I would say no, for what I think are the kinds of reasons you cite over at the original post: there’s not much that I ever assigned that was about “personal” or “political” opinions, so when I “disagreed” with a paper, it wasn’t because of its politics but because the paper didn’t make a convincing argument.
I mean, I’m trying to think of something I’d “disagree” with that is subjective and not just based in appropriate use of sources. If someone wanted to write a paper stating that medieval misogyny was a *good* thing, for instance? Well, chances are good that it would just be a poor argument for any assignment I’d actually give–because the point of my assignments wasn’t ever to get opinions on such a topic–so the paper wouldn’t earn a good grade. Conversely, if someone wrote about how the conventions of medieval misogyny really benefited a specific woman we’d read about? You could totally make that argument. But there’s a huge difference between the two papers.
Similarly, if someone wrote a paper about how wonderful the crusades were and how Christians totally should go kick them Muslim asses? Well, I’d never write an assignment that asked for an answer like that, because again, the purpose of my assignments isn’t to get their opinions on such matters. But if someone wrote a paper arguing that Christians were totally justified in launching the Crusades according to their own understandings of just war etc.? Again, totally cool.
So my sense is that when students think that I’ve graded down because I don’t “agree” with them, what they’ve really done is produced something that doesn’t really address the assignment. I’m not interested in whether they agree or disagree with me–I’m interested in whether they understand the material and can use it to support an argument.
(I think this is especially the case in a pre-modern course because a lot of what students think I’m “disagreeing” with is probably importation of modern standards to judge the very distant past. I don’t care whether a student thinks the Crusades were good or bad, but I do care if a student judges the Crusades by whatever vague modern assumptions they hold about Christianity being a peaceful religion.)
(I didn’t post over there because I feel bad jumping in to a new blog to completely disagree, but I completely disagree! So I thought I’d just post here instead. :-D)
Honestly? Yeah, they probably are. It’s not that I’m deliberately trying to hold them to a higher standard, it’s that I’m more likely to notice an unsupported assumption or a specious line of reasoning if it happens to be an assumption or line of reasoning that I strongly disagree with. It’s human nature.
When we do the argumentation unit in freshman comp, I try to compensate for this by requiring them to write two essays arguing opposite sides of an issue, balanced so that their classmates and I won’t be able to tell which side they really favor. It’s not a perfect fix, but it was the best solution I could think of, and I think it’s a valuable intellectual exercise for other reasons. I don’t think this is really as much of an issue in my lit classes; as long as they’ve got the textual evidence to support their position, I’m willing to be convinced.
For instance, when I was a green teacher, I had a student who was a white supremacist. She liked to write essays on Holocaust denial, on why black people were “stupid,” etc. (Good times, by the way! Good pedagogical times!)
She also had a chip on her shoulder a mile wide, and was convinced that I was “discriminating” against her.
Anyway, I held her papers to a strict standard–which was the standard that I held all student papers. That was this: if you bite it off, you have to chew it. If you want to argue that the Holocaust didn’t happen–in a 300 word personal essay narrative, btw–then you better well prove every point you make. She quickly caught on and stopped writing these missives, because they failed.