American University has brought in an academic from the University of Washington-Tacoma with a curious mission for an academic institution: to teach academics not to grade on the writing ability of students as opposed to their “labor.” Professor Asao Inoue believes that writing ability should not be assessed because such assessment interfere with “antiracist” objectives.
Inoue is the director of the UW-Tacoma Writing Center and has explained that “White language supremacy is perpetuated in college classrooms despite the better intentions of faculty, particularly through the practices of grading writing.” It appears that grading on writing ability is one of those acts of white supremacy. He has insisted that professors who use a single neutral standard for all students are perpetuating racism: “[using] single standard to grade your students’ languaging, you engage in racism. You actively promote white language supremacy, which is the handmaiden to white bias in the world.”
He also previously declared: “I stand up here today asking everyone to listen, to see, to know you as you are, to stop saying shit about injustice while doing jack shit about it. We are all needed in this project, this fight, this work, these labors. But because most in the room, in our disciplines, are white, I have to speak to them too, many of whom sit on their hands, with love in their hearts, but stillness in their bodies.”
The thrust of Inoue’s lectures appear to be a “labor” focused grading system that expressly rejects uniformity of a single defined standard — the touchstone of academic work for generations. What is curious is that such non-uniform approaches to grading is an invitation for bias — the scourge of many universities from prior years where minorities and women faced fluid and often unfair grading practices.
The announced session was apparently organized with the university’s top diversity official and its vice president of campus life, Fanta Aw.American University would do well to give further thought to adopting such views and, at a minimum, have a broader debate over the pedagogical values of the university. Inoue’s views are not simply extreme but in my view inimical to the academic mission of most universities. It also does a disservice to students who overall show falling writing abilities. These students are not going to be evaluated in their careers by their “labor” or given tailored standards. They will be compared according to their objective abilities. Indeed, federal laws take a dim view of fluid standards and favor clearly defined measurements for performance.
What do you think?