I opened the package to find 70 scripts, each one had an average of 3 pages; some had even 4 or 5 pages each. Even as I was coming to terms with the volume of work involved, my eyes fell on these words in bold in the covering letter – “Send the evaluation results by email on or before 12th November.” 5 days only to get the job done!
Impossible, I thought and tried to get my boss to communicate with the organizers to negotiate more time to complete the work. This attempt didn’t work to my satisfaction – I got an extension of merely one day.
Deciding to get on to the job at once, I began reading the competition guidelines which were very specific in terms of font size, line spacing, and page formatting. Each entry had to be just 3 pages long – so I disqualified those that were greater in length. 6 down.
Entries which contained material plagiarized from the Internet were to be disqualified. How much time would it take me to check for plagiarism because I had hard copies? Where was the time to key in the material into an online plagiarism checker?
But there was a ray of hope, so I started reading. My hunch paid off – by the time I read the first 4 entries, I found that same material had been presented word-to-word in two of them. Clear evidence of plagiarism. 30 down.
That left me with about a mere 34 entries to evaluate.
As I read through them, it was easy to separate the grain from the chaff. About 15 were totally irrelevant in terms of specific content the essay demanded. Out they went.
Within 48 hours of starting, I had finished my evaluation. I wondered at the prophetic ability of the organizer who had decided 5 days were enough to get 70 scripts evaluated.
This entire episode left me with a bad feeling, though. To think that students who are going to graduate in a few months time do not have the skills necessary to write a simple essay with their own thoughts. Or perhaps it is that they do not have their own thoughts. Or maybe their life is so full of other things to do that they cannot put in the hard work of thinking, of having a vision of their own.
As a teacher with so many years in the profession, my ability to detect nonsense is pretty high. Like I tell my students sometimes, even cheating or manipulation of results requires brains. Which the youngsters in this example obviously didn’t use.