Monday Mount Up: “Fuck off” is still an F,but not a zero…

The head examiner of a British school-examination board, Peter Buckroyd, whose examinations are taken by 780,000 children, recently explained to teachers why a pupil who answered the question, “Describe the room you’re in,” with “Fuck off”—an actual case, apparently—should receive a grade of 7.5 percent rather than a grade of zero. Indeed, Buckroyd went so far as to say that “it would be wicked to give it zero because it does show some very basic skills we are looking for.” CJ

I am dying to know what people think about this.

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21 Comments

  1. Angel says:

    oiy* shakes head. Sign of the times my friend! 😦

  2. Victoria says:

    OMIGOD – oh, sorry, shouldn’t name a religious deity – not politically correct, can’t mix church and state, etc. yet I will get credit if I write an expletive on an exam. Angel – you are so right, it’s a sign of the times, a very very scary sign. I liken this to the NJ little league teams that were requested to not keep score (I am not kidding) so that the children on the “losing” team would not have their self-esteem affected by the loss. This is why I say – Where are we going and why am I in this basket!

  3. eh, sounds more like a 7.25% to me.

  4. Randy says:

    ” it does show some very basic skills we are looking for”

    Exactly what skill is that? Profanity? Stupidity? Lack of vocabulary?

    Somehow a zero seems to high of a score for this kind of test….

  5. steph says:

    It was a open question, which the candidate answered. So what if the candidate used profanity? So do some of the texts on the examination syllabus. What is important is he or she understood the question and was able to answer it with a correctly spelt simple sentence. If the question had been, “describe how you are feeling?” – “Fuck off!” would have been a very clever answer.

  6. Victoria says:

    Steph – Open question? Yes, but one that is also a direct question. Describe the room you are in. I have a very good friend in interior design and trust me – Fuck Off is not a design concept! If this student thinks Fuck Off is an appropriate answer (correct spelling be-damned) then it is proof positive that the average school system is failing miserably (not to mention the parents of this student). What happened to APPROPRIATE? Is it a thing of the past? A student being tested is expected to answer the questions correctly not based on their mood. Let’s hope this student NEVER assumes a position of authority on any level because should he/she respond to any question/situation based solely on his/her mood makes for a scary situation – ie: Medic, Surgeon, World Leader. Once again, what are we doing this basket!

  7. steph says:

    @ Victoria

    The candidate only received a F. Philip Larkin’s poem, “This Be the Verse” includes the word fuck and that is an approved GCSE text.

    “What happened to APPROPRIATE?”

    The question was, “describe the room you’re in?” – this is an appropriate answer:
    ******edit******Although the sentence provided meets the following itisn’t going to live here though

    In this one succinct complex sentence, I have demonstrated an understanding of punctuation and I’ve used a simile to describe the room, but I’ve also shown advanced comprehension and communication skills by using vulgar and offensive humour to communicate disdain for the questioner and the question. This answer probably meets the criteria for an A.

  8. Joel says:

    The kid still failed the exam with an absolutely pitiful mark, so what’s the fucking problem you wingnut morons?

    “Let’s hope this student NEVER assumes a position of authority on any level because should he/she respond to any question/situation based solely on his/her mood makes for a scary situation – ie: Medic, Surgeon, World Leader.”

    Given that they s/he scored 7.5 per cent, I don’t think you need worry about that. Perhaps you can over-react a bit more?

  9. Alfie says:

    This isn’t an issue of “wing nut morons” it’s a discussion on an example of a pathetic human being and an overly sensitive and misguided education system.
    This kid is/has wasted the time of his teachers and peers and his own time as well. The question was very simple and sought a very simple answer. One can tell oneself that the answer provided was a witty,cutting and intelligent retort but it’s unlikely to be the truth.The answer provided speaks to the nature of those students who have issues of some type. The student clearly either is an idiot who failed to learn or be taught, doesn’t care about the test/bored with the education process or most likely just an underclass piece of dung.
    Yes Joel the student is not likely to amount to much other than standing in the dole line,head off to the courts or stand in an alley waiting for someone to mug.

  10. Joel says:

    Okay in the effort of conciliation, and stepping back from my prior confrontational tone, I honestly don’t understand where you think the education system is being sensitive or misguided in this situation.

