An Arizona State University Associate Dean wrote a 358-page book outlining the idea that grading students’ writing is a form of racism and white supremacy—an ideology that is gaining traction in colleges and universities across the country.

The title of the book is “Labor-Based Grading Contracts: Building Equity and Inclusion in the Compassionate Writing Classroom,” with professor Asao Inoue encouraging students to completely abandon grading for a “labor-based” grading system where students are not expected to make a certain grade so long as they demonstrate that they tried really hard.

The quality of a student’s writing would not help or hinder their course grade, according to the book.

“This book focuses on one kind of grading contract, one that calculates final course grades purely by the labor students complete, not by any judgments of the quality of their writing,” Inoue writes.

“While the qualities of student writing is still at the center of the classroom and feedback, it has no bearing on the course grade.”

The beginning of the book notes in plain language that “labor-based” grading is an outcropping of critical race theory—the idea that America itself is rooted in racism, including all the systems operating under the banner of modern American society.

Christopher Rufo tweeted at the beginning of this month that an Iowa state legislature introduced a bill that would ban critical race theory programs: “BREAKING: Iowa state legislature introduces a bill to ban critical race theory programs that traffic in racial stereotyping and collective guilt. The beauty of this legislation is that it would equally prohibit the old-style racism of the Klan and the new-style racism of CRT.”

The thesis of critical race theory is that the idea of ranking this is itself a form of racism, and because grading is a form of ranking, it is racist. Inoue chalked up the whole education system as a form of racism, since it is a system founded on the idea of ranking, in that there are students who receive better grades than others.

“Ranking is a part of a much longer racist, and White supremacist, tradition in Western intellectual history,” Inoue writes. “Ranking has been deeply embedded in racist thinking, discourses, and logics, mainly because it has been deployed as a way to justify a number of racist, empirical, and colonial projects over the last four hundred years.”

The cornerstone of the argument is that asking students to perform at a high quality by completing assignments is a form of racism.

“Grading literacy performances by a single standard for so-called quality is racist and promotes white language supremacy,” the author writes.

“Because all grading and assessment exist [sic] within systems that uphold singular, dominant standards that are racist, and White supremacist when used uniformly. This problem is present in any grading system that incorporates a standard, no matter who is judging, no matter the particulars of the standard.” 

According to the book, and a number of other colleges and universities around the country, grading in the traditional sense perpetuates “white language supremacy” in school. Whereas almost every U.S. school requires children to speak and write properly during English and literacy class, the author says that holding that standard is a form of racism.

“The traditional purposes and methods used for grading writing turn out to be de facto racist and White supremacist,” Inoue writes. “Grading by a standard, thus, is how White language supremacy is perpetuated in schools.”

“In our current society and educational systems, regardless of who you are, where you came from, or what your intentions or motives are as a teacher, if you use a single standard to grade students’ language performances, you are directly contributing to the racist status quo in schools and society,” Inoue concluded.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *