Category Archives: Alienation

Student, Customer, Grader

The first truism of grading papers is that some students will undertake the assignment in a sincere fashion. That is to say, they evince a real desire to engage with the prompt or even the course as a whole.

Counterpointing these sincere students are the customers– who frankly don’t GAF about much so long as they get (at a minimum) the B- they think their tuition has purchased them.

The goal of a good grader is to read sympathetically, to lean forward into the flow of language on the page in order to understand. When that language comes from a place of authenticity, even when its claims and conclusions are off, a genuine social exchange occurs. When that language is dull, stolen, mashed together without regard for meaning, lazy, rote, or the product of unconscious ideological training then the social exchange that transpires resembles mere commerce. It’s a lie.

As a genre, the lie is intended not to inform or comfort or contradict or do any of the myriad other things by which our relations to one another are extended and confirmed. The purpose of the lie is to distort, diminish, and deprive. To get over. Such a purpose is in precise alignment with what someone– whom exactly, I forget– once called the casual sociopathy of everyday life under advanced capitalism.