SparkNotes Blog

Is It Fair for Computers to Grade Your Essays? Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace.

Let us put aside our books and dirty looks, dear Sparklers, for it is time to consider an important news item that also happens to be a metric crap-ton of nonsense:

Computer-graded essays.

That’s right:

Computers. Grading your essays.

Mechanized test scoring is old news for the fill-in-the-bubble-with-a-number-two-pencil crowd, where only a single answer (and plenty of gaming) is possible. But how’s about EdX, a bit of software calibrated to analyze written exam essays—essays with any number of gray areas and elements requiring reason, inference, and interpretation? Key in an essay and EdX will determine instantly how you did, regaling you on the spot with its clever digital musings. Bingo bango, everyone go on vacation: the future is here.

Skeptical about this? Worried that we might be advancing so far technically that we’re starting to fail ourselves on a practical level? Me neither! Keywords always tell the whole story, and instant and automated is always better than compassionate, careful, and personal. Oh, and it makes perfect sense to welcome machinery over the humanity border and invite a robot insurrection.

After all:

  • Robots love and care just as much as people do. Anyone who’s ever had a family knows that a computer could have done just as good a job.
  • Much like instant mac ‘n’ cheese, instant abs, and instant showers, instant IS so much better than regular! Thanks, instant!
  • Google Translate has really shown us the bright and shiny path into the future. It works SO WELL. The Word grammar function works SO WELL. The iPhone autocorrect, IT WORKS SO WELL. Computers have really proven themselves.
  • There’s just a hair-fine line between a robot agent of correction and a robot agent of instruction, so soon we’ll have robot teachers, too. And since robots deserve to learn if they deserve to teach, we’ll have robots teaching robots, which is the last horseman of the robot apocalypse. FINALLY!
  • You know who’s really kicking us very, very hard in the learning department? The Chinese. You know who’s probably actually behind EdX? Just saying.
  • Enough of this advancement crap. We’ve been working so hard to stop progress, and now, finally, we can. Just give the right answer, period—no more geniuses blowing the lid off a whole field of study, no more thought revolutions of any kind. Thank the baby J that someone is FINALLY putting a stop to thinking outside the box. Back in the box, everybody!

Welp, it looks like technology made us smarter and smarter until it made us dumber and dumber, and now we’re going to kill ourselves off with our own machines. You win, Mother Nature. You win.

How do you feel about computers grading your essays? NOT GREAT? We figured as much?