March 11, 2010

Holy. Moly.

Posted in student mistakes tagged , , , , , at 2:59 am by profart

This was a midterm essay turned in to me by a native English speaker with a high school education. Can you find the error-free sentence?

The Ancient Near East we have a Stele of Naram – Sin, Sippar, Iraq, 2220 – 2184 BCE. Naram – Sin had a stele made that showed him win the over the people of the Zagros Mountains. He is showed with the people below him. He is telling everyone that is has the power and that he is the power.

With the Stele of Hammurabi, Babylon, Modern Iraq, 1780 BCE, he had all the duties, punishments, and his people right engraved on his stele. He had different punishment for the different classes. Had got his power by tell the people the rights and the duties. He also deals with the politics with having more than one class. The some rules and duties were not the same has a poor man and a rich man.

The Ancient Aegean we have the Citadel at Mycenae, Greece, 1600 – 1200 BCE. We can see the power and the politics in the way the city so made. The king residence built on the heights point and with the high class around him. He had a wall built around the city to protect and show the power that He had.

The Parthenon was Athens power and showed it to the world around it. The Parthenon, Athens, 447 – 432 BCE. It was the place that had the wealth and the power around it. I think with its size helped it was the power.

It does not better what time it is but we can look around and see the art work that is telling us about power, politics, wealth, and the ones in the power. That artwork will never stop.

Edit: Did I forget to mention this is from the untimed, take-home, open-book exam they had two weeks to complete?


December 3, 2009

Plagiarists beware: Flunky flunky!

Posted in student stories, teaching revelations tagged , , , , , , , at 1:29 pm by profart

I hate it when students flunk. It’s bad on my nerves. I always feel like there is something more I should have done, something more I should have said. I agonize over placing the fat, honkin’ F on that record, especially with students who have at least warmed their seat all semester. But one must get what one earns, even if I lose a little sleep over it.

With one exception. Plagiarists. Don’t feel like doing footnotes? I’m going to flunk you, and not even bat an eye. Want to just copy material in from books, or cut and paste from websites? Flunky flunky! I just don’t tolerate theft of other people’s ideas and hard work, just because you are too frickin’ lazy to do your own.

With the citations thing, I give my kids a gentle second chance. Either I flip through the papers as they hand them in, and hand it back if there are no citations (or at least try to); or if they are emailed, I will send an email noting that I clearly have the wrong draft, and would they kindly email me the correct one, the one with citations? Because if that is not enough of a hint to correct the issue, they deserve to flunk for outright stupidity. We have enough thick-headed academics in the world, and I am sure if a couple professors had flunked their butts when they were being thick, instead of just passing them off to the next poor fool, we’d have a lot less of them.

There is nothing I consider more EPIC FAIL than failing to cite sources in a writing assignment, especially in upper-level courses, where it should be practically second nature. And I have one policy for EPIC FAIL: an F on your transcript.

November 21, 2009

Clues for the Clueless #24

Posted in clues to the clueless tagged , at 8:23 pm by profart

Hint: There is a difference between “asking for help” and “harassing the shit out of your professor.”

When you have a writing assignment, turning in a rough draft is a good idea. Make sure you have completely finished the project, completely notated the project, etc. Your professor will give you comments and hand it back to you. You then go an consider these recommendations, and put your best foot forward to complete the assignment. If you happen to have another draft completed in time to turn a second draft in by the draft deadline, it is usually OK to resubmit, but some professors only look at one rough draft- after all, the point is not to spoon-feed you through the assignment, but to provide you with helpful feedback before you turn in your final draft. More useful to you would probably be a trip to the writing center.

If you start turning in 3 and 4 drafts, you are harassing your professor. This isn’t high school, it’s college. I am not here to spoon feed, I am here to guide. Sending me repeated emails and drafts to the effect of “am I done yet? Is this an A yet?” is simply annoying. Do your work. Make sure your writing is smooth, your thesis clear, logical, and cohesive, and your notations appropriate. If you believe you fit this criteria, you are done. Then you hand that in as a draft, and I provide guidance, and you work on it until, following that guidance, you meet that criteria. If you do not meet that criteria, you have work to do. You do not need to submit it to me with the message, “have I done enough work yet?”

