Vote: is it ok to post student essays?

OMG. I just found a folder with a whole bunch of things I saved from the early 90s, when I was a new Assistant Professor teaching Evolution.

I had forgotten I was a “CHILD OF SATIN!”

This, I’m sure, explains a great deal for some of you.

I am trying to remember how I got this–I think it was under my windshield when my car was vandalized (silly me–I had a Darwin Fish on it.)

Anyway, I have all these amazing bluebook essays and comments from my teaching evaluations where students discuss creationism and evolution. I would love to share them, to give people a flavor of the sorts of things I run into when teaching evolution.  These are old enough that they probably can’t be identified to any individual (and the evaluations are anonymous anyway.)

Should I scan and post them?

18 thoughts on “Vote: is it ok to post student essays?

  1. The ethicist in me says no, but the humor lover says YES YES YES!

    I guess the more important question is whether posting the essays here would have any negative professional consequences for you. I would not want to see that happen, however funny the material may be. That’s probably something that you have a better sense about than any of us do.

  2. Honestly, the majority of them are more sad and cause for head-scratching than funny. Although I am really enjoying my role as evil SATINIST.
    (Except I keep sliding off stuff. Slippery!)

  3. I wouldn’t say don’t post them, because I wouldn’t think there’s a problem, but it might be worth checking with the University to see if they have any kind of policy on it first. But failing any problems there, I’d say go for it!

  4. For people like me, living in regions where this sort of thing is seldom, if ever a problem, it’s too easy to forget that there are others out there who aren’t so lucky, and have to deal with crap like this more frequently.

    Not only that, but I’m a computer guy. I deal with 1s and 0s. Switching theory generally has very little ambiguity. It’s either on, or its off. So a religious fundamentalist hardly ever butts into my field to demand that the theory of the mysterious blue smoke be given equal time. Unlike the various fields in biology, who have to waste time defending evolution a few dozen times a semester.

    So if you’re looking for another tick in the “pro” column, there’s that.

  5. I think that threats – if this is what this is (“Take this”? Um, take what? The note? Appropriately circular for a creationist) – certainly could as publishable items.

  6. What exactly is a child of satin? Were both of your parents pure satin or are you part synthetic?

  7. I agree that typing them out would be better and think that as long as posting them doesn’t violate some university policy you may have agreed to long ago, it’s not wrong. It could even be illuminating! In a sad, depressing way.

  8. Good question! What if it wasn’t sad and stupid but a brilliant essay (happens, luckily, too). Is there enough originality in it to warrant copyright? If so, as funny as it sounds, the silly ones probably enjoy the same protection.

  9. 1. HAD to comment re: child of satin ’cause that is a RIOT! And how, precisely, would they know?
    2. I agree with the suggestion re: asking the university their policy, tho’ I am a raging rule-follower (Child of Germans). =) Still, I think it’s a very sound suggestion.

  10. If someone sticks it under your windscreen wiper it is yours. If they hand it in for class, then it is theirs (unless they plagiarized it). Maybe the school can claim some rights, but I don’t see how you can claim you now own their creations and are free to publish them. Only outs I can see are trash – if giving them to you was equivalent to throwing them away – or the limit of the copyright laws (although I’d go for the pre-Disney term, not the new subversion of the Constitution).

  11. I’d say the evaluations are fair game: although they are written by the students, they are really for your use. Presumably, that use is improving your teaching skills, but if students feel the need to rail against evolution while evaluating you, then the evaluation isn’t useful for that purpose, anyway. I don’t see any reason not to post them.

    Essays and test answers are a different story. As much as I’d love to see some of them, they are in fact your students’ work. Even though it would remain anonymous, I’m having trouble convincing myself that you have the right to post their work. I know that I would be uneasy with posting my own students’ work online without permission.

  12. Child of Satin, this debate might never end. These letters were written without meaning to send them to the whole internet. The truth is, I can’t say what you should do.

    But even though someone might recognize the hand writing, I don’t understand why you’re going through a big process. They sent you thoughts that they can’t defend.

    It’s on them. Publish ’em!

  13. Well on one hand, technically it would be a copyright infringement punishable by insanely high prison terms and fines. On the other hand it seems to be in the best interest of the ex-students not to manifest themselves as the authors of these works, so you’re probably safe :-)

    In the event they have turned into litigious creationists they would have no way to prove they actually are the authors, lest resorting to graphology or similar hazardous techniques.

    You already posted this note so you might as well go for it :-)

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