A materialist society like ours overvalues objectivity, and rarely understands the necessity of subjectivity. This confusion wreaks havoc on the way we test, and on expectations of fairness in grading. I offer the following series of reflections and theses on objectivity and subjectivity in testing and grading. My intention is not to dismiss objectivity, which is both real and necessary, but to correct the profound overemphasis on objectivity in our society. My comments are directed towards teachers of philosophy, theology, literature, and history.
Student: I wanted to talk with you about how I could raise my grade in this class.
Teacher: You could always get higher scores on your quizzes and tests.
Student: Very funny. How can I get higher scores on my quizzes and tests?
Teacher: A couple things come to mind. You could always cheat on your tests and quizzes, or you could get your parents to offer me a bribe.
Student: Are you serious?
Teacher: Are cheating and bribery not classic, tried-and-true ways of getting high grades?
Student: Sure, but I don’t want to cheat.
I have seen simple students and foolish students begin to mend their ways. I have seen students headed for destruction turn back and live. I have also seen reasonable students lose their reason. I have seen prudent students tire of prudence and begin living exciting, unstable lives. In observing changes towards foolishness and away from foolishness, I have reached a rather simple conclusion about change: bad influence rubs off, good influence does not.
Last month was Carter’s 16th birthday, so I took him to Best Buy like I promised and bought him an invisibility cloak. We picked it out together. It was $700, which is quite a bit for our family, but we agreed that it would be a birthday and Christmas present combined. For the whole last year, he had been dying to get one.
Parents often tell me, “My son is very smart.” They tell me this as though being smart were a great asset, a quality which ought to help them do well in school. However, “My son is very smart” means about as much to a classical teacher as, “My son is very handsome.” I teach virtue. Being smart will probably not be a hindrance to the child who is determined to learn virtue, but neither will it be much of a help.
If an elementary school student is a voracious reader, he will often set his eyes on books which are part of school curriculum from forthcoming years. His teachers or parents will say to a 3rd or 4th grader, “Oh, don’t read that book yet. You’ll read it in 5th grade.” But often enough, this is unfortunate advice.
What follows is the final exam I have given my freshman Medieval lit students after we finished reading The Divine Comedy
Part One: The Problem. Imagine, for a moment, that you have a friend at this school whom you have known since second grade. Let us call this friend Mark. In elementary school, you played with toys together. Then you learned to ride bicycles together. You were in boy scouts together. However, during sophomore year, Mark has begun to struggle, while you have not.
Classical Christian schools need a separate statement of faith which deals with classical issues and prejudices.
On his way to betray Jesus to the chief priests, Judas may have said to himself, “I am not betraying Him. Nothing of the kind. If I was handing Him over to be killed, that would be betrayal. If I personally stabbed Him, that would be betrayal. But all I am doing is telling some people who are looking for Him where they can find Him. I am not even breaking any laws. How is it breaking the law to tell one person where another person is? If I told Jesus where the chief priests and temple guards were, would I be betraying the chief priests? Obviously not.
Adam means “man,” and so Adam is not really “the first man,” but simply “the first.” A sad man is actually a “sad Adam.” A beautiful woman is “a beautiful Adam.” I am the Adam Joshua. My wife is the Adam Paula. The first Adam was not a particular Adam, but a universal Adam. To say that Adam was “a man” is redundant. “Adam was man” simply means that “Adam was Adam.” Adam was both “Adam” and beyond “Adam.”