Prof: Don’t require college essays

Stop requiring college students to write essays, argues an adjunct who’s sick of grading poorly written and plagiarized papers.

This is the “Anyway Argument,” also used to justify dropping college algebra requirements, writes a community college dean. Most students won’t use it anyway, so why bother?

About Joanne


  1. Why bother requiring students to think? They won’t use that skill in real life, anyway ~

    • Actually, the full request is to (a) drop papers in required, non-major classes, and (b) replace them with oral exams. Rebecca points out that the way we do things right now, the kids (a) don’t read the material, and (b) don’t spend enough effort on the papers to matter [plus, most of them probably haven’t developed the skills required when in high school]. Her point is that oral exams would at least require the kids to *read* the material or be very embarrassed at their ignorance (I’m not as optimistic as she is about this …)

  2. “I’ve graded drafts and assigned rewrites, and that helps the good students get better, but the bad students, the ones I’m trying to help, just fail to turn in any drafts at all. (…)
    I’m not calling for the end of all papers—just the end of papers in required courses. Some students actually like writing, and let those blessed young souls be English majors (…) But for the common good, leave everyone else out of it.”

    Maybe some people shouldn’t attend college. Because if you stop demanding written work from students, is it really college at all?

    • Some people shouldn’t attend college, but Rebecca doesn’t get to make these decisions. Then she isn’t allowed to fail as many kids as should be failed (assuming that standards were in place). So now what?

      • If she isn’t allowed to fail students who should fail, then standards are not in place. If the students can’t or won’t write an assigned essay, they have no business in college. AND any degree awarded to such students is worthless.

        Requiring exams would also make sense, given how easy it is in the age of the internet. But I doubt that she’s surprised at the “bad students'” identity. And employers won’t be surprised, either.

        Why do you think middle class parents are so determined to send their children to “good” colleges? If colleges award degrees for seat time and tuition payments, they only devalue their own degrees. Putting pressure on professors not to fail students who deserve to fail hurts the institution.

  3. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    Take out the word “essays” and that headline’s about right.

  4. Since everybody must attend college and get a degree the subjects taught in college must be made so easy that anybody can master them.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      Are you sure that’s cynical enough? Don’t you mean, “Since everybody must attend college and get a degree the subjects taught in college must be made so easy that anybody can *pass* them”?

      Most courses are passed without mastery anyway. Students memorize and forget. How many of us could pass more than a few of the college finals we took back in the day?

  5. Roger,

    I can remember much of what I took as finals since I have to use a LOT of it in daily use in my job, but why bother to have kids go to high school, just give them a high school diploma and a bachelor’s after middle school.

    Doesn’t matter if they can’t read, write, or handle math, just so long as they feel good about themselves.