Arizona State Professor Says Grading System Is 'Racist' And Wants To Grade Students Based On Effort

Photo: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com / Twitter
Arizona State University Professor Inoue

A professor at Arizona State University believes that the common way of grading uses “White supremacy language” and wants to move toward a more labor-based grading system, according to The College Fix.

The professor of rhetoric and composition, Asao Inoue, spoke at a 70-minute event hosted by the Rhetoric, Writing, and Linguistics Speaker Series sponsored by the Department of English at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Professor Inoue’s believes that the traditional grading system should be labor-based.

Why is the grading system racist?

“White language supremacy in writing classrooms is due to the uneven and diverse linguistic legacies that everyone inherits,” Inoue said, “and the racialized white discourses that are used as standards, which give privilege to those students who embody those habits of white language already."

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Inoue seems to be referring to harsh grading based on language and grammar when working with students who write essays and papers.

He believes that because there are so many linguistic backgrounds, students shouldn’t be judged based on their inability to uphold the English language as it’s taught in schools.

He adds that white supremis culture "makes up the culture and normal practices of our classrooms and disciplines," and that labor-based grading will combat that because it "redistributes power in ways that allow for more diverse habits of language to circulate."

Inoue wants to grade students based on effort.

The labor-based grading system basically means that instead of grammar and quality of work, students will be graded on how hard they worked and how much effort they put into the work — which could be problematic for many reasons.

While Inoue is focused on the grammar portion of work, he doesn’t seem to understand that actual knowledge of the subject comes with the traditional grading system and that a labor-based grading system might not capture that.

“I am sure I want a surgeon who worked hard but never obtained the necessary knowledge and skills to operate on me,” someone commented in the online discussion.

“Of course, that applies to most professions — an architect who just doesn't have the skill but worked hard (result is a collapsed building) - an electrician who worked hard but... the result is a fire.”

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He argues that traditional grading is rooted in oppression. 

The professor went on to criticize the traditional grading system and called it out for what he believes is a long history of oppressive behavior.

"Labor-based grading structurally changes everyone’s relationship to dominant standards of English that come from elite, masculine, heteronormative, ableist, white racial groups of speakers," he said.

He continued to defend his opinion on how schools should instruct their students and that they should be more mindful of how teaching “white language” can be harmful.

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"What I’m arguing for are safe classrooms that offer better, clearer ways to understand what it means to learn dominant forms of English in our world today,” he told Fox News in an email.

“So, I’m NOT arguing we get rid of grammar and language instruction, nor even that we don’t pay close attention to what I call habits of white language (HOWL). I AM arguing that we create better conditions in classrooms for all students, no matter their language backgrounds." 

Inoue and his wife established an anti-racist teaching endowment earlier this year that aims to provide resources for teachers and students to learn anti-racist teaching/learning practices in the classroom.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Follow him on Twitter here.