New research (British research, so you know it's extra dignified and erudite) suggests that teachers are not the soulless, dispassionate grading androids we once believed them to be — sometimes, they let they can allow their "personal feelings" or "bias" about a particular student influence that student's grade. Maybe this news shocks you. Maybe it makes you wonder whether your seventh-grade reading composition would have loved those odes to Han Solo's thigh-hugging equestrian pants and called you "the next Emily Dickinson...of Star Wars poetry" if you didn't bring her a cream cheese doughnut from Dunkin' every morning.

It should, anyway. Teachers are, after all, human, and humans have a way of letting their emotions run roughshod all over their rationality. You might even say that emotion and rationality aren't really such different frontal lobe phenomena, but we digress — the point is that teachers, according to a recent survey of more than 2,000 teachers judging essays written by their 11-year-old students, a teacher's "personal feelings" may sometimes account for the marks he or she doles out to bright-eyed you learners. After receiving an initial grade, the essays were evaluated by third party "moderators," who discovered that, in 10 percent of the cases, papers were judged too favorably (in five percent they were judged too harshly).

The Telegraph concludes that such findings "cast doubt on teacher objectivity," which is a ridiculous belief to cling to in the first place because there doesn't exist on this planet a single anything that is entirely objective. Even machines rely on programs and algorithms written by people, and people are flawed, scared, hairless monkeys whose only notable evolutionary characteristics are 1) wiggly thumbs and 2) lying. Maybe teachers let themselves get charmed by particularly well-behaved, punctilious students, but that's only because teaching is hard work — most kids completely suck and society just shits all over teachers constantly. Who's really getting hurt if a well-meaning, hard-working junior high schooler gets bumped from a "C" to a "B-" on a one-page book report about Kon-Tiki?

The answer is, depending on your capacity for paranoia, either nobody or the future creative writing professor who must patiently evaluate each of that now-grown student's short stories about getting lost in the South Pacific on a raft made of balsa wood with only a marble composition book and a whitetip reef shark named Sno-Cap as company. In the interest of real talk, I'll tell you that when I was a teacher, I graded papers as if I were a vengeful demigod, wielding my red pen with the subjective abandon of deity who'd just watched his worshippers take a dump all over the sacrificial altar and then go make sweet Old Testament love to the sacrificial animals. It was very cathartic. My students all got the grades they more or less deserved, and the really shitty ones who never came to class or who spoke out of turn got a nice mid-semester shock when I tore through their booooorrrring personal essays. It made them work harder and, as a result, they performed better. Anyway, that's what I tell myself before I go to sleep and visions of homeless, disgruntled freshman comp. students vengefully riverdance all over my unconscious mind.


Teacher ‘bias' gives better marks to favorite pupils, research reveals [Telegraph]

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