellow students who also went creative in their first attempt, but who did get precise directions for their second attempt). The teacher and his methods are untouchable.


  • Muthafuckin' Don!
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Re: Incompetence rules...
« Reply #27 on: March 17, 2008, 10:45:55 AM »
props on all of that bud. I'll reply later cause my schedule's kinda tight right now....


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Re: Incompetence rules...
« Reply #28 on: March 17, 2008, 12:29:20 PM »
props on all of that bud. I'll reply later cause my schedule's kinda tight right now....

I know the feeling... Good luck, lol.