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A grade is the new C+ grade

A grade is the new C+ grade
May 29, 2012, 08:09:48 PM
Another symbolic battle was won in the permanent crusade against inequality. Yet, if image is to replace substance then no actual victory is possible.

In 1960, the average undergraduate grade awarded in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota was 2.27 on a four-point scale.  In other words, the average letter grade at the University of Minnesota in the early 1960s was about a C+, and that was consistent with average grades at other colleges and universities in that era.  In fact, that average grade of C+ (2.30-2.35 on a 4-point scale) had been pretty stable at America's colleges going all the way back to the 1920s (see chart above from GradeInflation.com, a website maintained by Stuart Rojstaczer, a retired Duke University professor who has tirelessly crusaded for several decades against "grade inflation" at U.S. universities).
 By 2006, the average GPA at public universities in the U.S. had risen to 3.01 and at private universities to 3.30.  That means that the average GPA at public universities in 2006 was equivalent to a letter grade of B, and at private universities a B+, and it's likely that grades and GPAs have continued to inflate over the last six years. 

 Grade inflation is back in the news, with a Twin Cities Star Tribune article today "At U, concern grows that 'A' stands for average."


Re: A grade is the new C+ grade
May 29, 2012, 08:31:43 PM
I've thought about this in the past year or two. Well, not this specifically, as I'd never heard it before. But it had occurred to me just how odd it was for a "C" to be considered "poor" in the collective consciousness. A "B" is considered average. And this is bizarre, because a "B" is between 80 and 89 on a scale from 0 to 100. In reality, anything from 40 to 60 should be the average. But even the word "average" itself doesn't mean what it should - if someone asks you how your meal was, what you thought of an album, etc., and you reply that it was average, or mediocre, this isn't taken to mean that it was "normal". It's taken to mean "it kind of fucking sucked, but I GUESS it wasn't completely horrible." And we all do this. Why?

Our culture has given us this idea that everyone can be outstanding if they try hard enough. Nobody is born excellent, we're told - and the only logical conclusion of believing this, when confronted by evidence of excellence in certain individuals and instances, is to believe that excellence must therefore be available to everyone. So, when you DO try, and end up with results that are "merely" above-average, even that sounds rather poor. When, in reality, "above average" is, at bare minimum, somewhat impressive. Anything that would actually represent mediocrity disappears or is misrepresented.

There are two areas in popular culture that display this phenomenon with high visibility; the first is a stand-by of comedic routines - namely, the phenomenon of giving all the players in a kids' sports game trophies for "participation". Everyone's a winner! The other is the very nature of academic exams, which are not even remotely designed to see how smart you are. They are designed to measure how much information you've retained. And this is due to the nature of education itself; if it was meant to improve intelligence, a truly average (overall) score in the 50's would be perfectly acceptable, because it would indicate you're not a moron. A score in the 70's would be impressive and put you ahead a grade or two. A score in the upper 90's would get you university grants. But everybody wants to be special, so we rig the system to make sure just about anyone can get those pretty 80's and 90's. And since the most you can get is 100, actual genius runs the risk of being lost in the mire. It's beyond perverse. In order to be representative of actual human potential, academia would have to allow for both failure AND excellence - as it is now, your only alternative to mediocrity is failure. What do you think that does to a child's mind, and moreover, to his soul? Curriculae should not be designed so that you are meant to get all the answers right. That is a good model for factory production; for the flowering of the human spirit, not so much.