Professor Les Perelman, who taught writing at MIT, recently was honored by the New South Wales Teachers Federation for his successful effort to stop the “robo-grading” of tests in Australia. He demonstrated how easy it was to deceive the machines grading thousands of tests in only seconds.

Perelman speaks here about the importance of public education, critical thinking, and the dangers posed by edubusiness to both of the former.

Perelman is notable as the inventor of the Babel Generator, in which he and his students showed that the “robo-graders” used by ETS and other manufacturers of standardized tests could be easily fooled by gibberish. These automated grading machines would give high scores to papers that were nonsense if the sentences were long enough and contained pretentious words.

If you open the Babel Generator, insert any three words and it will immediately produce an essay that can fool the robot grading machine and get a high score even though it is totally nonsensical.

I wrote about Perelman in SLAYING GOLIATH.