An Arizona State University Associate Dean penned a 358-page book detailing how grading student’s writing is a form of racism and white supremacy.
In a book titled “Labor-Based Grading Contracts: Building Equity and Inclusion in the Compassionate Writing Classroom,” professor Asao Inoue encourages teachers to ditch grading for a “labor-based” grading system wherein students earn grades based on their effort. The quality of a student’s writing would not help or hinder their course grade.
“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.”
Near the beginning of the document, the author admits that the theory of “labor-based” grading is rooted in critical race theory. Critical race theory is the idea that America is rooted in racism as are the systems of modern American society.
Critical race theory contributed to Inoue’s idea that ranking things is a system rooted in racism. Because grading is a form of ranking, grading must also be a racist idea. In his book, Inoue dubbed grading and the education system writ large “racist” for their connections to ranking.
“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 author claims that “education at all levels has been and still is a part of these racist projects” as well.
The crux of the author’s argument is that grading calls for student uniformity and high-quality completed assignments, both of which are allegedly racist ideas.
“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 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, grading allegedly perpetuates “white language supremacy” in schools. Nearly every U.S. school requires children to speak and write in proper English during English and literacy classes. According to the author, holding students to that standard is racist.
“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.”
Teachers who use regular grading systems and ask all of their students to use proper English in English class are also deemed racist to the author. The author does not dub them “bad people,” just people who directly contribute to society’s alleged “racist status quo.”
“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 writes.
The book also touches on the “white racial habitus” which are societal norms that the author considers implicit in white people. Speaking proper English is considered a “white racial habitus.” According to the book, all things that are derived from the “white racial habitus” are inherently “white supremacist.”
“All standards for good writing are deeply informed by a White racial habitus, which makes grading by such standards White supremacist,” Inoue writes.
The “white racial habitus” is also how teachers allegedly perpetuate “White language supremacy.” The author says that English is derived from white people, which means it’s inherently white and racist.
“Because we live in a White-dominant society, and our dominant Englishes have historical White racial roots in White racial formations in the US, coming from White Racial habitus,” the book reads.
At one point, Inoue goes as far as to call upholding grading systems a “slave-making mechanism.” “All the ways we judge language, even by well-intentioned teachers, are almost always racist and slave-making, almost always White supremacist,” Inoue said.
The author justifies this claim with the example that white students get ahead in English class because they allegedly have an “unearned privilege” of speaking proper English.
According to his blog, Inoue identifies as a Japanese man because his father is of Japanese descent, though he was born in Hawaii. His mother is white with links to Eastern Europe. He received both his bachelor’s and his master’s degrees from Oregon State University and his Ph.D. from Washington State University.
In an anecdote, Inoue claims that he lived in an “explicitly racist world” because he got a B in an English class while getting A’s in other, more advanced, classes. He claims that his racial composition attributed to his average grade in a high school English class.
“I lived in an explicitly racist world. The racism was very present to me,” Inoue wrote. “During my Freshman year of high school, I got an A in honors French and every other class I took, yet received a B (not a B+) in English, not honors English, regular English. How was this possible? What was I doing wrong? Apparently, nothing. It was me, my habitus. I knew this but didn’t want to admit, admit that my language and body were being judged together.”
The word “solution” is used just three times in the 358-paged book. The only solution appears to be getting rid of grading systems that judge students for their work and accepting the work of “raciolinguistically diverse students.”
In the book, Inoue specifically addresses that “labor-based grading” is how professors and teachers can enact their “social justice agenda” into the classroom.
Inoue directed The Daily Wire to his book for all questions and comments.