    I disagree completely that the response was witty or cutting or intelligent, though I can certainly see how a charitable interpretation might arrive at that conclusion. It’s not one I happen to share, but I find empathy to be such a wonderful thing. That being said, I have no sympathy for a student who scorns the opportunities s/he is given in such a way. But that notwithstanding, the teacher’s (difficult and under-appreciated) job is to afford to every student in their care the fullest opportunity to avail themselves of the curriculum, of their attention and of the facilities. Even to the unwilling. Anything less than that would surely be a dereliction of their duty.

    A teacher did their job, a student treated the effort with contempt and the teacher, rather than responding in kind, rose above it. Surely something Christ might do? So, I guess my problem is that I still don’t understand what you’re so upset about.

  11. Alfie says:

    Joel please excuse the manner in which I’m responding.

    Okay in the effort of conciliation, and stepping back from my prior confrontational tone, I honestly don’t understand where you think the education system is being sensitive or misguided in this situation.

    No worries. My opinion re sensitive and misguided is that at some point a zero is the grade. I am a pessimist all too often and therefore I fail to believe the 7.5% and the head examiners directive were purely based on academic concerns.
    Your next paragraph has my complete agreement .

    A teacher did their job, a student treated the effort with contempt and the teacher, rather than responding in kind, rose above it.

    Actually the teacher issued a zero and an administrator corrected or at least advised against that decision.

    So, I guess my problem is that I still don’t understand what you’re so upset about.

    I would say you DON’T have a problem.I wrote this post and provided the link to the full yet short article to see reactions not to dictate one.To that end the commenters thus far have given me something to think about and thinking is always a good thing.Thank you all.

  12. steph says:

    @ Alfie

    It’s your blog so you decide what’s appropriate here. The examining body decide what’s appropriate in a GCSE English exam. The point is the candidates answer wasn’t inappropriate; it just wasn’t good.

    “I fail to believe the 7.5% and the head examiners directive were purely based on academic concerns.”

    Well clearly they were, and in a system that awards rather than deducts points, it is unjustifiable for an examiner to willfully withhold a mark that meets the criteria because they found the answer offensive. Candidates are allowed to give offensive answers.
    The British education system is failing students but for all its many faults – and this isn’t one of them – it still beats the American one.
    Well for anyone that doesn’t know what GCSE is here. Suffice to say we won’t agree about the the full context of what is appropriate on an exam.I do believe the American Public Education System is in dire need of resuscitation.
    As far as the previous edit it was just to charged for my liking but I tried to be clear that what was gone meet the criteria for the remainder of your point.
    Some people may think I’m just a big polite marshmallow which on the net sometimes is anathema.Well, I’m not by any means but I do genuinely appreciate it when people take the time to leave a comment-so thanks.Also some of the comments in this thread have come from people that have likely taken the GCSE

  13. steph says:

    @ Alfie

    I understand why you edited the example and I don’t have a problem with that, my point is that just like you, the examining body has to decide what is acceptable. And the principle they have applied is fair.

  14. Victoria says:

    I admit that “appropriate” was probably the wrong word. I was trying to point out that when taking an exam, one is expected to correctly answer the questions. Fuck Off (offensive or not) is not the correct answer. No credit should be given. The student got the question wrong and giving him credit when he intentionally gave an incorrect answer is foolish at the very least as it sets a precedent. Awarding a student for giving an incorrect answer is not doing justice to the student, the teacher or the educational system. As to the American Education System: Given as MIT, an institute which regularly makes the top 10 best colleges/universities in the world (frequently only behind Harvard and Stanford – which along with other American universities comprise the top 5) and presently has over 75% of it’s student body from the American education system, I have to disagree that the American education system is failing it’s student body as aggreviously as it is believed. Yes, it needs work – but after all my years in education, I can assure you that if a student answered a question on our MCAS (a similar exam in Massachusetts) as did the student in the article, he/she would not receive any credit.

