Asao Inoue: Arizona prof says current grading system ‘racist’, should focus less on quality – MEAWW


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Just a day after numerous canceled academics announced they were forming their own university, another professor has made headlines for his take on the grading system. Asao Inoue, a professor of rhetoric and composition at Arizona State University has called for the current system to be overhauled because it is "racist" and leads to "white language supremacy". He's also offered a rather unique solution - to focus on effort, rather than spelling, grammar, or quality.
Inoue is one of the many professors to land in trouble over debates around racism in higher education. In late October, Rutgers University professor Brittney Cooper went viral for calling White people "villains" in a discussion on Critical Race Theory (CRT). Weeks before that, composer Bright Sheng was forced to step down from his role at the University of Michigan for screening the 1965 classic 'Othello'. 
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The debates have not only become major political flashpoints but also led to an exposure of the wider issues in higher education, In July, Dr Cornel West resigned from Harvard University, calling out the "spiritual rot" of the institution, just one example of the many that have made the news this year. Now, it's ASU's turn in the spotlight, thanks to a virtual event Inoue hosted on November 5.

Who is Asao Inoue?
Currently, a professor at the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, Inoue is well-known for his works on race and racism. He obtained a B.A. and M.A. degree from Oregon State, before completing his Ph.D. from Washington State University. He has published numerous books and articles in the areas of social justice theory and racism. His 2015 book 'Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing for a Socially Just Future' even won two awards.
Inoue also maintains a blog, where he frequently writes about similar topics, including assessments, and social justice in education.  Beyond that, little is known about Inoue. His social media profiles, including Instagram, appear to be dedicated to promoting his work, with a few shots of his personal life in-between. The ASU website notes he also maintains a teaching endowment at Oregon State, towards which he donates all royalties from his latest book 'Above the Well: An Antiracist Literacy Argument from a Boy of Color'.
Despite dealing with such a controversial topic, Inoue has rarely made the headlines, until now. His rather radical ideas first caught the eye of The College Fix, who reported on them after his presentation at an event held by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. That led to the discovery of his blogs and tweets on the topic.

'You punish students for not being like you'
The description for the November 5 event says "Inoue poses problems about dominant standards of the English language in schools and universities and the Habits of White Language (HOWL) that are paradoxically meaningful and harmful." Basically, he says the current grading system is unfair to non-native English speakers, a thought he has had in the past. In one of his blog posts, he tells teachers, "you grade your students on the English you learned and grew up with, the kind of English in your models and training... This means you punish students for not being like you or like your models."
In 2019, he spoke at a similar event hosted by Ball State University, which looked at how "English language practices in college classrooms contribute to white supremacy." In fact, he is credited with coining the phrase HOWL, used to describe the standard of English teachers expect in schools. "While HOWL in and of itself is not white language supremacy when used as a singular standard against all students, it becomes so," he said in his speech.
Inoue has also come up with a solution, saying the current grading system is "racist". Instead of grading students based on their grammar and quality of work, he wants to grade them on their "effort" to level the playing field. "Labor-based grading structurally changes everyone's relationship to dominant standards of English that come from elite, masculine, heteronormative, ableist, white racial groups of speakers," he said. 
The professor isn't the only one to offer a radical take on the system. In early November, a teacher at Alhambra High School in California dropped his point-based grading system, giving students multiple chances to redo their work, in a bid to offer minorities and those from poorer backgrounds a fairer chance. It's just part of a larger trend, as more and more educators realize the system is stacked against minorities, and attempt to make a change. 
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