Jun 28, 2005

One response to grade inflation [LINK]

From an article about Harvard University by Ross Douthat in The Atlantic. Douthat recounts the announcement professor Harvey Mansfield made recently regarding changes to his grading policy in his "History of Modern Political Philosophy" course:

As many of you know, I have often been, ah, outspoken concerning the upward creep of Harvard grades over the last few decades. Some say that this climb — in which were once Cs have become Bs, and those Bs are now fast becoming As — is a result of meritocracy, which has ensured that Harvard students are, ah, smarter than their forebears. This may be true, but I must tell you that I see little evidence of it.

Nevertheless, I have recently decided that hewing to the older standard is fruitless when no one else does, because all I success in doing is punishing students for taking classes with me. Therefore I have decided that this semester I will issue two grades to each of you. The first will be the grade that you actually deserve — a C for mediocre work, a B for good work, and an A for excellence. This one will be issued to you alone, for every paper and exam that you complete. The second grade, computed only at semester's end, will be your, ah, ironic grade — "ironic" in this case being a word used to mean lying — and it will be computed on a scale that takes as its mean the average Harvard grade, the B-plus. This higher grade will be sent to the registrar's office, and will appear on your transcript. It will be your public grade, you might say, and it will ensure, as I have said, that you will not be penalized for taking a class with me. And of course, only you will know whether you actually deserve it.

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