Because my answer will be “no.”

September 11, 2009

The color! The color!

Posted in student mistakes, student stories tagged , , , at 4:12 am by profart

Recently there has been a huge increase in vague, empty writing coming from my students. In trying to follow certain writing formulas, student not only end up saying nothing at all, or not what they thought they were saying, but there is often complete disjoint between sentence parts; clauses don’t jibe. Paragraphs shift gears halfway through. Random things- I can’t say fact, because they aren’t usually accurate- are tossed into the middle of discussions. It’s weird. Very Dada.

In discussing Flemish art during the Renaissance, I often ask my students to consider a few issues: why did oil paint become important? What is the difference between humanism and secularism? What factors resulted in the differences in style between northern and southern Europe? What is “International Gothic Style”, and why is it considered a Renaissance style, not a Gothic one?

Remember, these kids have a textbook to read about this stuff. I provide external links to look at and read about these issues as well. Some of the responses are precious. Allow me to conflate some of the responses while preserving the flavor of the posts:

Medieval art had more of a religious focus, whereas Renaissance focused on realism and everyday life. Because of the shift from religion to humanism the art work changed and though its style was similar the term “renaissance” became to represent the focus more so than the style. The International Gothic style referred to the people of the 14-15 century with the thin pale skin. It was the end of the Middle Ages and would start the change for a new world. For this it is called the “REBIRTH”.

The Tres Riches Heures portrays the International Gothic style very well. It conveys a sense of comfortability. It captures a feeling a cold winter weather with the bare trees, the snow covered landscape, the dull gray skies/high horizon, the smoke from the chimney, the size of the trees and buildings compared to the people. The things get smaller towards the back of the picture in contrast of to the front of the photo. Also the top half consists of a calender device with a sun, and a zodiac symbols.

[Tres Riches Heures] is also an example of secularism.This can be inferred in the flaunting of jewels, tapestry, stone and sculptures. It focuses on the Dukes and their collection of these lavish items. All noble men and women and no inferences of religious symbols can be found but a large amount of vanity of the Dukes and others are abound. Unlike the opposite that you would find in a piece such as Unicorn is Found at the Fountain. There we find small suggestions of Christ within the unicorn and other woodland creatures representing symbols of faith, valor, mercy. This tapestry depicts the Resurrection of Christ in a different form and is a great reference to humanism while still representing the rich colors of this period.

Find yourself saying “huh???” and “What does that have to do with anything?” a lot? Imagine a whole message board full of this stuff.

This may be a long semester.

August 31, 2009

Red Alert: Crap Ahead

Posted in student mistakes, student stories, teaching revelations, Uncategorized tagged , at 3:54 am by profart

Stock phrases are all the vogue these days in the world of Standardized Testing and Empty Writing. Generic fluff really annoys me. It annoyed me when I was a student trying to read articles and get to the point. It annoys me that this horrible habit of bad writing is being not only passed to a new generation, but intentionally ingrained into them. Its kind of like the 5-paragraph essay: it is a great little crutch to get kids started in thinking about the structure of writing, but too many of them get stuck there, never to actually understand the purpose of writing and communication.

Here’s some popular red flags for “here comes some empty crap I slapped together to get some credit”:

This is a question that can have many different answers.
(Really? I wonder if that might be why I asked it…)

The threshold problem with this is…
(What is a “threshold problem”? I get this a lot from non-native speakers and students from China and Taiwan. What is this supposed to mean?)

How we consider this question depends upon our point of view.
(Yes. Yes it does.)

In my opinion….
(Unfortunately, this is rarely followed by an actual, original, thoughtful opinion.)

This question isn’t easily answered…
(No kidding…)

I know my idea might be preconceived, but…
(It is. Trying thinking about the material instead of just spouting off at the mouth.)

Defining art would be like defining love…
(Give me a BREAK)

Don’t worry, there are lots more. I’ll add as I get slapped with them.

