In my department, we have some policies, which are presented to students in handouts. Now, these policies outline our expectations with regard to things like spelling and grammar, and citation in essays. Essentially, they outline the bleeding obvious for the intelligence impaired. (You know, like Homer Simpson says, “Because of me, now they have a warning”.) I like to think of them as “Don’t Staple a Dead Duck to Your Essay” policies. I give these policy handouts to my students at the start of semester, and I also make mention of them in my Course Outlines and Assignment Handouts, and I remind them, a couple of times before work is due, not to duck up.
You know where this is going.
The Duck files. Conversation 1.
Little Miss Mallard: I see I got a D for my essay.
Me: Yes. That would be a D for “duck”.
LMM: Well, I did ask you if you wanted this work in “essay format”.
Me: Well, yes, but to me “essay format” means something quite different to “with a duck on”.
LMM: My prof last semester said it was okay to hand it in with a duck on.
LMM: Yes, you can ask him. It was Professor Algernon.
Me: I will do that. If you go take the duck off and reprint your essay, I will, out of the goodness of my heart, reconsider your grade.
[Interval of a day, during which I ask Prof Algy about his duck policy, and he claims that no ducking way did he say anything of the sort.]
LMM: Here’s my essay!
Me: There’s still duck parts all over this thing! The D stands.
LMM [bursting in to tears]: No fair!
The Duck files. Conversation 2.
Muscovy Chick: I see you applied the duck policy to my essay. I just wanted to say that it’s not fair.
Me: How is it not fair? Did you know about the policy?
Me: And you have copy of the handouts where I explain that the policy applies to your essays in this class?
Me: I am failing to see where this unfairness lies.
MC: It isn’t fair.
Me: Are you suggesting that I don’t apply this policy equally to all students?
Me: Then I have to ask, how is it unfair?
MC: It isn’t fair.
Me [bewildered, and admittedly getting tetchy]: What about it isn’t fair? You said you knew about it.
MC: Well, it didn’t seem to me that I would get penalised for stapling a dead duck to my essay.
Me: Even though I said you would?
Me: So essentially, you are saying that people who have standards and then hold you to them are unfair?
The Duck files. Conversation 3.
Cayuga Girl [snivelling, which makes my score of criers for the week 3]: I have to talk to you about this. [“This” being her god-awful essay, and they always say it in that tone.]
Me: What about it?
CG: I can’t get this mark.
Me: Well, clearly you can, but you don’t want it.
CG: What did I do wrong? It’s not like it has a dead duck stapled to it, like last time.
Me: True, but it does have a metric duckton of, to put it mildly, infelicities and inaccuracies in it. Like this part where you say “anthropologists agree that women are genetically inferior to men”. Why drag the poor anthropologists in to it? This is a Chaucer essay.
CG: I meant “physically inferior”.
Me: I’m not sure that that is an improvement.
CG: Anyway, that is only one thing.
Me: It was your thesis.
CG: Well, what else?
Me: There’s this part where you go on for a page about the bourgeoisie in the 14th Century.
CG: My history professor does that; I thought it was okay. [You note this is a common theme? It makes me wonder what my students blame me for when they are arguing with my colleagues.]
Me: And there’s this part where you say that medieval women never talked about sex. What about Margery Kempe? She went on and on and on about sex: having it, not having it, wanting to have it with some guy other than her husband… You have no evidence for your claims.
CG: I did a lot of reading. And also, no duck!
Me: I saw that. But overall, it’s a clusterduck. You read all these feminist critics. I don’t think you really grasped what they were on about.
CG: So what do you want me to do?
Me: Me? I have no desires here. You wrote an essay, I marked it and gave it back. As far as I am concerned, this is the end of the transaction. Don’t make this about me.
[Long pause. Clearly this conversation is not going the way she wants. I think I was supposed to apologise and promise never to do it again.]
CG: What if I rewrote it?
Me: The last time I let you have a rewrite, you took the duck off and replaced it with a goose. I need some guarantee that letting you rewrite won’t result in more duckwittery.
CG: You are really unfair. [Exit, huffily.]
The Duck files. Conversation 4.
Snippy Duckling: What’s this D doing here?
Me: It’s a D for “duck”.
SD [with a real tone]: So. You’re telling me, I got a D just because I stapled a dead duck to my essay?
SD [tone now moving from snippy to threatening]: Interesting.
Me [thinking]: At least she didn’t call me unfair.
In other news, Gender Genie thinks I am a dude.