1. Justin941
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    Justin941 New Member

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    Can a school (College) deny you a grade due to topic of a paper?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Justin941, Oct 12, 2010.

    (EDIT: Sorry if this is the wrong section, just didn't see anywhere that it could of went so I just figured this would be the place.)

    I am in my first semester of college, and soon we have a big paper coming up in my english class. And I am intending on writing it on a topic I am strongly interested in, but I am afraid that it might be too touchy of a subject. Especially in the area I live.

    The topic I am wanting to write on is the debate on religion. And to voice my own views. I have been doing alot of research on the topic over the past few months and I am confident I am able to have a very well written argument. That will give views from both side, but also reflect my views on the subject.

    I have been reading several great books to try and get even more knowledge on the subject.

    1. The Grand Design - Stephen Hawking

    2. The God Delusion - Richard Dawking

    3. Letter to a Christian Nation - Sam Harris


    All great peices of writings, and very well researched and explained why there views are the way they are.


    I am wanting to write on this topic, because it's something I don't see being talked about much. Sure there are alot of great minds, that speak out about the subject. But looked at by numbers, very few people actually decide to talk about the subject in the United States.


    I'm not looking to bash religion or push my views on anyone, I am just looking to point out things I don't agree with and just argue my views. And show why I feel alot of things don't add up.

    I'm just afraid that being in part of the bible belt in the United States, that it might have some influence on such a paper. It's something I really want to write about, because I feel like it's a great topic for a college level writing. But I am just afraid that it might be looked down upon by the instructor, or the school. And I am not sure if they are actually able to do that, so I am just cautious. I am not sure where it lands under freedom of speech, where schools have there own rules.

    Would really appreciate if anyone could give me some insight on this. Just don't want to do something that's going to come back to hurt me... Seeing as this paper will be part of my final grade.
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    It depends on the specific demands of the assignment. If there's scope for the kind of essay you want to write, then I doubt the subject matter would be too offensive. However, since it's an English paper (unless English is very different in the States?) I don't see why you would write an essay that's essentially a theology/philosophy essay. Maybe if you give us the specifics of the paper and the course, we might be able to help more.
     
  3. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    This is a case where your best bet is to speak with your professor. As much as I like The Grand Design and Letter to a Christian Nation, I'm not sure how they'd fit into a paper for English, so again ask your professor.
     
  4. Justin941
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    Justin941 New Member

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    Well, it's just a open topic paper. It's not actually suppose to be about forms of writing etc that you would actually learn in a writing class. It's just to put all the skills you learned through the semester into a paper with a topic of your choice. Just to be able to see you structure it etc.

    But seeing as it is a end term paper.. I am just afraid that the instructor might look at it as being a bad topic depending on there personal belief and that it it might influence there thoughts on the paper itself.


    Guess this response would be towards Agreen too. I had thought about asking the professor, but what am I suppose to do if they say I am unable to? I can understand that it's a touchy subject. But the concept of the paper, is to show how well we use our writing skills to use one of the forms of writings which I would have to say mine would fall under inform/persuade using a subject of our choice. Although I'm not looking to pursuade, I can see where that could be seen as part of the structure.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Since we know nothing about the school or its policies, we can't really address any of your concerns. Therefore, the best thing to do is to talk with your professor. Just be honest about it and tell him/her that this is a topic that interests you. Considering it's an open topic paper, I don't see anything wrong with choosing this particular subject. If your professor has a problem with it, then talk to the head of the department or someone similar.
     
  6. dizzyspell
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    dizzyspell Active Member

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    Ok, I don't go to Uni in the US, but here (New Zealand) the focus on first years is on developing research skills, creativity and critical thinking skills.

    If your argument is sound and valid, and you've used the skills you've been taught, I doubt they will be able to give you a fail grade for it.

    However, you may be marked more harshly, they may be more ready to look for flaws in your work because of how controversial it is. That may or may not even be something they are aware they are doing, but it is something we all do everyday. If we read something we disagree with, we are more likely to try and find issues with it.

    But as everyone else has said, talk to your lecturer or tutor or something. Find out what they're looking for.