August 8, 2009

Incoherent Student Strikes Again

Posted in student stories tagged , , , at 4:13 am by profart

These are the instructions:

Answer one question clearly, concisely, and completely. Use at least three works of art for examples, clarifying how the example is pertinent to your thesis in your writing. Each example must be identified by title, date, and country of origin. You must cover at least three major areas of art history. You must select at least one item from: Prehistoric, Ancient Near Eastern, Egyptian, Ancient Aegean, Greek, Etruscan, or Roman. You must select at least one item from: Early Christian, Byzantine, Islamic, Early Tribal/Early Medieval/Celtic, Carolingian, Ottonian, Romanesque, Gothic.

This is the question:

Light is a common metaphor for the divine. Discuss the use of light and its connection with religious and political art in the ancient and medieval worlds.

Here is the answer:

Light, by all means, is one of the most cherished sources man has worshipped, arranged their lives by and what our planet thrives from.

Since Ancient times man has used light to many of his advantages.

Before the light bulb was invented,
Before our towns, grew into cities, then those cities became even greater, cities OF LIGHT, with a touch of man’s manipulating hand, and the itelligence man is born with, Man mixes these amazing ideas which they come up with

and have brought them to LIFE. Sacrficing and labor intense work, with man hands, some pully’s and a wheel, GREAT STRUCTURES were built. OF course SUNLight, The ball of fire which man awakens with every morning is worshiped, thanked, cherished, and Is mandatory that it be shown In peoples areas of worship, giving thanks to the solar power that keeps motivation in the world Man has taken over with its various species.

Humans, being able to comprehend this precious power the Earth shares with all of its lusture of life, TO all creatures that live on it, has made Humans expand more complex subjects : politics, Science, GOD? or No GOD? greed, POWER and the urge to want more and more,

Buildings of great height,areas people gathered for worship, give thanks or some may call it, being one with yourself and communicating with a higher power, The guy that put them here for a reason? or mayne not a reason,

No one has the answer too that question, but that is the question we will keep on asking, and keep on trying to prove, and all life will one day die.

A person’s religion and faith is Sacred and Personable. Amazingly humans have been in deep thought and have been questioning their faith and will do so til they die and This place in each persons soul and their faith or whatever mindset one may have, Is shown in people who have taking their beliefs and constructed massive Buildings, Scultures, cities of architecture and paintings by people of any time is amazing to look deep into and see their

and with whatever media a person could find ,stone, marble, clay, metal…ANYTHING destructable could be reconstructed and is a piece of our history.

Sunlight, from the first day, was a important factor of our ancient relatives. Naturally human’s sleep at night, so the sun was what people woke up for, during the day was when it was safe getting around and finding food during the day. For the predators that come out at night and without all the little gadgets we have created for ourselves in this day of age, sunlight was their friend, God? It was just very important to them!
That bright glowing ball in the sky and the warmth it shoots from its rays is like a natural Euphoria, Humans and animals, like, (cats for example)a wonderful sensation awakening us as the sun rises in the early AM was a sighn for life to get up and get the day started!

It was important that man did comprehend quickly that Sunlight is one major nessecities in order for their speicies to survive. All things work with sunlight, and (darkness is just as important) in order to establish growth and flowering to take place in plants and such.

Differently and much more complex than any other life on earth, Humans took these feelings they got from the sun and other natural resources from the Earth and came up with these… intense feelings, ideas and it was a process that started with such simplicity, but has grown to be such an amazing process of how we have evolved as people.

Sunlight inspired the Art of humans and humans art is filled with complex but simple random composiitions

It was a divine and giving object that glowed high in the sky, providing all life to sprout, flourish and give to the creatures that used the nutrients as well in order to live.

Humans went from stick figure drawings to , of course want and do better, so as humans developed and learned more and more things, their ideas grew to what was UNIMAGINABLE at the time, but the strive for power, woman, understanding of what the world may be? All led to Amazing works people Thought of…decided to put it into action, and make their ideas Come true.

