In his book Spoilt rotten: the toxic cult of sentmentality (2011), Theodore Dalrymple writes: “a friend of mine who teaches history at Oxford is specifically enjoined by the guidelines provided for markers [of papers, exams] by the authorities not to mark students down for their poor grammar, spelling and composition. If he were to so mark them, as once he would have done, good degrees would be awarded far less often than they are awarded. But at least the self-esteem of the students is preserved” (p. 66).
I’d like to know how much truth there is in this observation. A friend of his? The guidelines? The authorities? Fewer good degrees if students’ language was corrected? From the University of Oxford? All this smacks of hearsay to me.
Or is it all true? Has any university teacher ever received such instructions from the university they work for in order to ensure higher pass rates? And do students need or even want to have their self-esteem preserved in this way? Unless I get to see the evidence, I find it all a bit hard to believe. And I’d also like to know if I’m the only one who is skeptical.