Vaguely School/Exam related (awesome) song
It’s exam week here, and I’ve had a couple of days off. Sadly, I’ve had to fill them completely with MA studies, as I had got a bit behind owing to making exams and, far more excitingly, presenting at the KOTESOL International Conference with the #KELTChat team. I wish I had more time to write about this, but I’m not sure that I do.
Anyway, I’ve already finished my grading my exams, but in doing so came across a couple of slightly problematic and troubling answers. I thought I’d share them with the class, and I’d be interested to hear what anybody else thinks about this, particularly if you’d have acted differently.
Both the answers were to the same question, a writing question on my level 1 exam which asked students to describe themselves, using certain words as prompts. Two of these words were ‘skin’ and ‘body’.
The first problematic answer came to the ‘skin’ prompt, in which one answer was “I have yellow skin”. This raises certain difficulties for the marker. Clearly if I uttered this, it could (would?) be taken as a fairly racist epithet, but what of a Asian student with limited linguistic resources? Is this an appropriate self-description? Is it influenced by Western racist language? Could it cause offence to other people if used in public by the student (about himself or others)?
In the end I marked it as wrong, as we had discussed skin colour in class, and how it may well be a sensitive issue for both Koreans (generally pale skin is seen as the ideal here) and other races. I had suggested using darker or lighter as slightly softer terms for describing people’s skin. Given that the exam was designed to test what we had talked about in class, I felt I was justified in marking this as wrong, but what would you have done?
My other troubling answer followed the ‘body’ prompt. The only girl in the class described herself as ‘heavyset’. This is a girl who, while fairly short, cannot possibly weigh more than 50kg. She’s certainly not anywhere near fat, or even remotely unhealthy looking. Again, the beauty ideal here tends towards the very slim, and she obviously considers herself bigger than that. I would strongly question her use of ‘heavyset’ though. However, given that this issue didn’t arise in class, I didn’t feel right taxing her a mark for it. If I get a chance to talk to her about the exam though, I would really like to mention it to her quietly. Again, would you have done the same?
Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.