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Writing Papers II

The hardest thing about grading papers for me was the actual reading of them. I know that it sounds rather obvious, but what I mean is that more often than not I would get papers about philosophers and subjects I hated. I’ve said it numerous times before but I loathe Karl Marx’s political philosophy (he did write other things but I haven’t read them so I can’t really comment) and in my political philosophy classes it never failed that I would get at least one Marx paper. Every one of them neglected to explain why Marx thought the revolution was inevitable, to this day I don’t understand why he thought so, and still to this day I know that it isn’t. It got to the point where I knew from the opening line of the students’ papers that it was going to be a difficult read. It however never affected my grading of the paper, if it were well written and correct (as correct as Marx gets) it could still be an A.

Same with the mountains of abortion papers I received in all of my biomedical ethics classes. It didn’t matter whether the person writing the paper was pro-choice or pro-life, it was just too hard to really care. They never brought anything new to the table and I tired of reading them so much that the last time I taught the class I simply banned it as a subject. Again though, they could be an A if they were really well written and argued.

For sake of the students’ willingness to express their opinions I always explained that nothing I said in the class should be taken as being my opinion. I told them that with very few exceptions they should always assume that I am arguing the philosopher’s views or in the cases of debates that I would always take the devil’s advocate arguing the minority position in the class. This has caused me to argue for several things that I disagree with: the existence of God as being a given, anything Descartes says, pro-life, and Kantian ethics. I did so because if I expressed my opinion I knew that one of two things would happen: that the class would just agree with me out of laziness or thinking that agreement would give them better grades and that they would be nervous about taking contrary positions.

I bring it up because I am in this conundrum right now as a student. In my philosophical anthropology class the professor has stated that he dislikes the philosophy of American John Dewey. Having written a 20 page presentation on him I felt that enough work has been done by me that he might as well be the subject of my final paper. He’s already figured prominently in another final paper but since the professor basically stifled any conversation about him it’s hard to want to write this paper. I’ve argued against professors before based on their dislike for certain subjects. Then, there was at least a dialogue. This time it’s been shut down.

He can’t grade based on my like for Dewey (as well as another two students in the class who share it) but it’s hard to be motivated to do so. This is why you can’t do this from the perspective of a teacher, I know I can write a good Dewey paper but the trepidation is going to inhibit it. The best way around it is to concentrate on form rather than substance but those papers aren’t fun to write. They are merely a grind attaching itself to method. I’ll probably just save this one for last.

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