Isn't grading essays fun? Today I read one whose very first sentence was: Adolf Hitler was the greatest leader of the twentieth century.
What do you do when you get such essays? Do you chalk them up to personal opinion, or do you ever talk to the student? Would you report it to the administration?
To a certain extent, I try to keep personal opinion out of the equation when assessing writing. I grade the essay like any other essay, based on a rubric. Then, I might comment to him or her that the topic may be considered offensive to some people, or just ask where the idea came from. The student might just be trying to get a rise out of you.
I scored essays for a pilot writing program one summer, and one of the persuasive prompts had something to do with driver's licenses. (Driving age? Behind-the-wheel hours? I don't really remember the specifics.) One of the submissions was an angry rant stating that women shouldn't be given driver's licenses because "there's no road from the bedroom to the kitchen."
Thankfully, we didn't have any contact with the students whose writing was being scored as part of this writing program, so I didn't need to confront this kid. (I did, however, turn the paper over to our table leader, who quickly invalidated it!)
That's one I'll never forget.
Kids love to shock people--especially adults. As mentioned above, he certainly could make the case that Hitler was an effective leader. After all, he had the entire world dancing to his tune for a while. That doesn't mean he was a great man, though, so if the essay went on to extol Hitler's virtues I'd be compelled to make sure he proved his case effectively and thoroughly--which, I think, he could not.
In essays designed to shock or deliberately incite, I ignore the rhetoric, outrageousness, and emotionalism and go straight to the argument/analysis/evidence. If those elements are solid, I can live with the rest.
Some of this is just part of their maturing and testing process. After all, we hope to develop students who think for themselves and write what they think. If they agree with us, so much the better; if not, at least make them state their case effectively and accurately.
Absolutely agree with others in stating that your response is going to be entirely based on the particular student and their particular stance. To be completely objective, don't we want students to be arguing strange cases like this to learn how to support their points and look at issues from a different viewpoint? That is certainly one of my goals as a teacher... But at the same time, obviously I would be worried if I marked an essay like that!
Your response would probably be dictated by the rest of the paper. Although as heinous and evil as he was, we cannot really argue that he was a great military leader. Look at how he whipped his followers into a manic obedienceL
I think I would become worried if the student is able to write an exemplary essay extolling Hitler's virtues as a leader and then wants to USE the essay on his newly created website so he can recruit followers.
Otherwise, I think it would depend on what type of essay assignment it was (expository, persuasive, narrative, cause/effect, compare/contrast, etc). If he writes the essay according to the specs and completes the task effectively, and has not shown any other propensity toward extinguishing certain races or religions, then I might try and recall some past work and see if this student is in need of a better role model.
I've read more than a few essays from my college students that had CRAZY opinions in them, some that were offensive. I agree with #2's assertions, as well. However, this doesn't make these types of essays easy to read. I've had to grit my teeth through more than one of these types of essays.
I agree with #2. Hitler was a brilliant orator, a great leader, and a pretty good military strategist. However, he was also nuttier than Jim in Huckleberry Finn who listened to everything the hairball told him. :) Smile, and enjoy your weekend.
Depends on the slant that student took. If he's talking about leadership in terms of creating followers, there is probably a good case to be made for Hitler. If he's talking about leadership in terms of positive, progressive behavior...then maybe not so much. If you lump the countries' leaders during that time: Hitler, FDR, Stalin, Mussolini, Hirohito (sp?), Churchhill, I'd say a case could be made that all were good leaders. That doesn't mean that I think their ideas were right or that they made a positive influence on their followers or their countries, but they were certainly strong and passionate leaders.
In terms of the essay, see what the kid has to say before deciding. Some of my smartest students will make inane arguments just to see what I'll say, and if they are made in an articulate and persuasive manner, I'll congratulate them on an excellent effort. On the other hand, I'll have students write about more negative subjects in a positive light because they aren't strong enough in their own beliefs to know what they truly believe. In that case, it's probably worth a sit-down chat to see what's up.