Assessing anonymous marks

March 26, 1999

Andrew Pakes's call for anonymous marking is naive, politically correct claptrap.

First, his argument contradicts itself. Pakes starts by stating that he is not attacking lecturers, but goes on to justify anonymous marking on the grounds that it would prevent discrimination, thus suggesting that lecturers discriminate. I take that as an attack.

Second, his proposal would not work and would reduce the quality of teaching lecturers can provide. Far from stopping lecturers from discriminating, anonymous marking would make it easier. When I marked undergraduate work, my students knew who was doing the marking. They also knew who to complain to if they thought I was not doing the job properly. Anonymous marking would destroy the professional relationship between student and tutor - and also the lecturer's sense of moral responsibility to assess as fairly as possible.

One point that comes across strongly from Pakes is that the quality of teaching is a distant priority compared with expressing his left-wing prejudices. His reference to the Stephen Lawrence case and irresponsible implications of racism, backed up by little more than poorly conceived stereotypes, are proof enough of that.

We should consider the problem in terms of institutional racism only if it can be demonstrated conclusively that the ethnic background of some individuals is part of the reason behind their poor performance. Otherwise Pakes and his ilk should stop making irresponsible and hurtful accusations against dedicated professionals.

Leo Enticknap PhD student, former undergraduate tutor, school of English University of Exeter

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