Mechanical errors alone should not make a D+

Anxious whispers filled the room as our English professor introduced the Minimum Standard of Correctness (MSC), a grading policy on trial at Mt. A. Some students processed how to succeed under the new regulations; others dropped the class.

This policy gives students one grammatical or syntactical error for every one hundred words they write. If they exceed this ratio, they will receive an automatic D+.

As my professor explained the concept to us, I held my tongue, waiting for his justification of this seemingly harsh policy. He made some good points: for a English professor to read an essay riddled with errors is nothing short of torture; he will become more “nit-picky” as he continues to read. He also touched on how disheartening it is for students to recieve a graded paper with more red ink then black.

I agree with my professor, it is discouraging to receive a poor mark. However, it is an injustice to receive a D+ on a paper that exemplifies mastery of an idea.

There are some lenient aspects of the policy: it would only apply to large, word-processed essays or final exams.Also, misspellings count as errors only after the third. Generous, perhaps.

Before I express my contempt for this policy, I must share that my parents are international educators, so I’ve been indoctrinated with progresive theories of education over years of dinner conversations. I should also note that I love my English class; the professor is magnetic and the class is motivated and insightful.

My professor use to teach at Mount Royal University, in Calgary, where the MSC was created. Because of his experience with the system, Mt. A asked him to test it on his students. We are the guinea pigs of the English department.

That said, I find solace in Mt. A’s testing of this policy. It shows that Mt. A acknowledges that some systems work and others do not. In fact, my professor said that the D+ will likely change to a less severe grade.

Regardless, Mt. A considers the MSC a viable grading option, which frightens me.

Mount Royal University’s English Department website claims, “Every writer should be familiar with commonly accepted standards of language usage.”

There is a student in my class who learned English as a second language. Which does Mt. A value more, this students ability to avoid grammatical booby-traps, or his ability to master the learning targets? I hope the latter.

I am not saying that this policy would fail; in fact, the grammar and syntax of Mt. A English students would likely improve. However, I believe extrinsic motivation is a tactic of the past. Students should learn for the sake of learning.

I decided to attend Mount Allison because I knew I would not be a number.  Here I am valued along with my thoughts. I know this because I discussed this editorial with my professor over a cup of coffee. I refuse to believe that I chose a university that values convenience and efficiency over learning and improvement.

In this editorial, I fell short of the Minimum Standard of Correctness: in fewer than seven hundred words, I made ten detrimental errors. Did you catch them all? Would they justify dismissing my opinion?

Not only would this piece receive a D+, but also the professor could have stopped reading after the sixth mistake, missing its greater value.

Mt. A is deemed the best undergraduate university in Canada, and its standards in all faculties should be high. I will not contest the statement that writers should adhere to the laws of language. However, I’d like to believe that Mt. A is the best because it sees past the minutiae of learning and looks to the essence of education: critical thinking.

I suggest Mt. A considers the body of research on assessment before implementing a new policy. Leading educational researchers like Dr. Doug Reeves, Dr. Ken O’Connor and Dr. Robert Marzano have crafted new, progressive models for assessment that have caught wind in recent years.These models use assessment as a diagnostic tool to help improve learning.They are better suited to a university of Mt. A’s caliber.

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