Rebecca Schuman will give A’s or A-minuses to 20 of her 33 college students. Her lowest grade, except for total screw-ups, is B+. Professors inflate grades to avoid whining — and bad course evaluations — from their students, she writes.
If I graded truly fairly—as in, a C means actual average work—the “customers” would do their level best to ruin my life. Granted, there exist professors whose will to power out-powers grade-gripers. There are stalwarts who remain impervious to students’ tenacious complaints, which can be so single-minded that one wonders what would happen if they had applied one-fifteenth of that focus to their coursework.
Increasingly, college faculty are adjuncts with zero job security, she writes. “Precarious faculty” are “rehired based almost solely on student evaluations—which, alas, are themselves often based on how “well” the student is doing in class.”
Adjuncts like me regularly admit to grade inflating, simply as a survival measure, but the consistency of nationwide trends means that even tenured and tenure-track faculty must be inflating grades, too. After all, a pissed-off student who goes all the way to the dean can impact their careers as well.
A return to a real grading system is impossible, Schuman writes. All those “parents of co-valedictorians” wouldn’t stand for it. On her Pan Kisses Kafka blog, she quotes some incredibly obnoxious advice on how to bully professors from Tim Ferris’ Four-Hour Work Week.
If I received anything less than an A on the first paper or non-multiple-choice in a given class, I would bring 2-3 hours of questions to the grader’s office hours and not leave until the other had answered them all or stopped out of exhaustion.
“The grader would think long and hard about ever giving me less than an A,” the bully brags.
No, I wont raise your grades
On the Chronicle of Higher Education, Stacey Patton asked college professors and TAs how they’d respond if a student who received a C grade on a paper asked for a higher grade because they “worked so hard on it.”
This appears to be a sore subject. Several offered to consider raising — or lowering — the grade on a second read. Others vented
“The grade you received is reflective of the fact that what I got was a mash-up of poorly constructed sentences and last minute fooleywang,” wrote Takiyah Nur Amin, associate professor of dance at University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Jennifer P. Simms, an adjunct visiting professor of sociology at University of Wisconsin at River Falls, advised the C student that “grades in college are based on performance, not effort.”
I know elementary school teachers, coaches, and your parents told you that all that matters is that you do your best. Unfortunately, they all lied to you. In the real world, of which my college classroom is a part, trying hard does not count for squat. Demonstrated mastery of the material, no matter how much or little effort it takes to achieve it, is what is important.
I know that it is unfair that some students spend no time at all on schoolwork and get A’s while others struggle and barely scrape C’s. I suggest you quickly cry a river, build a bridge and get over it. In the meantime, reflect on whether you want other students graded based on how hard they try. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather that papers for Surgery 101: How Not to Kill the People You Cut Open and for Architecture 101: How to Build Bridges That Do Not Collapse and Leave People Plummeting to Their Deaths were graded on students’ demonstration of correct understanding of the concepts, not how much effort they put into writing it.
Many of the commenters thought the academic snark was mean.