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The Midwife and the Semi-Automatic Rifle



Semi-serious question: If you assigned a student the task of writing an 800-word essay on the theme of what relevance America’s experience in Iraq has for United States foreign policy in the context of the current crisis in Syria, and the student produced this, what grade would you give it?

Here’s mine:

Graduate school, upper level undergraduate: F

“Mr. Friedman, this level of work simply isn’t acceptable.”

Freshman comp: D+

“Mr. Friedman, you have an arresting writing style, although we need to discuss the uses and abuses of metaphor. But logic is part of good expository writing as well, and this piece contradicts itself more than once in the space of less than 800 words. Please make an appointment during office hours so that we can discuss how you might improve your work.”

High school: C

“Tommy, in some ways this draft has potential. You’re certainly not afraid of big ideas and memorable phrases. I see real promise here. But arguments have to make sense on their own terms, and colorful writing can get in the way of clear thinking. Let’s talk about how you might re-write this to make it better.”

Maybe I’m an easy grader though.

See also Greenwald and Taibbi.

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