Originally posted 4.26.2007
I cannot write academic papers.
This has occurred to me recently as I’ve turned in a remarkable string of C and D papers which I, while writing them, thought would be B papers. It seems that all of the principles and elements of writing which I like, and writing which real people actually read and enjoy are useless in academia. No more narratives (too disputable), no more humor (too much irony makes the writer’s attitude seem sour), no more original figures of speech (the instructor will almost always find them distracting), but no cliches either.
I like to think of myself as a decent writer. Many people have told me that I am. I’ve won numerous writing awards, both as an amateur and a professional. At least I hope I’m a decent writer, because my inability to perform mathematics is reaching legendary status within my circle of friends and family.
Professors hate my writing. All of them. Going back to 2003, I have received an A on one paper, an essay in which I was to analyze and compare two advertisements. I’ll concede that for much of this time period, I have not given an A effort on these papers. But I have not expected As. It has never been much of a priority for me to get As. A mixture of Bs and Cs will suffice, and I’ve given a mixture of B and C effort, only to receive Cs and Ds and Fs.
The most inexplicable instances have come this semester, in my English class, which is instructed by a woman named J. Karen Ray, who on the first day of class called herself “a bit of a bear.” She also has made no secret of her far left political ideologies and has jokingly sprinkled anti-male commentary throughout the semester. I’m not saying these things have had an effect on my grades, but I’m not saying they haven’t.
Now, most of the time, when I get a poor grade, I know what the problems are before the paper is even returned to me. The comments are usually no surprise. With Ray, I have no idea, even after having the paper returned, what the real problems were. So I talked to her about it, and came away with this:
1. She doesn’t like the tone of my writing — an ambiguous criticism that could literally be used every single time, no matter what the tone was. If you just felt like giving somebody an F because you didn’t like the look on their face (or their reproductive organs), this is one you’d definitely use.
2. She thinks I use too many generalities — this was a valid criticism, until I rewrote the paper to address all of the generalities she didn’t like the first time around.
Anyway, now I’m here trying to craft a 10-page paper about a topic on which she completely disagrees with me. This should go well.