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The Collective
Sunday, January 16, 2005
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Paul of Wizbang notes the following story from WaTi (”California professor flunks Kuwaiti’s pro-U.S. essay”) and e-mailed me to see if I would grade the essay.

Part of the context is the following:

Ahmad Al-Qloushi, a foreign student at Foothill College near San Jose, Calif., said he was told by professor Joseph A. Woolcock to get psychological treatment because of the pro-American views expressed in his essay.

If that is true (and these cases it is often hard to know, but that strikes me as an odd thing to make up if it isn’t true, but still, one has to reserve judgment) then that is hideoulsy offensive.

However, having read the piece, I must confess that I would have given the essay a pretty low score-given that it isn’t my class, and since I don’t know the exact context of the question and so forth, it is hard to say what exact score I would give it. My initial reaction is that I would give a low D.

Now, the reason I would do so has nothing to do with the pro-American stance of the piece. The reason it would get a low score (maybe even a failing score) is because the student did not answer the question. What the student wrote is fluffy and subjective. And while some of may be correct, its correctness is moot because it doesn’t answer the question asked.

The question notes, correctly, that the Constitution of 1789 was written by the elites of the day and it is further true that the document limited democratic participation. While it is certainly the case that the Constitution of 1789 was the most democratic ever to exist at that time, it is also true that most blacks couldn’t vote (indeed, most were slaves), women couldn’t vote (regardless of color) and in most states there was a property requirement for white males to vote. Regardless of one’s political point of view, there is no denying the truth of these facts. Further, it is also true that the interests of the elites who wrote the constitution influenced its writing-just look at the 3/5th compromise.

Ours is a country that was founded upon a set of high ideals, but also one that committed (from the get go) a number of sins that betrayed those ideals. We had to grow into them (and, indeed, we may have yet to attain them). To deny this is to have a sanitized view of US history in one’s head.

Some other things:

  • The essay goes astray almost immediately by incorrectly stating that the question asserts that Founders had only their own interests in mind. The question does not assert this.
  • It would have been possible to both answer the question and argue that the Constitution was a progressive document for its time.
  • The student seems not to understand (or at least it is unclear what he knows) about the concept of “”direct democracy”.
  • Ditto “nationalism.”
  • The question asks about the founding, but the response really talks about the 20th and 21st centuries, not the 18th.

While it very well may be the case that the prof in question is anti-American, the answer to the question under examination here wasn’t very good. I must confess that I am rarely particularly merciful when a response isn’t actually directed at the question that has been asked. I can see how this essay resulted in a failing grade.

Update: James Joyner grades the piece as well. Professor Leopold Stotch agrees that the response is bad as well (in the comments section).

Update 2: Yet another Real Life PoliSci ProfTM would fail the thing: Chris Lawrence.


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25 Comments

  1. Another Moonbat Academic
    Tell me again why tenure is a good idea… California professor flunks Kuwaiti’s pro-U.S. essay A 17-year-old Kuwaiti student whose uncles were kidnapped and tortured by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s invaders more than a decade ago said his Califor…

    Trackback by Wizbang — Sunday, January 16, 2005 @ 5:03 pm

  2. Thanks again Steven.

    (I even spelled your name right this time)

    Comment by Paul — Sunday, January 16, 2005 @ 5:55 pm

  3. My pleasure.

    And, according to George Costanza, “Seven” is a pretty cool name, so no harm, no foul ;)

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Sunday, January 16, 2005 @ 5:57 pm

  4. I agree completely: If you compare the reported answer to the question, it seems clear that the student went off on a tangent and probably deserves at best a D.

    Comment by Leopold Stotch — Sunday, January 16, 2005 @ 5:57 pm

  5. California Professor Flunks (Awful) Pro-U.S. Essay
    Drudge has drawn attention to a piece in today’s Washington Times:

    California professor flunks Kuwaiti’s pro-U.S. essay

    A 17-year-old Kuwaiti student whose uncles were kidnapped and tortured by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s invaders more tha…

    Trackback by Outside The Beltway — Sunday, January 16, 2005 @ 5:59 pm

  6. Another Moonbat Academic
    Tell me again why tenure is a good idea… California professor flunks Kuwaiti’s pro-U.S. essay A 17-year-old Kuwaiti student whose uncles were kidnapped and tortured by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s invaders more than a decade ago said his Califor…

    Trackback by Wizbang — Sunday, January 16, 2005 @ 6:10 pm

  7. Another Moonbat Academic
    Tell me again why tenure is a good idea… California professor flunks Kuwaiti’s pro-U.S. essay A 17-year-old Kuwaiti student whose uncles were kidnapped and tortured by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s invaders more than a decade ago said his Califor…

    Trackback by Wizbang — Sunday, January 16, 2005 @ 6:12 pm

  8. I’m sure your assessment of the paper is correct. However, the point remains that at the very minimum the prof’s suggestion that the student in question seek psychological help is, at the minimum, bad pedagogy and quackery.

    Comment by Dave Schuler — Sunday, January 16, 2005 @ 6:19 pm

  9. I don’t disagree at all. Indeed, I called “hideously offensive”.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Sunday, January 16, 2005 @ 6:22 pm

  10. More On The Anti-U.S. Professor
    Earlier I had posted about a situation where a college professor told his student that he “needed psychological help” for writing a pro-American essay.

