Through with Assigning Essays

Rebecca Schumann has had enough of grading essays, and with good reason:

Mom, friends, educators, students: We don’t have to assign papers, and we should stop. We need to admit that the required-course college essay is a failure. The baccalaureate is the new high-school diploma: abjectly necessary for any decent job in the cosmos. As such, students (and their parents) view college as professional training, an unpleasant necessity en route to that all-important “piece of paper.” Today’s vocationally minded students view World Lit 101 as forced labor, an utter waste of their time that deserves neither engagement nor effort. So you know what else is a waste of time? Grading these students’ effing papers. It’s time to declare unconditional defeat.

I'm particularly sympathetic to her call for more oral exams. Over on the Visual Communication course I teach we moved to student presentations for most things years ago and we've refined the process ever since. There's nothing like looking a student right in the eye and asking questions when it comes to working out what and how much they've learned.