Yet more racism

So I just came across reports, such as this one, of a professor at Georgetown Law, who in discussion of one particular student segues into a rant about how her Black students always end up at the bottom when she grades them. There's a whole load of different things one could say about this (I'll note in passing that the professor in question refers to these students as "the blacks", and let you make your own assumptions of her general attitudes based on that particular usage.)

But it really made me wonder why colleges aren't routinely grading blind. Everyone's essays are word processed these days - nobody is handing in handwriting - so it wouldn't take much to generate a single-use ID for each document, so that it would be "impossible" for a professor to know whose work they were grading. You could also impose a common format, so you couldn't identify particular students by their typesetting choices.

This wouldn't solve all the problems, by any means, but it would eliminate one source of grading bias, and it seems so easy to do. So why not do it?
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Comments

  • Our university exams were certainly marked blind (a gummed, fold-down corner top right), though those were handwritten. I suspect the lack of it is simply a matter of inertia.
  • Because it might give "the blacks" higher grades? If someone with those views is still in post, you have to wonder about the rest of the system...
  • My point about handwriting is simply that if a course lecturer is marking an essay a week from a set of students, they might come to recognize the handwriting of the ones who usually do well, even if they don't identify them by name. But if everyone's essay is formatted the same, they don't have that possibility.
  • Mine were normally graded blind, not because I set out to do that but because I rarely glanced at the name before starting to read. I was usually loopy after reading four or five, and only wanted to get through them and be done. And faceblindness meant I usually couldn't tell you which name was who...
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    My point about handwriting is simply that if a course lecturer is marking an essay a week from a set of students, they might come to recognize the handwriting of the ones who usually do well, even if they don't identify them by name. But if everyone's essay is formatted the same, they don't have that possibility.

    There's still diction, spelling, sentence and paragraph structure, word choice, and so on. Maybe not as easy to identify as handwriting, but still they prevent truly blind grading.
  • The software (Moodle) we use for collecting course work (in out case an assessed 'open book' problem sheet instead of an exam, and a critical study) assigns identification numbers and strips off the student names. Though, for the critical studies that anonymity won't really be there as each student has chosen their own topic and already given an oral presentation of that, so we'll know the student by the report title.

    There would also be options for double marking of work, with someone not associated with teaching the course also marking work so that any bias the lecturer might develop during interactions with students (which could be wider than racism) can be checked.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    There's still diction, spelling, sentence and paragraph structure, word choice, and so on. Maybe not as easy to identify as handwriting, but still they prevent truly blind grading.

    True, but I think it helps. (And in this particular instance, what was being graded were law essays, which should be couched in a formal register of English that leaves less (but we agree not zero) scope for things like diction and sentence structure to be obvious.
  • Leorning CnihtLeorning Cniht Shipmate
    edited March 11
    The software (Moodle) we use for collecting course work (in out case an assessed 'open book' problem sheet instead of an exam, and a critical study) assigns identification numbers and strips off the student names.

    Does it assign the same number to each piece of work by the same student, or a different id each time?

    (And yes, I agree the biases are wider than racism. It's easy to spot lenient grading of students who are considered "good" in one way or another. There's often a racial correlation in there, but not just a racial correlation. The nice thing about this kind of tool is that it doesn't care why you have a bias - it makes it harder for you to unthinkingly apply it.)
  • You know, I actually could and did recognize students by diction and sentence structure, and would sometimes look at the name for the first time just to confirm ("oh, it's her again"). So that IS a problem in some cases. Though if you're dealing with racism, it's often the case that there is some identifying issue that will flag the person up as a member of X class regardless of what you do with anonymizing software. For example, the use of black English aka Ebonics, or characteristic grammatical mistakes--Vietnamese newcomers can't get their gendered pronouns straight to save their lives.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Translanguaging is seen as one of the most effective ways to counter racial prejudice in education throughout southern Africa (including former British colonies or protectorates in Botswana, Lesotho, Zimbabwe).

