Ever since I came across the McSweeney’s piece “A Generic College Paper,” I have wondered whether showing it to students and talking about it would not help them.
It starts, like so many truly awful student papers, with “Since the beginning of time…”
Here’s an excerpt:
Utterly contrived topic sentence revealing pretty much every flaw of structured essay writing. Therefore, supporting sentence invoking source that exists only in the bibliographies of other cited material (pp. arbitrary to arbitrary + 5). Contemplative question? Definitive refutation paraphrased from a blog found at 2AM:
“Massive block text to lend legitimacy to this sorry endeavor.”
— Legitimate-sounding Anglo Saxon name (year between 1859 and 1967)Obviously, non-sequitur segue. Utter misinterpretation of the only other author researched for this paper. Blind search for evidence reflecting increasing desperation (authors 4, 5, and 6).
For those who care, a warning before clicking through: the text includes a mild expletive. But it is worth it not just for the laugh, but for the discussion we might be able to have about whether it could be not just entertaining, but pedagogically useful.
What do you think?