Quite apart from the fact that improper manuscript form greatly complicates the already onerous task of handling, marking, and sorting several hundred papers, and recording grades for them every semester, there is also the fact that one of the most important things a student should take from his education is a sense that he must do things properly, according to whatever rules pertain to the situation at hand.

Tina Blue, English Professor, The University of Kansas

As I have just finished another round of grading papers, I have been thinking of a person I have never met, except through reading many of her articles and, once, through email. Tina Blue was a Senior Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Kansas for thirty-seven years. According to a KU page that I found, she retired in the summer of 2020. KU is the poorer for it, I’m quite sure.

Her article entitled “The Importance of Manuscript Form” inspired me when I was about five years into my IEW career. The beliefs expressed in the article were similar to my own, and I felt I had found a kindred spirit. I emailed her to ask permission to print and give her article to my writing families, and she graciously agreed. I have included it in my handbooks every year since, and it is required reading.

Ms. Blue received a 3.9 rating on “Rate My Professors.” That is because many of the 5.0 ratings were offset by students who gave her a 1. Here is a funny one from a student who gave her a 1.5:

Tina is very opinionated. She thinks what she thinks is the only right way. 

Ummmm, yes. 😉 Most successful teachers are pretty opinionated if they know that what they teach is going to help their students also be successful. One thing I teach my students is to do whatever the professor says, however the professor says. That’s a life skill. Doing it will help them be successful. Another thing I tell them is to NEVER tell a professor, “That’s not how Mrs. Kimbrell said to do it.” 🙂 Whatever the professor says is right, and unless it is illegal or immoral, be smart and do it. I also encourage them that they will learn something new about writing with every class they take. Every teacher has something worthwhile to share.

Here is the top review, with a 5.0 rating:

Tina Blue is the best English teacher I have ever had. She failed me on almost every paper I wrote, but she gives you the opportunity to rewrite every paper. This means if youre willing to put in the work you can get whatever grade you want. I ended up spending a lot of time in her office hours. As frustrated as I was, I leaned so much. 10/10

Just to entice you, here are a few of my favorite lines from “The Importance of Manuscript Form“:

Do you think I am too picky?  Probably a lot of my students think so.  But I don’t think so.

I blame wishy-washy English teachers for their willingness to accept any sort of blather in any sort of form, and give it an A or a B. But I don’t think it’s just in English classes that we have this problem.  I hear plenty of complaints from teachers in other subjects about students’ refusal (or inability) to follow the simplest standards of form and style.

The fact that so many college students don’t follow explicit instructions for preparing their formal academic assignments should be a matter of concern.  Either they are not educable, which of course I prefer not to believe, or they are so lazy, spoiled and self-centered that they don’t feel obliged to follow any rules.  That is also troubling, because a large part of functioning as an adult consists of doing what you are supposed to do, the way you are supposed to do it.

Just for the record, most of my students DO earn an A or a B! But it isn’t because I have low standards. I set the standards and they meet them, thanks in large part to their highly motivated Editors. When my students go to college, almost all of them end up at the top of their English classes, mainly because they not only know how to write, but also how to follow directions. For this they can thank Tina Blue, who fortified my resolve to not be a “wishy-washy English teacher.”

I encourage you to do your students and society at large a favor: Read the article. And if you enjoy it, there are plenty more here.

Thanks, Professor Blue, for refusing to follow the trend of lowering standards. People like you make this world a better place.

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