    This acknowledges the importance of code-switching and lexical borrowing among students who speak a mix of languages on a dialect continuum, as well as the fast-evolving Camtho idiolect spoken in urban townships -- teachers experienced in multilingual skills are in high demand and up until last year, many teaching professionals came to conferences and workshops in South Africa from places like Miami where they work in Spanglish along with those involved in te reo Māori and Samoan early childhood educational environments in New Zealand/Aotearoa. To counter xenophobia about refugee communities from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Mozambique, Somalia and Syria, classes are given in Portuguese, Arabic and French for adult education and extra-curricular studies.

    Decolonial pedagogies take time to develop and are initially disruptive but remain crucial if post-colonial societies are to move forward. The move away from teaching older settler histories to focus on Cape slavery and illegal land occupation during the 19th century has meant ongoing syllabus changes. Literature courses now include previously banned or marginalised black authors based in Africa. Emphasis is placed on accommodating cultural differences -- for example, the extended absence from school by adolescent boys undergoing Xhosa or Sotho adult circumcision and initiation rites or training for school psychologists in kinship lexicons that recognise the extended polygamous families of students from Nguni backgrounds.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    So I just came across reports, such as this one, of a professor at Georgetown Law, who in discussion of one particular student segues into a rant about how her Black students always end up at the bottom when she grades them. There's a whole load of different things one could say about this (I'll note in passing that the professor in question refers to these students as "the blacks", and let you make your own assumptions of her general attitudes based on that particular usage.)
    She should be sacked.

    In my day, we were not graded on coursework. We took exams which were marked by people who had nothing to do with the school.

    Coursework gives a distinct advantage to pupils who have parents able to give them every help.

  • Telford wrote: »
    So I just came across reports, such as this one, of a professor at Georgetown Law, who in discussion of one particular student segues into a rant about how her Black students always end up at the bottom when she grades them. There's a whole load of different things one could say about this (I'll note in passing that the professor in question refers to these students as "the blacks", and let you make your own assumptions of her general attitudes based on that particular usage.)
    She should be sacked.

    In my day, we were not graded on coursework. We took exams which were marked by people who had nothing to do with the school.

    Coursework gives a distinct advantage to pupils who have parents able to give them every help.

    Most coursework now (not that there is much in England these days, though a fair amount in Scotland) is done under controlled conditions in school and is externally marked. I would note that the OP is talking about university rather than schools, and it is not really practical to have external marking of university courses because there is no shared syllabus across the different institutions.
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    Putting all the weight on exams gives a distinct advantage to pupils who have parents able to give them every help, by means of specially-trained tutors, review classes, etc..

    Then, of course, many students don't have any help.
  • HeavenlyannieHeavenlyannie Shipmate
    edited March 12
    I am an Associate Lecturer with an online university and we ALs delivery the teaching and marking of the undergraduate modules provided by the institution. My students assignments have been submitted online for about 10 years, with names attached. As I teach online I seldom ever meet students so in theory I do not know their race and ethnicity anyway, though names are sometimes clues. (Like LC I acknowledge that sentence structure is sometimes recognisable too).

    I need to have their names when I mark so that I can give appropriate feedback and support as they progress through the module; I need to know what advice to give when I have one to one teaching, for instance, and sometimes I need to refer people for further support. Not knowing whose essay I am marking would severely inhibit my ability to work well as a tutor.

    However, my marking is monitored. As I am an experienced lecturer usually just one of my marked assignments per tutor group each year is second marked randomly and I am given feedback, but new lecturers and those teaching new courses have more second marking, and we are re-checked after 10 years to make sure we are still marking to standard. End of year final assignments are double marked before final grading.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    So I just came across reports, such as this one, of a professor at Georgetown Law, who in discussion of one particular student segues into a rant about how her Black students always end up at the bottom when she grades them. There's a whole load of different things one could say about this (I'll note in passing that the professor in question refers to these students as "the blacks", and let you make your own assumptions of her general attitudes based on that particular usage.)

    But it really made me wonder why colleges aren't routinely grading blind. Everyone's essays are word processed these days - nobody is handing in handwriting - so it wouldn't take much to generate a single-use ID for each document, so that it would be "impossible" for a professor to know whose work they were grading. You could also impose a common format, so you couldn't identify particular students by their typesetting choices.

    I'm confused by this. Seems like professor Sellers confided to a colleague that it bothers her that those at the bottom of her class are disproportionately black. And the colleague responded that it makes one wonder about one's own unconscious biases.

