Your post should be titled “Why you should never publish anything on the Internet (or anywhere for that matter)”. The minute you publish something you open yourself up for attack, not just feedback.
I have no problem with your critique of Chris’s assignment as Chris is a professional putting his work out there for you to critique. I don’t agree with most of your comments, but I do feel the assignment wasn’t as clear as it could have been.
However, the lack of a rubric being posted with this assignment with clear standards makes critiquing the students writing as you do unfair. Look at your post again and code every time you put down students directly or indirectly. Clearly while you may not have wished to put down students, that is exactly what you are doing.
I believe the overarching purpose of posting these essays was to solicit feedback on the students’ ideas and not the written form those ideas took. When you look at student work and give feedback it is different than looking at the work of adult professionals and you must confine your feedback about students and their work to the scope of the assignment’s parameters (no matter your opinion of those parameters).
Your post reminds me of the quote:
“The turtle only makes progress when he sticks his neck out”
- James Bryant, educator
To conclude, if turtles took your advice on producing first drafts they would make zeroth progress because the feedback they would receive would discourage their further effort.
Downesian nemesis TracyW provides a good rebuttal to Joe's "open yourself up to attack" and "the value of feedback" arguments which all censor advocates should read. I'll move on to the remainder of Joe's argument.
As a preliminary matter I note that Joe offers no defense to the students' writings and the deficiencies I noted. Is there a valid defense? I don't think there is one, but I'm happy to entertain that argument should some brave soul desire to make it.
Also, what is the point of this:
I don’t agree with most of your comments, but I do feel the assignment wasn’t as clear as it could have been.
Allow me to offer a similar rebuttal: I disagree with Joe's comments. And, now we've entered the surreal realm of a Monty Python skit.
What is the point of offering an opinion without substantiating it. This is exactly what the SLA students did. So, I'm guessing that when Joe says the assignment wasn't clear his implicit premise is that the assignment was so vague that it was acceptable for the students to just offer up a series of unsubstantiated opinions. Joe then moves the goalposts again when he next argues that since the "overarching purpose" of the assignment was to solicit feedback, the written form of the students' work should not be judged.
This is the Tom Hoffman diminished expectations counter-argument. Here is Joe's argument made explicit.
Joe, like Tom before him, is claiming that Chris' assignment was "vague," and that the words Chris used in his instruction meant something other than their ordinary and customary meaning as I claimed. The actual assignment should be understood to be commensurate with the scope of the resulting work product of the students. The students didn't support their opinions; therefore, the assignment did not require them to provide such support. The students' work was riddled with grammatical and usage errors and did not conform to the standard essay format; therefore, Chris' rubric could not have been concerned with this aspect of the students' work. Moreover, my standard is an adult professional standard, not a high school grade standard.
Let's recast Chris' assignment to make it both crystal clear and in accordance with Joe's suggested rubric.
You are to write a two page opinion paper creating your vision of what school should be. The main purpose of the paper is to solicit feedback from your fellow students. You are not required to provide support and substantiation for your opinions, even though this will hinder the reader's ability to understand the basis of your opinion (to understand why you think the way you do) and will diminish the quality of the feedback. Following the standard essay format of introduction, body, and conclusion is also optional. In fact, presenting your opinion in a logical order is not required, nor do you have to separate your ideas into traditional paragraph format. Also, although the goal of the assignment is to solicit feedback, it is not important for you to communicate your opinions coherently to the reader at all so they are readily understood. Therefore, standard grammar, usage, and spelling rules need not be adhered to. Lastly, you may keep your papers real by peppering then with colloquialisms and other informalities typically associated with spoken language.
Your paper should consider the following points:
According to Joe, this was really Chris' assignment and the students' papers should be critiqued accordingly. As a result, the students' papers are in compliance with the assignment and my critique is off-base.
It should also be clear why Chris chose to use the term "position paper" instead of all this clarified verbiage.
Nevermind that the term "position paper" is not only not vague, but also has an established meaning, And that the interpretative rule of Contra proferentem (against the one bringing forth ) dictates that we should use this established meaning.
Let me also suggest that this is an argument that progressive educators are better off not making in a public forum if they wish to achieve any credibility with the public.