    This is a bit off topic, but it's also going to be difficult to address such a wide topic in one paper, anyway. I know my Religious Studies professor advices strongly against writing about such broad issues. You don't want to be going through everything and picking apart everything you disagree with! Maybe pick a particular aspect of the religious debate and really narrow in and focus on that? That'll probably make a stronger argument. There's a lot of content in those books you mentioned and you can't cover it all.

    Also, you're asking what you're going to do if they say you can't write on it, so what are you really asking about? It sounds like you've already made up your mind to do this, so just do the best job you can with it! Don't give them any reason to lower your grade or fail you!
     
  7. Justin941
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    Justin941 New Member

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    I guess I didn't word my question correctly, thats my fault. What I am looking for is advice from people that have actually wrote on the subject or similar touchy subjects.

    In response to what someone said above. I have read over the schools policies and there is nothing limiting such things. But I guess it would all come down to personal feelings of a instructor as to how to grade the paper?

    As for what you mentioned Dizzy, I agree. There is alot of branching debates within the original topic going on in these books. But I want to try and provide as much basis to my views, aswell as supporting those views with supporting evidence from both sides of the debate.


    I've just heard so many stories of schools/instructors coming down on people for writing about religion in such ways. More so in the United States. And I am just trying to be cautious and see if I can get some ideas on how to go about it before actually speaking to the instructor.
     
  8. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    I've done something like this, something not exactly agreeable to all.

    It should usually be ok, but it depends on how extreme it is. The thing I'd find is that if your professor would disagree, and I mean really disagree, then they may think of your paper negatively no matter how good the arguments are.

    I personally wouldn't risk it, but then again I'm not really the most opinionated person when it comes to the class room...
     
  9. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I guess things might be different in the area you live in, but there isn't anything particularly controversial about the atheism/Christianity debate. It's been going on in public forums for decades (if not longer), and regardless of your position on it, it's not exactly shocking. And it seems that in this case, topic is essentially arbitrary anyway, just an excuse to write an essay, so it really doesn't matter what you're saying, just how you're saying it.

    Again, maybe it's different in the Bible Belt, but I can't imagine anyone being penalised for something like that here. And surely there would be an appeals process if you were?
     
  10. Northern Phil
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    Northern Phil Active Member

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    I agree with a lot of the posts above, it should be OK to write about but speak with your teacher/lecturer/professor first.

    My only concern is that you may be taking a one sided view of the religous argument. Why don't you speak to people who have a strong religous belief and maybe even a local priest/vicar to get thier views on modern religion and how it fits into daily life.

    At the end of the day you don't want your work to be patronising, argumentative or even trying to force your views onto others.
     
  11. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    As long as you have a solid argument and make an attempt to not come off totally biased, I wouldn't imagine that you would technically have a problem, but I would still ask your professor about it. In response to your question of what would you do if your professor said that topic wasn't acceptable, wouldn't you just choose a new topic? Save this one for a later class in which it might be fitting.

    I would like to say that as long as you're within the guidelines of the paper, you'd be fine with that topic, but sadly I know of people living in the Bible Belt who have been asked to change their paper topic because the one they chose was inappropriate.
     
  12. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    You say your college is in the Bible Belt, but does it have any religious affiliations? I understand private colleges in the US are either secular or non-denominational. I have no experience with higher education that isn't secular/liberal, so no topic in my education was 'off limits' so to speak. In fact, challenging religious dogma and conservative ideology was probably encouraged by my tutors and professors.

    However, I can see why writing about religious doctrination at a denominational school (say, Roman Catholicism) might be frowned upon. Might that be the problem?
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    If it is as Peerie has mentioned, then secular school or not, you may have to deal with a possible lack of objectivity on the part of your professor. If it is a private school with a religious underpinning, then the answer would seem obvious, but even if it is a public school, if you live in an area where conservatism reigns you may still have to deal with a prof who is more concerned with his/her agreement/dissagreement with the subject matter and not just the merit of the writing itself.

    You can ask the prof, but this is going to evince only emic data. If the school's rule is that the prof may not show bias, then that is the answer you will receive regardless of the prof's actual bent.