    Seems to me that any anti-racist would want such an outcome to bother her and want her to consider any unconscious biases. Are these ideas not perfectly reasonable ones ?

    And whilst blind grading of exams seems like a no-brainer, presumably you'd agree that part of a professor's job would be to be aware of how well different students in their department are getting on ?

    What if it isn't an issue of grading bias ?



  • HeavenlyannieHeavenlyannie Shipmate
    edited March 12
    The lower grades might not only be due to unconscious bias but instead a revelation of the disadvantage these students face in achieving their goals. I would be asking her/the college what support they are providing for these students to improve their grades. Surely this should be a trigger for them to review the structures within the college to meet the needs of students.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    One issue that has come up in the University here is plagiarism. Every professor uses software to identify plagiaristic pieces now, but many international students are claiming it is discriminatory because of slightly different understandings of what constitutes plagiarism. Notably, students from India have been caught as well as African students. Has anyone else noticed where they are at?
  • Gramps49 wrote: »
    One issue that has come up in the University here is plagiarism. Every professor uses software to identify plagiaristic pieces now, but many international students are claiming it is discriminatory because of slightly different understandings of what constitutes plagiarism. Notably, students from India have been caught as well as African students. Has anyone else noticed where they are at?

    It sounds like your University could do a better job at conveying expectations, rather than assuming that everyone has the same understanding of what qualifies as plagiarism.

    If your international students are saying "this would be OK where I grew up, and you didn't make it clear that it wasn't OK here" then they have a valid point. If they're saying "this is OK in my culture, and it's racist of you to insist that your idea of plagiarism is more important than mine" then they're full of shit.
  • edited March 12
    Far too much emphasis on marks which are potentially institutionalized discrimination and disadvantage poor, non white, rural. Thus: performance to standard. No grades assigned. Why not?

    Pass/fail with second reading of exams and papers automatically if they are failed by the first marker. The univ program then decides, if it's still fail, what additional needs to be done to get the student's knowledge base or writing to standard.

    Computer scored multiple choice questions for first year university courses screens out the fully unqualified.

    The above isn't fully implemented anywhere, but it's close in some places. The screening in first year univ has to occur because there are no standardized exams within province and much variability in curricula and marking in high schools among Canadian provinces.

    I'm not fond of competitive admission either if the prospective student meets minimum standards, ie has a matriculated high school diploma. We routinely see students who didn't graduate from high school admitted as "mature students" also. I know several who have master's and PhDs.

    There's a related problem of fees for univ. Although student loans are well available, having 60k debt from a degree isn't fair when others have parents pay it all. Racialized people are poorer generally and don't have rich parents. It's about $6000 per year for general arts and sciences majors here (£3400). This is about $4000 higher in equivalent dollars to when I went 45 years ago (1 month of minimum wage work).

  • HeavenlyannieHeavenlyannie Shipmate
    edited March 12

    I'm not fond of competitive admission either if the prospective student meets minimum standards, ie has a matriculated high school diploma. We routinely see students who didn't graduate from high school admitted as "mature students" also. I know several who have master's and PhDs.
    I work for a university that has an open access criteria for almost all undergraduate programmes. Most of my health and social care students are mature students who have never been to college (often studying while working full or part time and/or with childcare commitments) and my university has the highest number of disabled students in the UK.
    I left school at 16 without going to college; I still don't have A levels but have a nursing qualification, 2 degrees, a Masters in Education and am currently doing a professional doctorate in education. I use my story to tell my students not to be held back by their past experiences of education.

    Re: plagiarism, my students have clear guidelines in their assessment guidance and from their tutors - we are very clear on policy because of the nature of online study. They have to tick a declaration when they submit their assignments online. It helps that we have a very centralised online submission process for assignments.
  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    But it really made me wonder why colleges aren't routinely grading blind. Everyone's essays are word processed these days - nobody is handing in handwriting - so it wouldn't take much to generate a single-use ID for each document, so that it would be "impossible" for a professor to know whose work they were grading. You could also impose a common format, so you couldn't identify particular students by their typesetting choices.

