The line between a rogue and a bastard can be razor-thin. In younger days, friends had schooled me on the finer points. No overt cruelty. No severe damage to the other person. A sense of humor in what you did and how you achieved it. And importantly – enjoying yourself. The preferred term for these activities was “tying a knot in the Devil’s tail.”
Sometimes this happened unintentionally.
One fall, I was teaching an introductory level anthropology course for nursing students. One of the assignments was a research paper. It was a large class, and after collecting papers, I had a good-sized box of documents to read through and grade. Well, after getting home, I had other work to do helping my wife with curtain rods. The box sat in the corner that entire weekend. When I started reading and grading, I saw that my two-year-old son, Nick, had started for me. He knew three letters and loved crayon drawings of horses. Erasing the crayon was impossible, so I just continued grading.
Next week I had forgotten about the crayon scrawlings and distributed the papers to the students. Victoria was the first to stand up and exclaim: ” Mr. Carreras, I have an F! and a drawing of a horse in red crayon.” so it went around the room.
Sensing an opportunity to have a bit of fun, I addressed the class. “Well, the class is large. I felt the need to enlist the aid of my two-year-old in grading your papers. Nick has soaked in anthropology through living with me for two entire years. He’s a consummate professional in all regards except age. You may not be aware, but the “baby system” of grading has been around for years and is well regarded in professional circles.” Silence. ” Of course, for those of you dissatisfied with your “baby grade” evaluation there is an alternate system available.” What’s that, Mr. Carreras?” Waiting for the moment just a bit…I replied, ” Well, there is the staircase method. I take your papers to the nearest stairwell and toss them down the stairs. The further down I go, the lower your grade is. Frankly, Nicky is a safer bet. He only knows three letters – A, B, and C, so you can’t fail.”
By now, the class was in on the joke and showing each other their Nicky grades. One lucky student had an A and three blue horses, which was a good thing because she needed the grade.
When final exam time rolled around, most of the papers had a note written at the top: Hi Nicky!!! Please give me a good grade.
My son will never make it in Academia. He’s much too lenient a grader, and his horses need improvement.