[heh heh I said "ass."]
All of that is well and good. The issue came after they turned in the first draft. After the first draft came the peer editing process. I have never been fond of peer editing; my oldest had to do a lot of this when he was in high school, but he was the one that everyone wanted to edit their papers. [Do you see a trend here?] He would mention it every now and then, but it was never an issue for him. However, what happened with my younger son is an excellent example of why peer editing should never be used. Not in school and, well, not anywhere.
So my son wrote his story and turned it in, then it was passed through the hands of several of his classmates for editing. It came back with tons of corrections. I mean the paper was all marked up. And this caused a problem.
See, my son was pretty sure he didn't have any errors, even though he hadn't given it to me to proof before he turned it in. His marked up paper filled him with doubt. It made him question what he knew.
He brought it home and gave it to me and told me, "I didn't think I had any mistakes but, now, I don't know." He asked me some specific questions about punctuation, because more than one person had made the same comma "correction." One person accused him of using too many "run on" and "long" sentences, because, the person said, sentences should be short. I agreed to look the story over for him so that he would know which "corrections" to respond to.
As it turned out, the number of corrections he needed to respond to was... zero. ZERO. Every correction made to his story was incorrect. I told him to ignore them all and turn the final draft in exactly as it had been. His grade was 50/50 turning in the paper as it had been before his peers got a hold of it. His teacher wrote "flawless" along with the grade.
There are a few things here that need to be pointed out:
1. My son knew what he was doing. He knew he knew what he was doing. But, still, when his paper came back from his peers, it filled him with doubt about what he knew he knew. That's not a good thing. If my son, who is very competent, doubted himself, how do you think other students who are not very competent responded?
2. In relation to point 1, this kind of "editing" can cause students to unlearn things that are correct. It can convince them that they were incorrect about things which were actually correct and cause them to change to some incorrect method, like putting all the commas after the conjunction in a sentence rather than before it (a very common "correction" on my son's story).
3. Every time a student makes an incorrect "correction" on someone else's paper, it reinforces that incorrect behavior. Each time that student moves the comma to the wrong place, it ingrains that process just a little deeper. Kind of like muscle memory. It's much more difficult to re-learn something like that once you've been doing it a lot rather than just learning it correctly the first time. Don't give students a chance to reinforce bad grammar/punctuation habits; they make enough of those on their own.
The whole peer editing process being used in schools is a bad joke, and teachers should quit telling it.
I want to point out that the critique partner process is the same thing as peer editing. Almost always, the assertion, "I have great critique partners," means, "My peer editors add mistakes to my manuscript!" What makes me say this? Well, the fact that so many indie authors who use CPs to help them edit their books send their works out full of grammar and punctuation lice. Yeah, lice, because that's what it's like. One person's mistakes jumping over to some other person's manuscript because neither person is competent with grammar.
Sorry, it's just the truth.
More heads do NOT result in a better product. They result in a gradual degradation of your first product as you incorporate everyone else's mistakes into your manuscript. Basically, a grammar lice outbreak.
Look. I get it. Editing is tough. Good editing is even more tough, and it's difficult to find at a reasonable price. Beyond that, most of the editors out there aren't any better than having a CP. Too many of them are "editing" because they read a lot. Seriously. I have seen so many people (book bloggers, especially) who, because they find "mistakes" in the indie books they are reading, think that makes them qualified to be an editor. It does not.
So what do you do, then?
There's not really a good answer to that other than to find ONE person who is better at copy-editing than you and trust that one person with your manuscript. At least, that way, you only have the potential for one person's errors in your final product. Or, maybe, you'll find someone really good, and it will end up "flawless" like my son's short story. (If you want, I'll ask him if he's taking anyone, right now.)
Actually, ideally, you would set to work learning grammar and punctuation yourself and develop your own style with it that fits your writing. That's what's most important, especially if you're an indie author. Even if not all of the grammar and punctuation isn't technically correct, if the style fits you're writing, it doesn't matter.
can you imagine what it would be like if e e cummings had followed the rules?
his style was what defined him
however, i'm sure he knew the rules even though he didn't follow them
why do i know that?
because he broke the rule consistently in the same way
All of that to say:
Stop submitting your work to your "peers." By the definition of peers, these are people who are no more qualified than you to do the job that you are asking of them. Learn the rules for yourself, then you can know how and when to break them.