Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Who needs a professor?

I recently read this article on Slashdot (not my cat, the other Slashdot) about computerized grading of essays. To me, this sounds like a perfect application of artificial intelligence technology; after all, why should a teacher or professor have to waste valuable hours providing feedback to students? After further research, I discovered Criterion Online:

Criterion supports community colleges and four-year colleges and universities with a reliable evaluation of student writing ability, and an easy way to administer and score the essay portion of an institution's placement tests, basic skills classes exit tests, or other writing assessments. It's also an effective remediation tool that can be proactively implemented to fill an institutional gap identified during the accreditation process.

And they even have a free trial (username: nasp24, password: demo). Evidently this login expires on May 15th; if you got here too late, you can sign up for a new demo account.

This intrigued me greatly, so I decided to write the worst possible paper I could and submit it for college-level evaluation. My assignment follows:

Your school is sponsoring a voter registration drive for 18-year-old high school students. You and three of your friends are talking about the project. Your friends say the following,

Friend 1:

"I'm working on the young voters' registration drive. Are you going to come to it and register? You're all 18, so you can do it. We're trying to help increase the number of young people who vote and it shouldn't be too hard to read that the percentage of 18- to 20-year-olds who vote increased in recent years. We want that percentage to keep going up."

Friend 2:

"I'll be there. People should vote as soon as they turn 18. It's one of the responsibilities of living in a democracy."

Friend 3:

"I don't know if people should even bother to register. One vote in an election isn't going to change anything."

Do you agree with friend 2 or 3? Write a response to your friends in which you explain whether you will or will not register to vote. Be sure to explain why and support your position with examples from your reading or experience. Try to convince the friend with whom you disagree that your position is the right one.

As luck would have it, I received a perfect grade of 6 for the following masterpiece:

In accordance with the rhetoric that Bob Cratchit bequeathed unto Nick Bottom in Poe's "A Raisin In The Sun", I swarthily ascertain that the insignificance of the voting process, being the proverbial kingpin of any synthetic democracy (such as that of the United States of America), should never be understated. Few would disagree that the consequences of such a misnomer could wholeheartedly and halfheartedly (in effect, one and a half heartedly) rival the combined virtues of terrorism, defenestration, and sexual abuse while at the same time leaving the Food and Drug Administration vulnerable to electioneering.

Therefore, in light of these recent, historic revelations I have decided that I will register to vote immediately after the conclusion of the next Presidential election. It is the responsibility of every citizen to commit voter fraud in as many elections as possible, because no one has ever been prosecuted for such a Republican crime. If voting is outlawed, then only outlaws will have votes, and creating this illusion of privilege is instrumental in the creation of any respectable police state. As with Gonorrhea, we should try to enjoy it while it lasts.

It is insufficient, for example, for Friend #3 to claim that "one vote does not matter," because this friend, whom I shall henceforth refer to as Snuffleupagus, disremembers that the combined whole of the popular vote is just as irrelevant to the democratic election cheese grater. Only one vote in ten is actually counted, but this does not matter as each counted vote is recorded twelve to fifteen times, thereby saving time and increasing voter turnout simultaneously. Again, this is why I have decided not to register to vote, and to discourage others from doing so. As the Reverend Dr. Cheetos frequently ascertained during his doomed Presidential campaign of the late seventeenth century, it is not the pressing of the button, but the depositing of fifty cents, that causes the Mountain Dew to drop from the machine.

Finally, two screenshots of my evaluation (click to make 'em big):


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