    There was a consistent practice of grading blind when I was in Law School. It can be resource-intensive to implement, because you need to have an entirely separate student-facing administrative structure to match identifiers to real people and also deal with special cases (extensions due illness or serious personal crisis, or other need for accommodation). I'm a bit surprised that a place like Georgetown Law isn't already doing it as I would guess they may have a few resources in their back pocket and it's a pretty surefire way of preventing allegations of bias from a class full of potential litigators...

    I spent a few years doing undergraduate teaching in a previous career and I can see the benefits of blind grading from the instructor's perspective, quite apart from issues or racial or gender bias. It's human nature to want to cut some slack for an otherwise good student who has handed in a weak assignment, or a student who has been struggling but obviously trying very hard, or to look less favourably on an assignment from a student who is actively obnoxious in class (or just never comes to class). Other things being equal, I'd rather not know who the student is, so that any bias for or against that student becomes simply irrelevant, rather than always having to second-guess myself about particular students who may have created a positive or negative impression for one reason or another. As others have pointed out though it's hard to make that work for a seminar class or any kind of class where process is part of evaluation.


  • I'm not fond of competitive admission either if the prospective student meets minimum standards, ie has a matriculated high school diploma. We routinely see students who didn't graduate from high school admitted as "mature students" also. I know several who have master's and PhDs.
    I work for a university that has an open access criteria for almost all undergraduate programmes. Most of my health and social care students are mature students who have never been to college (often studying while working full or part time and/or with childcare commitments) and my university has the highest number of disabled students in the UK.
    I left school at 16 without going to college; I still don't have A levels but have a nursing qualification, 2 degrees, a Masters in Education and am currently doing a professional doctorate in education. I use my story to tell my students not to be held back by their past experiences of education.

    Re: plagiarism, my students have clear guidelines in their assessment guidance and from their tutors - we are very clear on policy because of the nature of online study. They have to tick a declaration when they submit their assignments online. It helps that we have a very centralised online submission process for assignments.

    Right on! Equality of opportunity is difficult to organize. Your story is another one that makes me happy.
  • Ideas of what is acceptable and what is plagiarism do vary, as well as ideas of how one should credit one's sources--and even whether one should have sources at all. That's why whenever I taught English so much course time was devoted to American standards on all these things--because we could not safely assume that everyone came in with the same understanding.

    As an instructor, if I found "accidental plagiarism" (meaning the student had no evil intent, but just didn't cite things as they should) it would normally result in a do-over with proper citations (and I would walk them through how to do it, so they'd know). It was rare that I'd find ongoing plagiarism after that, both because few people had that sort of evil intent, and because those who did realized we were more capable than they thought of recognizing it.

    I admit that I found it in one student who thoroughly deserved what he got--and I spent an afternoon in the library to prove it. That sort of thing really chaps my ass when it's done with a "fuck you" attitude.
  • RuthRuth Shipmate
    Marsupial wrote: »
    As others have pointed out though it's hard to make that work for a seminar class or any kind of class where process is part of evaluation.

    Yeah, I can't see it working for any of the classes I taught when I was an English professor. The OP suggests that essays be subject to blind evaluation, but that works only if everyone in the class is writing on the exact same thing. I always gave multiple options at least, and preferred that students come up with their own topics. Lots of students ran their ideas by me before or during the writing process; if essays had been submitted to me without names, some would have gotten blind evaluation and some wouldn't.
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    Question: Is this blind evaluation/grading at the graduate (Master's, Doctorate, etc.) degree level? Or undergraduate college/uni, and maybe high school?

    I don't think I've ever come across it, or come across someone talking about experiencing it. Not in real life. I've heard of auditions and job interviews done that way, but not school. I can see the value of it, but it's very different.

    I know of the newer emphasis on finding plagiarism, particularly using software to do it. I didn't plagiarize. But I'm glad I didn't have to go through all that. Seems like it would really change the tone and morale of the school.
  • Golden Key wrote: »
    Question: Is this blind evaluation/grading at the graduate (Master's, Doctorate, etc.) degree level? Or undergraduate college/uni, and maybe high school?

