Who Assays the Essays
It is not a secret that for many of us the word “essay” has now become a synonym of tiresome and pointless activity, a school punishment imposed on an under-achieving student in a frail hope that he will achieve points by browsing through the subject course and supposedly writing (if not just copy-pasting articles from the Internet libraries or order it in online writing service) some pathetic excuse-for-a-research to get a “satisfactory” grade and thus finish another odious course.
It is not a secret either that checking and grading those highly artistic student masterpieces has become a real pain in the neck for professors and TAs who have to spend their valuable time on processing the hundreds of thousands of words, yielded at the end of each semester by their students, rather than concentrating on the first-hand teaching and conducting their research work.
It is sad to admit, but the overall modern trend consists in increase of class sizes and depersonalization of education. Teaching is no longer a one-to-one communication in many schools and universities, and the whole educational process often gets lost in a large human assembly of many faces and voices. Essays seem to be aimed at elimination of such repercussions, however they only complicate the matter as professors often have no time and resources to duly assess and grade the loads of their students’ papers.
That is why some universities already test the outsourcing practice. Thus, a business professor at the University of Houston outsourced essay grading to a company whose employees are mostly Asian residents. The case has already triggered a wave of heated debates, with main arguments centering on the degradation of American education and condemnation of such practice. On the one hand, critics are absolutely right as it is absolutely inadmissible that an assignment is graded by a stranger (teachers should do their best to avoid such things or just leave if they fail), but on the other, there is not a thing one can do with the unavoidable classes augmentation and the resulting shortage of time for each essay grading. Besides, if outsourced graders have uninterrupted communication with professors, if they are given rubric and evaluation criteria, they might provide quite a valuable feedback to professors. Furthermore, the final word will be reserved after the latter. However, this is only possible when professors’ and outsource graders’ actions are fully coordinated – which necessarily implies elimination of all intermediaries between them, which once again is totally inadmissible for those online grading services as they will not want to lose their profits from exploitation of cheap Asian labor force. The invisible hand of the market is sorting out everything, but this time it is really clutching educators’ throats.
Afore we mentioned the professors resorting to online grading services, but there also is the well-known fact that students often address the online writing services for completion of their assignments. Is this a silently agreed way of mutual cheating? Why then don’t we provide the student with the open list of essay writing services and essay grading services? The former will send the papers directly to the latter, and the latter will send them directly to a professor who will eventually give them to students. The students will save on their tuition fees, the university will save on professors’ wages – and everyone will be happy. Any way essay writing services are springing up like mushrooms after the rain. “As a rule, more writers are usually needed for the departments of Law and History, Marketing and Management, since the students have more problems precisely in these disciplines. This month ProfEssays.com has hired 15 new specialists to help the main staff in work with students’ assignments”, says Kelly McNight, Head of ProfEssays.com HR Department.
Academic essays today totally compromise essay writing as a narrative genre. The first, etymological meaning of essay is endeavor. Initially, by writing an essay one started their hard quest for revelation of mysteries in everyday things. Their style and wittiness were of remarkable nature. That is why a well-versed person still associates essays primarily with such names as Virginia Woolf and George Orwell, or, further back, with Charles Lamb, William Hazlitt and Michel de Montaigne, but not with those science-masquerading fabrications, often done by nameless contractors on the Web. Academic essays should be replaced by alternative academic tools to save essay writing as a genre. This is bitter for many, but true for all. Not only have university essays outlived themselves, but they also continue to compromise and corrupt essay writing as a writing style. Apart from the small group of talented writers who really love their work and prefer minor recognition to the worldly fame and think of essay writing as creative process, almost no one likes essays anymore.
I wonder why essay genre in particular should suffer? Maybe we ought to implement poem writing as a punishment as well to develop students’ abstract intelligence, or to kill their love towards poetry once and for ever? And though few would argue the undisputable merit of academic essays as indicators of student’s culture, overall erudition, creativity, information searching and processing skills etc., it is doubtfully that essays as an educational work are still viable in the 21st century.
This article is composed by free lance journalist Matthew Barney, the former TA.