  15. steph says:

    @ Victoria

    I knew you were American the moment you said that the answer wasn’t correct because there is no correct answer to an open question. As I pointed out the answer is measured against a certain criteria and this answer demonstrated a sufficient degree of literacy and comprehension to earn an F, therefore it would have been fraudulent fro the examining body to give a lower grade than deserved. You might think the American method is better but that is the English system.

    I’m sorry but you can’t seriously contest the standard of American education is abysmal, according to a UN report the standard of compulsory education in America is worse than any Western European country. Also, I have a doctorate in jurisprudence from La Sapienza Universita, which is the most prestigious university in the Western world. I could walk on to the law faculty in most American universities, A doctorate from an American university is worthless in Europe. American universities are not – and never have been – highly regarded in the humanities and social sciences or law. American universities are only highly regarded in the sciences but a lot of the best students are poached from overseas. In Britain there is debate over universities going down the American route: commercialisation and dumbing down standards. All the ranking systems prove is commercial attractiveness – an American university is an easy route to emigrating to America. Do overseas students still out perform American students in American universities?

  16. Alfie says:

    Steph you’ve inspired a post hopefully it’ll survive in my head until Monday.
    Take care all

  17. loveroftruth says:

    Our education system stinks, but we’re still world leaders in countless ways.

    If the answer deserved points, then so be it. Give the kid his points, and then work on fixing the system. Any system that will award points for an answer like that needs improvement.

    There should be a rule against profanity in the classroom and a punishment for breaking it. I realize that respect and manners are increasingly out of fashion, but I still believe they are important.

  18. steph says:

    @ loveoftruth

    What empire has ever been built of a decent standard of universal education?

    The dumbing down of education is deliberate, an educated working class is a threat, the standard of education in America and Britain is rapidly deteriorating, and more students are attending university.

  19. steph says:

    @ Alfie

    Look forward to reading it, have a good weekend,

  20. Ecclesiastes says:

    I think you give the kid a dispassionate grade so he doesn’t get the reinforcement of reaction.

    If you’re not going to give him a dispassionate grade, if you must react, a zero is too easy. “Tough” would be appropriate. “Expand on this” is another.

    Either he should be ignored of challenged. A zero does neither.

  21. Free to think, free to believe... says:

    A marker will have a list of items that get points – we have, at long last, departed from getting up to 5% for name and exam no.

    If someone thinks that this answer shows something on the list then the marker should respond appropriately. An F is for Frelling {Farscape talk for …} So it could be argued that the grade given reflects the answer given.

    I sat the ‘O’ Level – ie the one before the GCSE and the major difference between then and now is that instead of giving grades out on performance compared to others – ie the top 10% of answers got top grade and so on – it is now based on marking schemes – ie if such skill is shown then such mark which turns into this grade… This move more than anything has stopped the tests from separating folk in a meaningful manner – if the tests are easier and thus it is also easier to display required stuff to get a good grade then the slight differences in marks are not used to differentiate between ever bigger hordes getting better grades.

    I’ll say this – How do we know the teacher did their work? I would say you could say ‘use of profanity shows no concept for any criteria given’ and that would solve all your problems over manners – what it doesn’t is answer the question of why has somebody given such an answer in an exam – could it be that the education system betrayed them?

    As in the old days – universities in the UK were recognized as having different levels of standards and some are still respected – as are some universities from the states (probably a stereotypical few that are well known … ) and now as we virtually feed ‘students’ into universities over here they are becoming less able to do what they used to. And standards are falling…

    Partly because the ‘A’ level also doesn’t now distinguish between performances as the GCSE doesn’t and so they find it harder to grade the level of offers for acceptance of students and that now bums on seats determines funding – so take even the dullest and just do the best with them and don’t forget to take the money because the department is struggling… of course this then makes it more dificult to maintain high standards throughout the institution…

    To make things even worse the government – about to fail the failing universities – is wondering ‘how’ to make it so that those ‘youngsters’ stay within academia as long as a first degree [not grade – just get them through one degree for fuck’s sake – and that’s seems to be a literal sense of the government’s position] then get a good grade so they can then be a ‘happy’ part of society and pay taxes – within this minefield of meanings there has not been an appreciation of academic rigour. And so the universities are responding in like manner to secure their funding.

    I hope this comment is neither too long or ruins your idea for a posting…

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