    The school that sparked the discussion is a law school (which is a taught graduate course). IME, blind evaluation for exams has been the norm in the UK since forever - every public and/or university exam I've written has been by candidate number, not name. Ordinary weekly work wasn't marked blind, but we hand-wrote everything, so it wouldn't really be possible.

    It occurred to me that now so much is electronic, blind (or at least blinder) grading would be quite easy.
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    My experience is up to a Bachelor's degree. Assignments were hand-written up into college. Some students used typewriters. Personal computers weren't really a thing yet.

    In my public/state schools, teachers often took our work home to grade--sometimes while watching TV!
    :)

    Closest thing to blind testing was sending our standardized test answer sheets off for machine grading.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    I don't know how one can teach rhetoric without an iterative approach. You write, the prof marks it up, you rewrite, the prof marks it up, for however many iterations the prof is willing to go. Writing once and having it graded once and for all doesn't teach you how to write, or at least doesn't teach as well as learning your errors and correcting them as you move forward. Seems to me.
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    And ISTM it puts a *lot* of pressure on the students.
  • IME, blind evaluation for exams has been the norm in the UK since forever - every public and/or university exam I've written has been by candidate number, not name.

    From my experience as a marker, exams were only truly blind-marked once they started scanning the papers for electronic marking (~10 years ago, depending on subject and level). Prior to that the paper scripts would have student names on but you were required to notify the awarding body of any students or schools you had a connection with so that you didn't get allocated their papers.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    From an arts and social science perspective, ISTM, the problem with plagiarism, especially at undergraduate level, is that intellectual originality is very rare, and the major purpose of a first degree is to pass on ideas and standard arguments that in many cases have their origins with the Greeks and have simply been replicated in various disguises ever since. Indeed, it's remarkable how many academic publications fail to recognise the origin of their ideas in the ancient world and for their debt to renaissance and enlightenment writers acknowledged.


    I give you Tom Lehrer's Lobachevsky.
    <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IL4vWJbwmqM>;
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    edited March 13
    Kwesi wrote: »
    From an arts and social science perspective, ISTM, the problem with plagiarism, especially at undergraduate level, is that intellectual originality is very rare...

    This goes back to the point made by some above that plagiarism means different things in different contexts. ISTM that attempts to catch plagiarism at the undergraduate level are often geared toward detecting cut-and-paste from the internet. Of course, if the student is taking an OT course, they can just call it "redacting." ;)
  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    Golden Key wrote: »
    Question: Is this blind evaluation/grading at the graduate (Master's, Doctorate, etc.) degree level? Or undergraduate college/uni, and maybe high school?

    The school that sparked the discussion is a law school (which is a taught graduate course).

    For what it's worth, I would tend to think of law school more as a post-baccalaureate professional degree than a graduate degree, from the point of view of the structure and content of the program. (Honestly, it felt more like high school than anything else...). You used to be able to get a law degree without necessarily even having a completed Bachelors. An actual graduate law degree (S.J.D. in North American usage) is a completely different animal of course.
    mousethief wrote: »
    I don't know how one can teach rhetoric without an iterative approach. You write, the prof marks it up, you rewrite, the prof marks it up, for however many iterations the prof is willing to go. Writing once and having it graded once and for all doesn't teach you how to write, or at least doesn't teach as well as learning your errors and correcting them as you move forward. Seems to me.

    When I was a graduate student I TA'd for a course that was specifically aimed at improving students' writing skills alongside teaching its substantive content, and process was very much part of the evaluation. There's no way those essays could have been marked blind. I sometimes tried to offer the same kind of thing when I was teaching myself - students could hand in essays early for feedback if they wanted to, and then resubmit on the normal due date. Again I don't see how this could be done blind, and least not without a lot of hassle. Also if you get a small enough seminar class it's probably going to be obvious who is who on the final papers based on their seminar work during the term, even if the final paper is not a continuation of their seminar work. (And what @Ruth said above.)

    I found one good way of making exam marking semi-blind is marking question by question, rather than exam by exam. This tends to focus the mind more on the quality of each answer compared to other answers and away from which student the answer is from. (It was also more efficient and faster IME.)

