Blogs > Liberty and Power > Blaming the Students

Jun 8, 2005 2:06 pm

Blaming the Students

A lament by Alicia C. Shepard for the Washington Post about whining students who complain about grades includes the following:

John Watson, who teaches journalism ethics and communications law at American, has noticed another phenomenon: Many students, he says, believe that simply working hard -- though not necessarily doing excellent work -- entitles them to an A."I can't tell you how many times I've heard a student dispute a grade, not on the basis of in-class performance," says Watson,"but on the basis of how hard they tried. I appreciate the effort, and it always produces positive results, but not always the exact results the student wants. We all have different levels of talent." I too have encountered students of this type, more times than I can count. I share Shepard's anger about the popular"labor theory of value" used to justify higher grades. Let's always remember, however, that the root of the problem lies elsewhere. The administrators have repeatedly proven to the main force behind grade inflation on campus. Their motivations are far more insidious than those of the students. The students just want good grades but the administrators want to dumb down standards as a means to increase their power and budgets, via a higher student body count.

The worst offenders are faculty members who, instead of fighting the good fight to uphold standards, shrug their shoulders and let the administrators get away with it.

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David Timothy Beito - 6/9/2005

I agree.....this is an important source of the proble. Unfortunately, the dumbing down of standards represnts a marriage of convenience between certain parents, students, and administrators. All of have slightly different reasons. As a result, there is no substantial constituency, expect perhaps non-parent taxpaeyers, who can be rallied to oppose grade inflation.

Interestingly, at the University of Alabama, the student newspaper, not the administration or Tuscalooa News, have been most willing to support efforts to publicize the problem of professors who hand out too many A's.

Shirley Knott - 6/9/2005

I am deeply perturbed at the focus of the ongoing controversy over grade inflation. To read articles such as this, one would suspect that grading only happens in universities, and that the problem springs up full-blown only in the context of university-level grading.
The roots of the problem lie in several generations of parents who rewarded effort not results. The roots were more than adequately fertilized by decades of elementary and middle/junior/high-school education which captulated to this outlook and correspondingly rewarded effort not results.
The problem is not new, the problem did not and does not begin at the university level, and it cannot be addressed, as opposed to whined about, by focusing on grade inflation in the universities.
For heaven's sake, the kids are showing they learned at least (and perhaps at most) one lesson in their preperatory education -- effort is what matters, not results.
Perhaps we should focus more on what we are teaching them, and how?
Shirley Knott

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