Stop Computer Grading of Essays and the Automation and Perversion of the Critical Enterprise

A Little Luddism for your morning cup of Joe

Sign the petition against automated grading of essay tests on the college level. As the enemies of education and critical thinking run wild with their software and artificial intelligence, now they want to universalise a machine that grades essays. Noam Chomsky and others like myself have signed this petition opposing such actions. I do not especially enjoy grading papers; it is not the most pleasant aspect of my profession. I do not believe, however, a machine can surpass my skills in evaluating writing. I do not believe a machine knows my students better than me. I do not believe a computer can be programmed in a manner that fits the needs of all students in a course.

I think EdX company that uses MIT and Harvard as its base of operations to create this Strangelovian software needs resistance by real academics who are committed to teaching and not surrendering the profession over to computers: we are already under assault from for-profit online universities, online programmes proliferating among so-called non-profits and the mania of assessment. One should be open as I am to new technologies that enhance pedagogy and the learning process such as mycourses, blackboard, powerpoint, document cameras, cds, and dvds etc. When technology is intended to replace live instruction and create greater detachment of a professor from her students–in this case the actual reading of student work by a human–it is nothing but gratuitous and run-amok technology that should be given the Luddite treatment. Throw it away, break it into many pieces and set it on fire: metaphorically of course since pacifism requires respect for property as well even if venal and execrable. Just because technology can do something does not mean it should!

Where will this end? Will doctoral dissertations be graded by a machine and an oral-comprehensive exam be administered by a talking computer and graded by voice-recognition software? Will referee journals be programmed so submissions will be “assessed” by a computer programmed by its readers and editors? Then what we will do with all this free time? Use our latest model iphone and ipad and claim coolness with our Veblenesque conspicuous consumption?

See also New York Times article on this outrage.

We call for schools, colleges, and educational assessment programs to stop using computer scoring of student essays written during high-stakes tests.

Professionals Against Machine Scoring Of Student Essays       In High-Stakes Assessment
We have collected 3778 (as of April 18) signatures since March 12, 2013:

First Name Last Name Title / Institutional Affiliation Date Signed
Richard Polt Professor, Xavier University 2013-04-04
Brian Thelen AP English Teacher, Hinsdale South High School, Darien, Illinois 2013-04-04
Nathan Carter Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Georgia 2013-04-04
Peter Asaro Assistant Professor & Director of Graduate Programs, The New School 2013-04-04
Antonio de Velasco Associate Professor of Rhetoric, University of Memphis 2013-04-04
Rachid Eladlouni Pratt Institute 2013-04-04
Peter Kirstein Professor of History, St Xavier University 2013-04-04

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