    It occurs to me there may be a bit of pond difference in practice here because I seem to recall that evaluation in the UK system is somewhat more exam-based than around here.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Marsupial wrote: »
    An actual graduate law degree (S.J.D. in North American usage) is a completely different animal of course.
    There’s also the Master of Laws (LL.M.), at least in the States. That’s what most people I know with a graduate law degree have. I know of very few S.J.D.s.

  • Leorning CnihtLeorning Cniht Shipmate
    edited March 13
    From my experience as a marker, exams were only truly blind-marked once they started scanning the papers for electronic marking (~10 years ago, depending on subject and level). Prior to that the paper scripts would have student names on but you were required to notify the awarding body of any students or schools you had a connection with so that you didn't get allocated their papers.

    I'm surprised by this, because I've never written my name on a public or university exam. We all had slips of paper with our candidate numbers on, and that's what we'd write on the scripts.

    Actually, for at least some of the exams, the school had made up labels for the desks carrying our names and candidate numbers. So you'd go in to the exam room, find your labelled desk (in alphabetical order) and your candidate number would be printed on it.

    This would have been from 1990 onward. I suppose my English coursework would have had my name on, because they were just a big stack of normal school essays that we collected, so they'd look like normal bits of work, but that was very much the exception.
  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Marsupial wrote: »
    An actual graduate law degree (S.J.D. in North American usage) is a completely different animal of course.
    There’s also the Master of Laws (LL.M.), at least in the States. That’s what most people I know with a graduate law degree have. I know of very few S.J.D.s.

    That's funny - I thought we were copying American practice when we changed the names of our degrees a while back (J.D. and S.J.D. vs. LL.B. and LL.M.), but apparently not quite. (I'm not sure this is consistent in Canada either, come to think of it.)
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    The school that sparked the discussion is a law school...

    In that caase, it's not plagiarism: It's boilerplate. ;)
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Marsupial wrote: »
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Marsupial wrote: »
    An actual graduate law degree (S.J.D. in North American usage) is a completely different animal of course.
    There’s also the Master of Laws (LL.M.), at least in the States. That’s what most people I know with a graduate law degree have. I know of very few S.J.D.s.

    That's funny - I thought we were copying American practice when we changed the names of our degrees a while back (J.D. and S.J.D. vs. LL.B. and LL.M.), but apparently not quite. (I'm not sure this is consistent in Canada either, come to think of it.)
    We didn’t really keep it consistent here. We moved from LL.B. to J.D., but kept the LL.M. So the progression here would be a bachelor’s degree, J.D., LL.M., then S.J.D.

  • From my experience as a marker, exams were only truly blind-marked once they started scanning the papers for electronic marking (~10 years ago, depending on subject and level). Prior to that the paper scripts would have student names on but you were required to notify the awarding body of any students or schools you had a connection with so that you didn't get allocated their papers.

    I'm surprised by this, because I've never written my name on a public or university exam. We all had slips of paper with our candidate numbers on, and that's what we'd write on the scripts.

    You have a candidate number too, but it only takes a single mis-write or misread to get a student detached from their results. Having name (and centre number) means you have a backup in case one or more of them is missing.
  • The thing is, for the best writing instruction, you really need to be sitting with the student and pointing things out--both good and bad--in real time. Doing it by way of scribbled/typed notes in the margin just doesn't cut it for the truly confused, or the neophytes who have nothing in their experience to compare what you're saying to. It also takes humongous amounts of the instructor's time, which is why so many default to writing "awkward" or even "awk" with no further explanation--which leaves the student completely in the dark, every single time. You really need the conversation--even if it's only for five minutes.

    Doing it over the phone or Zoom is better, but still has some limits. But of course this sort of teaching makes it very easy to be racist, unless you rig up some sort of confessional to do the consultation in.
  • OhherOhher Shipmate
    I dunno about confessionals, but Lamb Chopped is right about sitting with student writers, one-on-one. I've always understood this process -- 30 years of teaching college composition -- as forming an alliance with the writer in pursuit of her/his goal. Part of this alliance is assessing the writer's goal(s), getting a handle on his/her linguistic development in English (a fair number of the students I taught used English as a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th language, with huge variations in familiarity with American English), and equally huge variations in their preparation for and understanding of US higher education.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited March 14
    The thread has wandered off its original topic somewhat, but...

