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Last Exit Magazine « New Standards for Evaluation: A Key to Your Grade

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[published: October 02, 2009]

New Standards for Evaluation: A Key to Your Grade

There has always been some ambiguity in the grading of the humanities. Until now.

I wrote the following after I had to deal with a student who, with clenched knuckles, demanded I tell her exactly what a B+ was. Since I sometimes teach art classes, sometimes writing, this seemingly reasonable request can come off as misguided at best. Unless I became completely demoralized and started to fill the semester with PowerPoint lectures that the students would have to memorize and test their recall of through a multiple choice device (ideally Scantroned, to completely eliminate human uncertainty), there would always be some sense of ambiguity, some productive fuzziness in the grading of the humanities. I held out, and told her right off that if she wanted an exact number, she would be compromising the whole educational system, and that I would have to adjudicate every single point. What’s more, I continued, grading in general already compromises any experimentation in an art class, and you’d be endangering a space for students to do so freely. What grading I do is generous, but any lapses can be explained and documented (so, for example, I explained to her spiritual absences from class playing solitaire on the computer, her bombed—and numerically graded—exam, her lukewarm performances on the class projects . . . any thing I enumerated was built into the syllabus, everyone in the class was kept up to date with their progress, etc.). She didn’t care. She claimed there were art classes in other departments that gave out exact grades. After making a mental note to have a word with that guy who teaches “Art, Therapy, and You” in the Psychology Department, I decided to come up with a grading key that documents the war of attrition between grade grubbers and teachers beleaguered by the culture of numbers. Along the way, the key touches on the history of the US, and some sense of “the trouble we’re in.” The concept of “bombing” a test is now greatly expanded, with the help
of a roster of historical test bombs.

100: You want unicorn?
99: excellent
98: eh-excellent
97: snazz
96: the bigger Ay
95: Her Majesty’s Standard A (circa 2009)
94: Ay minore
93: not too shabby
92: too ninety
91: HMS A minus (circa 2009)
90: on the way to lacking
89: on the way to rising
88: HMS B+ (c09); the standard Olds
87: snazz minore
86: out of B+. Want B instead?
85: Your A in 1995
84: goodish
83: missing 17 something
82: “A B is still ‘good’”
81: HMS B- (c09)
80: Ahoy, Matey! (longing for the C)
79: The New D
78: 8 things saved butt
77: Brenda Vaccaro coldcocks Lee Grant in Bermuda Triangle
76: esprit de étudiant moyen
75: Your A in 1985
74: Average
73: Beverage
72: Ceverage
71: Deverage
70: Feverage
69: naughty!
68: The New Left ate my homework
67: the cross-eyed snazz
66: insult + injury
65: Your A in 1975
64: breezin
63: brazen
62: boozin
61: the “minus” is now tautology
60: Deep D
59: The Arnold Horshack
58: The Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington
57: The Juan Luis Pedro Philippo DeHuevos Epstein
56: The Barbarino
55: Your A in 1965
54: Sweet eff
53: Is your time best spent wondring
52: Why 52 and not 53?
51: a strange 1
50: 1/2 of hundred=Just take off the 5
49: enter realm of possibly misunderstood genius
48: The Milton Friedman
47: The Big Snooz
46: Warm eff
45: A (pre-Sputnik)
44: The Nature Boy
43: Japan is laughing
42: Russia is laughing
41: Guinea-Bissau is laughing
40: Presidential
39: Cool eff
38: 38 above zero
37: 37 above zero
36: 36 above zero
35: Even in 1945 is eff
34: 34 above zero
33: Depression era
32: The Harding Administration
31: Freezing eff
30: Homework inedible by dog
29: Shooter’s delight
28: 72 from unicorn
27: 27 from unicorn
26: 25 from unibomb
25: “Toots”
24: Hwadae-ri
23: Smiling Buddha
22: Shakti I
21: Shakti II
20: Gerboise Bleue
19: Hurricane
18: Joe 4
17: RDS-37
16: Grapple X
15: Canopus
14: Test No. 6
13: Ras Koh Hills
12: Lop Nur
11: The South Atlantic Double Flash
10: Fangataufa
9: Reggane
8: Semipalatinsk
7: Nevada Test
6: Castle Bravo
5: Bikini Atoll
4: Los Alamos
3: Trinity
2: Novaya Zemlya
1: Unibomb
0: The desert of the real

Joe Milutis is a writer, media artist and Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts at the University of Washington-Bothell. He is the author of Ether: The Nothing That Connects Everything (Minnesota). His previous contributions to Last Exit include an excerpt of the short film, The Idea of South and Say It Plain, an essay on Elizabeth Alexander’s poem for Obama’s inauguration.

Copyright Last Exit 2009


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