Of School and Things

Warning: The following is a rant. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Professors are like great pieces of art. They are nice and shiny and important and are usually roped off from the public. Attempts to view them more closely or make contact with them are met with reprobation from a stern-looking docent.

Seriously. If you need access to the masterpiece, go through the docents and save yourself the trouble. I recently wrote a paper for my jazz class and turned it in. A few days later, the professor posts to our class board that all the papers have been graded and the marked papers have all been emailed back to the students. Now I could see my grade posted, but I didn’t get the paper back. So I wrote the professor to ask if there had been a problem with it and to ask him to please mail it to me. I get a one-sentence message back from him:

“I will get back to you when I find out something.”

A head-scratcher, this. The hidden meaning behind this sentence seems to be that he’s had nothing whatsoever to do with the papers at all. Fine. Idiot that I am, I emailed him instead of the TA. Right. Lesson learned. I’ve made this mistake before, I don’t intend to do it again. In these large internet-based classes, the professor is off-limits in that he doesn’t know anything about the minutae of the class.

Then again, it’s possible your docent doesn’t know anything, either, or delights in keeping certain details to his or herself. Two days later, I get my paper emailed back to me. The comment on the first essay:

Very nicely written. Good use of sources. A

Glorious. I am a-glow with pride. Comments on the second essay:

Again, very nicely done. A

Huh. Reading those comments, I don’t know how five points were deducted from the total grade. Why a 95 if it’s so nicely done? I don’t mean to be anal about so small a number, but c’mon, throw me a bone. The point of returning the graded paper was to give feedback and indicate how the instructor/grader came up with the grade. There was nothing marked in the body of the paper. This was not helpful.


This link is posted to the class website for my early American history class:


You just have to see it. I’m amused and strangely confused.


Again from my class on early American history, a possible essay topic for the first assignment:

You are a judge at the tribunal trying witches at Salem Village. You are at home at night. One of your children comes to you and says, “How do we know witches and witchcraft really exist? What proof do we have?” You respond to the questions saying, “Well, . . . .

I have several knee-jerk responses to this question that I dare not turn in:

1. “Well, you see, ah… um. Witches. Right. Complicated. You see, son, it’s like this… er… uh… Did your mother put you up to this??”

2. “Well, how about, because I SAID SO? Honor thy father and shut thy mouth.”

3. “Well, that one turned me into a newt! I got better.”

4. “Well, we have our ways, son, don’t worry about it. Now be a good boy and tell Daddy where you hid his broom and big black pointy hat.”

5. “Well, we’re taking the word of several pre-teen and teenage girls. What possible reason would they have to bring lots and lots of attention to themselves by flopping around like trout and screaming their damn-fool heads off? They couldn’t possibly be lying and putting on a big act to break the monotony of their dull lives in this patriarchal society. Dur-hey.”

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