    You don't actually need bias from a professor in order for students of colour to get lower grades. You just need all of the (non-innate) factors that tend to affect the performance of students of colour, that were present before the professor and students were ever in the same room together.

    It seems likely the professor in question doesn't have much insight into this. But neither does anyone who looks at the situation and assumes that the only answer is "racism" and "bias" on the part of the professor. That would be the only explanation if the world outside the law school was perfect and utopian. But it's not perfect and utopian. People don't walk into higher education as blank slates.
  • orfeo wrote: »
    The thread has wandered off its original topic somewhat, but...

    You don't actually need bias from a professor in order for students of colour to get lower grades. You just need all of the (non-innate) factors that tend to affect the performance of students of colour, that were present before the professor and students were ever in the same room together.

    It seems likely the professor in question doesn't have much insight into this. But neither does anyone who looks at the situation and assumes that the only answer is "racism" and "bias" on the part of the professor. That would be the only explanation if the world outside the law school was perfect and utopian. But it's not perfect and utopian. People don't walk into higher education as blank slates.

    I guess this is what's meant by systemic racism.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    The thread has wandered off its original topic somewhat, but...

    You don't actually need bias from a professor in order for students of colour to get lower grades. You just need all of the (non-innate) factors that tend to affect the performance of students of colour, that were present before the professor and students were ever in the same room together.

    It seems likely the professor in question doesn't have much insight into this. But neither does anyone who looks at the situation and assumes that the only answer is "racism" and "bias" on the part of the professor. That would be the only explanation if the world outside the law school was perfect and utopian. But it's not perfect and utopian. People don't walk into higher education as blank slates.

    Spot on.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    The thread has wandered off its original topic somewhat, but...

    You don't actually need bias from a professor in order for students of colour to get lower grades. You just need all of the (non-innate) factors that tend to affect the performance of students of colour, that were present before the professor and students were ever in the same room together.

    It seems likely the professor in question doesn't have much insight into this. But neither does anyone who looks at the situation and assumes that the only answer is "racism" and "bias" on the part of the professor. That would be the only explanation if the world outside the law school was perfect and utopian. But it's not perfect and utopian. People don't walk into higher education as blank slates.

    I guess this is what's meant by systemic racism.

    Absolutely.

    Of course, a top notch professor would be trying to address and counteract systemic racism rather than observing that students of colour end up down the bottom of the exam scores.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    Do you believe that anyone at all can get a law degree if they have top-notch professors ? Or is some level of innate ability required ?
  • Russ wrote: »
    Do you believe that anyone at all can get a law degree if they have top-notch professors ? Or is some level of innate ability required ?

    That seems to me a false dichotomy. Most people, barring brain injury, specific conditions that impair cognitive function, and the like, can likely get any taught degree given the right environment, upbringing and prior education. The evidence of the upper classes is that a crammer and a bucket load of self-confidence can make up for a lot. There does appear to be some genetic components that make learning easier or harder but these can be overcome.

    Putting a thumb on the scales at Law School level to try to balance failures earlier in the system is clearly not the best way to resolve the situation but so long as those passing the course are able to function adequately as lawyers it's probably better than the alternative. It's a case of "ooh, I wouldn't start from here".
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    I've heard the professor didn't realize that the Zoom call was going beyond her one colleague. Not defending her. But she *might* have said things differently, otherwise.

    FWIW, YMMV.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    Sorry - just to clarify so you don't get the wrong idea.

    I'm suggesting that of the subjects one could study in higher education, law is a relatively demanding one. And that if you relax the admission criteria for black people in the name of "affirmative action", then you will get some black students who've got what it takes and some who haven't. Leading to a cluster of under-performing black students at the bottom of the class.

    (Who may or may not drag down the more capable black students depending on the social dynamics involved).

  • I’d have thought a better bet would be somekind of access course prior to uni to support students to reach admission standard. But to make it accessible and appropriately targeted, you offer it to people free who have total income under a certain limit and with results within a zone of proximal of development that makes it plausible they reach the end goal.

    I would target by deprivation rather than race, to avoid it becoming fuel for right wing attempts to tank anti-racist initiatives. Structural racism means that by targeting deprivation you’ll scoop up more folk from marginalised communities by default.
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