There’s really something wrong with this system.
In the fall term, I blogged about this student. She’d written the worst essay I’ve ever seen. Because I’d looked at it before and sent it back with extensive comments for revision, and she went back and really did try to rewrite it, I didn’t fail it. I marginally passed it. (‘D for effort’.) Maybe I shouldn’t have done this, but I did.
But what I now see is how this maybe-I-shouldn’t-pass-her-but-I-will has contributed to the problem for her.
She got 29% on her December exam. Who gets 29% on a TAKE-HOME exam?? I dunno. She did.
This term (this is a year-long course), she had to write an annotated bibliography prior to her research paper. She came in and talked to me well before the bibliography was due, looking for guidance. She is a really earnest, hard-working student. I enthusiastically approved her topic. It was a word. She was theorizing a one-word concept. Not a particularly hard word. Like, say, a pretty ordinary word that also has theoretical applications. Let’s call it “possibility”. A word like possibility. Not hard to understand the basic meaning of that word, right, and to then do a basic essay on how that word is marshalled conceptually by theorists? Well, she handed me in a bibliography that made no sense. I couldn’t tell what sense she was making of this word-concept – or whether she even understood the word. I tried to point her in the right direction, asking her to clarify her use of “possibility” and offering a host of other suggestions for her project (which was also deeply flawed because she was using all sorts of resources that had no discernible connection to possibility).
Today she came to see me with a draft of the essay. Oh my god. Ohmigod. I don’t know. I am stuck in the face of such a disaster. I talked her through some things, including, again, what does the word-concept possibility mean???? But it is clear to me that this is a lost cause. She has such a deep lack of understanding of the most basic material, of the most basic words – which means, as I noted before, that the whole course has gone over her head – that nothing I can do or say at this point is really going to help.
So what the hell? How did she get into university? Or, how has she not been identified as learning-disabled (which I can only guess is what the problem is)? How does she continue to make it through and make it through and make it through, so that I am the one, in the end, who is going to shut down the possibility of her getting an Honours degree. (If she doesn’t get at least a 60 in this required course, she can’t do an Honours.) It really feels as if there is something wrong with this picture.