I am sure if you for example were to offer me “extra credit” as a reward for doing some work for you, my response would be, “no thank you.  But I will take some ordinary credit.”

Maybe the reason why so many more people phone my lovely wife instead of myself is that I am capable of using words like that at a moment’s notice.  And nobody in these sensitive times wants to be rebuked like that– not even slightly.

But because there are now people who would like to denounce me as a Communist spy because I am denying that California contains millions of illegal aliens, I often feel that I need to explain my situation.  My situation is that I have been a professional writer – writing for money – over nearly 45 years.  And part of the reason why people pay me to write is that I guarantee I will do so only with precise language.  But anyone who says California has millions of illegal aliens is about as imprecise as you can get.  To be sure, to be illegal in any way you have to be convicted in a court of law, and until then you are legal until proven guilty.

So saying that there are millions of illegal aliens in California is about as wrong as saying I look half-dead early in the mornings.   In fact, there are only two choices for us human being s—we are either dead or not yet dead.  Being or looking half dead is not an option.  (My wife therefore is being more accurate when she says I look DEAD early in the mornings.)

So the way the words “extra credit” is being used in our schools is another exercise that has no basis in reality.  And yet this phrase is used on a regular basis.

The truth is the points that any student’s gains in extra credit are exactly the same points that are earned on a test, a quiz or on homework.  There is no extra place in any school documents for any so-called extra credit.  If grading is held on a bell curve, and if one student aces all his tests but declines all the extra credit, and if extra credit dominates the syllabus, it is possible that a student who does only extra credit and nothing else will be the one preferred for an available UCLA scholarship.

That is because extra credit points are just the same to the UCLA admission office as is that big final test that is so carefully proctored with all kinds of school anti-cheating security systems.

Largely students don’t do extra credit assignments because they mistakenly feel that extra credit points don’t count the same as test points.  But nothing could be further wrong.  Extra credit points count exactly the same as test points.  When the semester is over and all the points are counted up, the extra points are total mixed in with the test points and the students who get the biggest point pool get the highest grades.  Done.

That poses the question -- if extra points are same thing as any other points, why are they even called extra points.

It is largely because of teachers seeking professional satisfaction in their work.

Teacher understand that at best maybe only a third of the class will do the extra point work, and this third is always the thinking, most conscientious students .  To provoke satisfying submissions from these students, the extra credit work is limited to a couple of in some cases just one very interesting question.

The essay responses from these types of students can be very satisfying for a teacher to read and provide feedback to the writers.  That would be a much different story than if all the students – most of them being pretty unsatisfying writers – were to keep the teacher up all night grading their unhappy writing.

So for the teacher, there is at least some real relief in giving an extra an extra assignment that he knows two thirds will attempt to do.

Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.