Light, being a single source of flame, or a big ball in the sky is a major contributer to human emotions, beauty that is so amazing it has to be captured by human eye and then recreated because beauty is eye candy. Being the source of life and the foods we eat to nourish ourselves, schedualing our lives by the time the light goes up to when it goes down, is a work of science and art not made by human, but is Admired and loved by them and is symbolized in the works people do, in whatever they are building, painting, Art history is a deep, interesting subject, and it has brought us to the type of society today, under the same sun ancient ancestors and dinosaus sunned themselves under!

Sun, light, fire, all the same substance, but has so many functions it does for everything and anything that our world maintains its Life.

Am I playing the Dada game*?

*[Dada is an art movement searching for subconscious thought and emotion through choice and chance. In the Dada game, a person thinks of a question. A second person thinks of an “answer”. The Answer person tells the group the answer. Then the first person tells the group the question. You then spend a lot of time and drink a lot of alcohol while trying to connect the answer to the question.]

November 2, 2008

Clues for the Clueless #13

Posted in clues to the clueless tagged , , , , , at 6:57 pm by profart

Hint: If you are going to plagiarize your essay, don’t take out key words that make the sentences… sentences. For example, don’t remove the verb or an important clause. Also, do not loan your essay to someone else to copy. It may be a fluke to find one essay with a missing important clause, but two? The exact same odd mistake? What are the chances I won’t say in my head, “haven’t I read this before?”

And then I open the textbook to check the odd, out-of-context fact you pulled at random- as did your friend, since they copied you- and find the exact phrases… what do you think I will do? 

I will put a big, fat “ZERO” in my gradebook for both of you. You’re welcome.

June 30, 2008

Clues for the clueless #6

Posted in clues to the clueless tagged , , , , , at 1:03 pm by profart

Hint: If I cannot decipher your English, I cannot grade your essay. There is a really great way to help this problem, which I recommend in my syllabus, orientation presentations, and course information (and announce several times over the semester, both in live and online classes): have someone read your essay aloud. Whenever the person stumbles trying to read aloud, you probably have a problem in your writing that needs to be fixed. Be sure your reader is a fluent English speaker. 

No, this doesn’t often result in perfect papers. That really isn’t the point. The point is that the English will at least be adequate, so I can understand what is being understood. This isn’t an English class, and my English writing probably makes my English Prof readers cringe. The point is to be understood

This isn’t just an ESL problem. I get mangled English from everyone- mangled so badly that I cannot tell if they understand the concepts.  To me, exam are teaching tools. They allow me to evaluate what a student knows while teaching concepts of writing and recall, analysis and critical thought. I offer a few different formats for getting this information back and forth, because not everyone is the greatest at any one format. Multiple choice, short answer, essay, discussion… some things timed to check for recall, some things untimed to check for understanding and research. 

Essays are untimed. I provide the questions two weeks before an exam week begins. Then they have all week to enter their answer into the computer, or have until exam day to turn it in. For upper-level courses, i do timed essays to help them prepare for timed tests such as the GREs. Timed essays are very different creatures from untimed ones. I expect some mangling in timed essays as students untangle their thoughts. But untimed, do-at-home, at-your-leisure essays? For a major exam? The least you can do is look up the artist names and spell the time periods correctly. 

If you are discussing Leonardo the winchy in an exam, you are not going to get an A on that untimed assignment. It is just one symptom of a much larger problem: and I have yet to find an essay with one such symptom that doesn’t show many, many others. Displaying your ignorance- then complaining that you are not getting an A- isn’t going to help your grade at all

June 24, 2008

Real student quotes.

Posted in student stories tagged , , , , at 2:05 am by profart

Ah, the wisdom of student writing. It is amazing what you can learn from students. Over my career, I have learned: 

Stonehenge was built of stones from blue whales. 

That there was a great deal of Hellenistic influence in Greece. 

“B ecause the art is the dunp thing in paintings, the big painters like Leonardo the winchy and other painter said a lot to the people by the paintings.” [No, this was not an ESL student.]

That art critics tend to criticize. They should learn not to be so negative. 

“When a leader stumbles his followers fall right on top of him.”


But what I really love about these kinds of quotes and paraphrases is that these are my students. I got to hunt them down and fix these problems. How many folks have such a golden opportunity to really change a student’s whole way of thinking and communicating? How many people can say they helped make someone a better paycheck down the road?