Saturday, July 19, 2014

Grading, Professors' Pet Peeves, Dell Hell, Kindness

I've been having network problems, which is one reason for my lack of productivity. Jaci, I agree that I need a mac, but I will get it on September 1, and all the whining, pleading, or extorting  I could possibly do between now and then will not make it appear one minute sooner. Yes, it bothers the hell out of me to see my parents typing away on their own macs, but, as my mom is so fond of telling me, some things are worth waiting for. Furthermore, network issues are no respecters of computers and of their snooty brand names. Mac users suffer equally with the lowly Dell owners when reception problems strike.  My parents' home is in a tiny canyon that is something of a fog pit. It makes breathing easier for my mom and for me -- it's almost like having a a built-in humidifier. What is great for the lungs, however, is not necessarily equally great for cell phone and  Internet reception.  We do at least have reception, but if anyone in the region is going to have trouble getting a connection, it is the people living in our little fog pit of the world.

Speaking of things that are or are not worth waiting for, how do you feel bout sentences that end in prepositions? My mom says the concept is largely an affectation and that it came about as a result of the anal tendencies of sixteenth-to-seventeenth century English poet John Donne. Donne wrote his poetry so that it could be directly translated to Latin with ease. Something related to the structure of the Latin language  makes sentences ending in prepositions awkward, so Donne wrote his works, mostly poetry, with his sentences not ending in prepositions.  It's highly dubious that Donne had any idea he was creating a school of thought that would torment students for the next several centuries.

My mom says that in authoring formal works, it's a good idea to structure sentences so that they don't end in prepositions primarily because one does not know just how nit-picky or anal the professor grading the paper might be. One could argue all year about the rightness or wrongness of ending sentences with prepositions, but in the end, little matters other than the opinion of the person holding the red pen or its digital equivalent. What's more important: being technically correct or getting the grade? Again, this goes back to a philosophy held but certainly not invented by me, which is that the secret of success in  college/university is to discover what each professor wants to hear or read  and to tell it to him or her as many times, in as many different ways as is humanly possible for any given student.  In the course of telling the professor what it is he or she wants to hear, it is probably wise to assume until one is told otherwise by said professor that the professor is of the "do not end sentences with prepositions" school of thought.

A good practice is to read papers of one's classmates after they have been submitted, graded, and handed back, particularly if one has reason to believe that the professor himself/herself has actually looked at the papers. (Some professors are lazier than others and hand over all grading to grad assistants, while others will at least personally look at term's major writing assignment.)   Some actually do the entire process of themselves grading the major writing assignment for the course. God knows they have enough time. Most of them teach only three classes per term, and they need to be published something like once per job in order to receive tenure.  

Encourage this practice of passing around and reading each others' paper  under the  guise that what your classmates have to say is of any importance whatsoever.  Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth unless you have a highly gifted classmate, in which case you should already have determined such to be the case, have already arranged study sessions with said classmate, and have already picked the person's brain practically free of gray matter.  Instead, the purpose of reading classmates' papers is to read the comments written by the grader, who is, in a perfect world, the professor. Read every little seemingly insignificant snarky comment, not to gloat -- though  doing so can be entertaining -- but to learn from the mistakes of your classmates. Most of these mistakes are ones you would not make, but just the same, if  reading twenty papers can help you to avoid the use of a pet peeve of the professor, it is time well spent.  This is where you will discover whether or not the professor has a  "preposition at the end of a sentence" fetish.  Don't trust your memory. Write it down in your handbook of information about professors and their eccentricities.

Right now I'm midway through four different blogs. I hope to finish at least two tomorrow, although at the rate I'm going in terms of getting any sleep tonight, it may be at least noon before I make it out of bed.   Regardless of sleep issues, I'll commit to finishing at least one of the pending blogs. One of them pertains to the reason my father pays such close attention to the writings that I "publish" though the Internet. It will, perhaps,  make him seem slightly less maniacal than he would seem without the explanation.

On a thoroughly unrelated topic, Judge Alex tweeted an anecdote concerning his daughter who is, I think, roughly twenty-four years of age. The judge's daughter was walking down a street carrying a pizza when she noticed a person who appeared to be in need of sustenance, so she offered him a slice of her pizza, which he took.  It was a small gesture, but a very kind one. Most of us, when we consider the matter carefully, have more than we really need.  Sharing hurts us little, yet may benefit someone else a great deal.   

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 
Matthew 25:40 KJV


  1. Personally, for casual writing, I try to ignore that "not ending sentences with a preposition" rule. I think a lot of times, when it's obvious a writer is following that rule, it makes their writing seem archaic and affected. But for formal writing, it's probably best to avoid ending sentences with a preposition whenever possible.

    Judge Alex's daughter sounds like a kind soul. More people should be that nice.

    I have a Mac and I like it, though mine is starting to show its age at 4 years old… On the other hand, when I used PCs, they usually died within two years.

  2. On ending a sentence with a preposition, I believe it was Winston Churchill who said (I'm paraphrasing) "That is something up with which I shall not put."

  3. Kudos to the late great prime minister.

  4. Macs last and last. My computer guru (who is not a Mac-man) despairs of me when I just add a new OS. He keeps saying to just buy a new one. Coming from a mend-and -make do background this is hard for me to do. Bought my daughter her MacBook for university. Glad you are going to have this rite of passage too.