We are Tangent

My team leader returned a particular student’s exam paper to me and told me that despite the answer being relatively eloquent and logical that I had over marked it and I was required to reduce. Although my instinct was to argue the case, I ceded to my superior and dutifully did as I was told. What a pity.

The pity is not that as a mature person I kept qTangentLine_1000uiet and obeyed, it’s that students, especially in the humanities arena often score lower than they should because they ‘fail to answer the question’. Ever since I was that type of student myself the rebel devil in my head has thought: Actually mate, I have answered your damned question but I’ve taken it upon myself to add something else of interest. What you asked is limited and predictable and as an arty person I’m giving you more. More in fact than you deserve.

Nothing has changed, least of all the continuing conspiracy that places a science template over the bones of creative thought with the sole aim to ‘straighten it all out’ because as we know, ‘they’ have never liked deviation and tangential ideas.

When I was young…I declared myself a romantic thinker in the vein of Goethe and Shelley, I subsequently signed up to Surrealism and Existentialism. I bought into everything I could to demarcate myself from my friends who were homing in on business and science. The main problem though was (and still is) that I had too little talent to be a really great artist and despite my medalling with a guitar, a few pastel on sketchbook etchings and an attempt to make Mime the new language  of global communication I pulled back from faux creativity and became an observer.

I’ve been marking exams for about 6 years and have seen all kinds of variations on the correct answer. The easiest ones to mark are the blank pages because zero is zero in any language and by the way kids, that old wives’ tale about scoring 1 for spelling your own name properly is incorrect. We don’t see or even care about your name and in true ‘Prisoner’ terms you really are a number and not a name.

But I digress.  Students who put nought get nought. Waffle/padding is easy to spot and is not worth including. Eventually what leaners need to put is the right answer. I enjoy reading the extra stuff and once in every two hundred the candidate persuades me to give them extra marks. I however resist that temptation because although I may think it’s deserved, my performance too is being watched and if I were to unilaterally add bonus points I’d be sacked very soon after.exams

The pity then is that the 1 in 200 extra bit of inspiration evaporates. The student probably forgets what she wrote and the assessor can only focus on the correct stuff. Brilliant, inspiring spur of the under-pressure moment ideas arrive and depart in a flash. Tangents are erased and words like plan, focus and quantify continue to maraud the future.

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