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Refuge for the rational.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


I recently had an ethical dilemma. I’m in a senior-level primatology class where we compare nonhuman primate behaviour with human behaviour and try to account for the similarities and differences using evolutionary assumptions. There are three group projects, the first of which I finished on Thursday.

But let’s go back to Monday. As I had discussed with my partner, we did the appropriate readings, took point-form notes and exchanged our notes and ideas for the direction of the paper by email. When I received her email, I panicked. It was a complete mess; not only was she completely illiterate, she didn’t understand any of the concepts.

Since the course required a pre-requisite, and since she had made it to her senior year by some miracle, I summoned the courage to give her the benefit of the doubt, assuming that, for her, point-form translated into something requiring far less effort. But I wasn’t taking too many chances. I immediately sat down and wrote four pages that would serve as the body of the essay.

At least, it was supposed to be the body of the essay. We decided on Tuesday that she would add ideas to my essay and that I would finish it off with a quick edit. I even had to lie and tell her that I used to edit for a living, just so the stupid idiot would let me have it last. I was supposed to receive the ‘final’ copy on Wednesday morning, but of course, it didn’t come until Wednesday night.

When I opened the file I almost started to cry. What greeted me was a fucking disaster. The email that accompanied the file contained the words “I’ve changed the format a bit, I think it flows better…”

Flows better. The only thing worse than a stupid person is one who thinks they’re smarter than you.

The idea behind a body of writing is that the paragraphs follow each other in a logical sequence. There must be something about the name Jenn that makes people in that unfortunate predicament rather dense. That could be the only reason she played fucking Jenga with my essay, and then decided to rape and delete entire sections, replacing them with sentences such as:

“The sexual selection hypothesis is proved in the primate record” Ok. First of all, the word is proven, and second, no it isn't.

She referred to all nonhuman primates as a single species. She used the term natural selection incorrectly. My favourite part of all though, was this little diddy:

“The concept of sexual intercourse no longer shares a causal relationship
with reproduction in the human database”

I stopped crying, briefly, to laugh. The concept of sex?!

So what could I do? I handed in a paper that I had written completely on my own. And as of yet, she has no idea. I have to work with her again, but at the same time, I have to be honest with her, and I’m paying for course credit and an A, not to worry about hurting someone’s self-esteem.

I am so angry that people like Jenn are allowed to advance as far as they do. Not out of some kind of elitism, but because it’s insulting to those of us with enough integrity to value our educational experience. If our standards have slipped this low, it’s not at all surprising that no one takes pride in being from my school. They shouldn’t.
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