    David Anderson weighs in:

    [Could it be possible] That the kid failed for writing a shitty pa…

    Trackback by Say Anything — Sunday, January 16, 2005 @ 6:35 pm

  11. Bad essay gets bad grade, news at 11
    Everyone’s favorite Moonie-owned newspaper, the Washington Times, attempts to make a cause celebré out of a student who got a bad grade on an American government exam at Foothill College, a community college in the Bay Area. (þ: Wizbang) Steven…

    Trackback by Signifying Nothing — Sunday, January 16, 2005 @ 9:32 pm

  12. America-Hating 101
    Ahmad Al-Qloushi is a 17-year-old Kuwaiti attending Foothill College (where he heads the local chapter of College Republicans) on a student visa.  He tells a very disturbing story about the final exam given by one of his political science professo…

    Trackback by Watcher of Weasels — Monday, January 17, 2005 @ 12:55 am

  13. Free Psychological Exam With Paper, Revisited
    Last week I wrote about the Kuwaiti student who was advised to seek psychiatric help after writing an essay in which he disagreed with his professor. Actually, to be precise, the student was told to seek help immediately, or his…

    Trackback by Villainous Company — Monday, January 17, 2005 @ 6:24 am

  14. GRADING AHMAD AL-QLOUSHI
    The story of Ahmad Al-Qloushi, a college freshman from Kuwait who was reportedly told by a Marxist political science professor to get “psychotherapy” for writing a pro-America essay, has been kicking around for more than a month. It got renewed…

    Trackback by Michelle Malkin — Monday, January 17, 2005 @ 6:37 am

  15. I assume this was not an advanced class in social choice theory, as it is a community college course. But the professor should get a flunking grade for asking a really stupid question. The question presumes Dye and Zieglar are “right”. And literally, the question is banal. Non-anglos, women, and poor white males could not vote. The constitution was not adopted by direct vote, representation to the conventions was gerrymandered, etc…. QED.

    An informed and contrary opinion would would focus on the nature and idea of “representation”, point out the irrationality of all collective decisions, attack the notion of a monolithic American elite, and provide a compartive context.

    Comment by decon — Monday, January 17, 2005 @ 10:30 am

  16. While I am a defender of the concept that the American founding was profoundly democratic for its day, there is no denying that the role of elite in the writing of the constitution and the profound anti-democratic elements in the system. This is not something that a Community College student can’t grasp.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Monday, January 17, 2005 @ 10:36 am

  17. Dave Schuler: we only have Al-Qloushi’s word that the treatment suggestion was in direct response to his essay. I think a more likely scenario is that he had a conference with his prof to discuss why his essay got a low grade and he failed the course (he had already failed the mid-term for not completing that work). And in the conference he didn’t listen to anything the prof said but worked himself into a foaming in the mouth fit in which he repeatedly denounced the prof as a communist traitor. If this was the case it would be entirely reasonable for the prof to suggest counseling.

    Comment by MonkeyBoy — Monday, January 17, 2005 @ 12:59 pm

  18. […] t seems to me a settled issue that the fact that the essay in question wasn’t very good (myself, James Joyner, “Leopold Stotch�? (in comments at OTB and PoliBlog) and Chris Lawrence, all […]

    Pingback by PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » My MLK Day Post — Monday, January 17, 2005 @ 8:10 pm

  19. […] t seems to me a settled issue that the fact that the essay in question wasn’t very good (myself, James Joyner, “Leopold Stotch�? (in comments at OTB and PoliBlog) and Chris Lawrence, all […]

    Pingback by PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » My MLK Day Post — Monday, January 17, 2005 @ 8:16 pm

  20. Conservative Victimology
    One day after my Chiristian Victimology post, we have another example of victimology, this time about the oppression of conservaties. A conservative student thinks that he’s being oppressed for his views because he did poorly on a paper he wrote…

    Trackback by Parableman — Tuesday, January 18, 2005 @ 7:01 pm

  21. Prof. Joseph Woolcock Responds to Student’s Allegations
    Prof. Joseph Woolcock was accused by Kuwaiti student Ahmad al-Qloushi of ordering him to seek psychological counseling for his pro-American views. Professor Woolcock responded to the accusation by dropping a comment in this post written at The Jawa Rep…

    Trackback by The Jawa Report — Wednesday, February 9, 2005 @ 11:16 am

  22. See mediamatters.org analysis.

    Comment by QJ — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 4:22 pm

  23. Al-Qloushi should release a copy of the paper containing the grader’s (profs?) markings. I think the controversy would die a quick death.

    Comment by Frank Laurich — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 5:21 pm

  24. Horowitz Responds . . . Sort Of
    David Horowitz e-mails to chide me for a January blog post, “California Professor Flunks (Awful) Pro-U.S. Essay,” that was picked up by the folks at Media Matters. Horowitz’ response is at FrontPage Magazine in a post entitled, “A new Brock slande…

    Trackback by Outside The Beltway — Monday, March 14, 2005 @ 12:49 pm

  25. I need search
    This, which I just stumbled across, belongs in an update to my post ab…

    Trackback by Marked Up — Saturday, March 19, 2005 @ 2:00 pm

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