    Are there any observations you can recollect (etic data) that would lead you to believe that the prof is biased one way or the other?
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Different schools have different standards. Check whether there is an appeals process at your school, but you may have no recourse but to accept the grade.

    Even if there is an appeals process, it will be time-consuming, and unless the professor has come under fire before, the school is not likely to rule against him or her.

    Since this is a paper you have not yet written, you can check with the professor before you write it. But as this is your first semester, I have to wonder whether your choice of college took into account your ability to get an unrestricted and unbiased education.
     
  15. Capt Bob
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    Capt Bob Senior Member

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    What is the basis of your "assumptions"??. Previous experience, advice of others who've written for this Prof.,personal fear and trepidation??.
    You say-"Subject" is it just that, or do you intend to raise "known" controversial issues under the Subject banner???? What is "Subject"

    Without this evidence, cannot fairly assess.

    Perhaps a Subject like: Examine the assumption: "knowledge can produce certainty".
    Has direct ties to Religion and once that "Camels nose is under the tent flap" you can kick the whole beast inside.
    However-remember-Life is not fair--Nor Just--We bear the consequences of our actions. Narrow minded Professors may endow a desired cloak of "Martyrdom" but in the process may deny a coveted diploma!
     
  16. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    No, it's not controversial, if anything the opposite, but if your professor has strong Christian views (or whatever) they may try to pick holes in it, or start reading it with bad thoughts n mind, which is never a good thing.

    Edit: Think of it like going into a film with a initial prejudice, likelihood is your judgement will be clouded. A poor metaphor I know...

    Ask them first I'd say.
     
  17. Justin941
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    Justin941 New Member

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    I don't have any knowledge of the professor ever being biased on a subject. But again, this is only my first semester. But I am going to try and speak with her, and see what I am able to do.

    As for the people wondering if I am planning to come off biased in the paper. No, I'm not. I am going to talk about both side of the arguments and hit on pints in each of them. While still reflecting on my views.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    don't ask us... ask the school!
     
  19. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    X2

    Their school, their rules. How should we know?

    Yes they LEGALLY can give any grade they want. You have no LEGAL recourse on grading.
     
  20. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, at the uni where I work, we have legal procedures in place if a student wants to appeal against a grade. They can petition for a re-mark and if the petition is accepted they will get it--of course, it may be even lower second time around. But the second marker doesn't see the first mark.

    Really, it is completely pointless for a junior student to choose a controversial topic or something they think their tutor may not like. Just don't. Give the tutor what he wants. Your personal views are less important than your skill at assembling argument and displaying your knowledge of what the tutor has taught. Sorry to stifle academic ambitions, but don't worry, you will have plenty of opportunity to raise hell when you are higher up the academic pecking order.
     
  21. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Entirely agree with this statement - you want a good mark always know your professor, read what they have written and tailor your essay to them. Very occasionally you get one that encourages their students to disagree with them but my experience is not many want the first year students challenging the established order.
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I've never played it safe with essays. I don't go out of my way to be controversial, or worse, insulting, but I write what I think, and support my arguments to the best of my ability.

    I have never run into a problem doing this, but whether that is because I have been fortunate enough to have, on the balance, good instructors, I cannot say.
     
  23. Daisy215
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    Daisy215 Member

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    For our fiirsy English essay this year the question was about how the author's experiences helped him write the book, and what kind of person that made him. A friend and I were working side by side on our papers and when I voiced my idea he said "his name here is going to fail you."
    Somehow I wrote the paper with my actual opinion, which was that the author was a selfish pig headed man who was using someone's tragic death to try and sell his acomplishments.
    The teacher read my essay aloud. Turns out he hated the guy to, but nobody had ever said anything in their papers. A plus. Go with your gut, it might surprise you.
     
  24. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I rest my case. You were lucky, this tutor had the same opinion as you! On the other hand, if the guy had been your tutor's lifetime hero...
     
  25. yearning
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    yearning New Member

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    The fact that you have to even post this kind of question makes me sooooo very happy I live in Canada.

    I'm sorry for those who have to live under this kind of oppression.. because that is what this is.

    F*cked up!!
     

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