[eDebate] Drop-Kick That Preppie Through The Goalpost of Life
Thu Aug 1 06:47:36 CDT 2002
Dear Mr. Elliott:
Your post below is a bit misdirected, I think. You've proved a big bucket of
stuff that I didn't challenge you to prove. I agree with almost of all of the
stuff you cite below, am friends with people who attend those institutions,
know the grading policies. Of course grade inflation is rampant -- but this
has been true for a long time, and the inflation is by no means the exclusive
province of the Ivies, or of Stanford. Indeed, I suspect that the core of the
problem may be grade inflation in high schools. It's just more fun for the
press to highlight those, because it stirs up nifty class antagonisms.
Here is the passage for which I again ask you to provide proof:
[So, here's the strategy--have mommy and daddy pay or an elite prep school.
Because they are paying 20,000+ per year, you get awesome grades and great
recommendations. Then you get into Harvard where the lowest grade you will make
is a B+ and you have a 90% chance of graduating with Honors. That gets you into
Yale or Stanford where grades really do not apply. Basically, your ticket to
the golden parachute was punched at age 13 when mommy and Daddy decided to send
you off to prep school.
The rich really do lead better lives. The fix really is in folks.]
I think the key claims here would be:
1) The large majority of elite prep school students get awesome grades and
2) This occurs because parents pay large amounts of money for tuition, not
because the grades and recs are earned.
3) The large majority of elite prep school students get into Harvard.
4) 90% of Harvard's graduating class gets into Yale or Stanford (you mean the
law schools, I think).
5) No one who is sent to an elite prep school will ever again want for power
or privilege (a fair interpretation of "golden parachute," I think).
6) The rich lead "better lives."
Let's throw in your implicit claim: Other secondary schools and colleges are
attended mostly by honest hard-working students, who have to EARN their grades
and privileges, because there is no grade inflation in those institutions.
Grade inflation exists only in the Ivies.
You got the cards? Go get them. I'm sure it won't take too much time.
As for the snotty ad hom you drop in at the bottom of your post, it too is
misdirected. I am not an "Ivy Leaguer" in any way, shape or form. Also, I am
not a preppie. For what it's worth, I'm seventh generation Southwestern white
trash. And I yield to no one in my contempt for unearned privilege.
I timed myself--this took all of ten minutes:
First to back up my assertion of Yale Laws rather lax grading policy--from the
Yale Law School Bulletin available at
http://www.law.yale.edu/outside/html/Bulletin/bul-grades.htm: which says :
Grades for all degree students are:
Credit: the course has been completed satisfactorily; no particular level of
performance is specified.
Honors: work done in the course is significantly superior to the average
level of performance in the School.
Pass: successful performance of the work in the course.
Low Pass: work done in the course is below the level of performance that on
the average is required for the award of a degree.
Failure: no credit is given for the course.
Requirement Completed (RC): indicates J.D. preparticipation in Moot Court or
There is no required or indicative "curve" for grades in Law School classes.
Individual class rank is not computed.
This backs up my assertiont hat once you are in you are in. As for rampant
grade inflation at Harvard and other Ivy League schools as well as schools
having to adjust curves up to compete in the job market--please see the
The Times Higher Education Supplement July 19, 2002
Copyright 2002 TSL Education Limited
The Times Higher Education Supplement
July 19, 2002
SECTION: No.1547; Pg.9
LENGTH: 471 words
HEADLINE: Grade Bandwagon Runs Wild
BYLINE: Jon Marcus, Boston
Top universities in the US have been caught up on the grade inflation
bandwagon, and they fear that they cannot get off.
After the disclosure that Harvard University had been awarding honours to more
than 90 per cent of its seniors, the Washington University School of Law
adjusted its grading scale.
Concerned that its graduates were at a disadvantage in a job market flooded
with honours students, the law school inflated the median grade from a B-minus
to a B-plus. "It's a way of dealing with the problem that doesn't really solve
anything," said Richard Kuhns, a member of the law school's faculty. "The
solution should not be to just jump on the bandwagon."
But the bandwagon has considerable momentum. Grade inflation in the US has been
documented by researchers -and disputed by university administrators -since the
Even after embarrassing revelations, including a report that showed the
proportion of top grades has quadrupled in the past three decades, little has
"It's hard to unilaterally disarm," said Valen Johnson, author of College
Grading: A National Crisis in Undergraduate Education, and professor of
statistics at Duke University, where he led an unsuccessful campaign to adjust
grades by accounting for variations in grading policies between professors and
But grade inflation cannot go on indefinitely. "The upper boundary of grade
inflation is constrained by not being able to rise above an A or a 100," says
the report on the problem, which was commissioned by the American Academy of
Arts and Sciences.
That is what happened at Harvard. In 1950, just over 15 per cent of students
got a B-plus or higher on a grading scale from A to F, with A being the
highest. That has increased to nearly 70 per cent. And since Harvard's system
guaranteed honours to any student who received at least a B average, a record
91 per cent of seniors last year graduated with honours.
Under the glare of publicity, the Harvard faculty agreed in May to award more
Bs to students and to raise the academic requirements for honours. These
changes represent an admission that grade inflation has run rampant.
Grade inflation "appears to have been especially noticeable" in Ivy League
universities, the AAAS report says. Fifty-one per cent of students at Yale are
awarded honours, 44 per cent at Princeton, 40 per cent at Dartmouth, and 42 per
cent at Brown.
Yale says it has no grade inflation, but has imposed a 30 per cent cap on the
number of graduating seniors who can receive honours.
"I don't think anything will happen until a bunch of universities get together
and decide a C is not a disreputable grade," said Robert McClory, a professor
at Northwestern University, where half of all grades are now As, up from 35 per
cent ten years ago.
Yawn! and this--for more support:
February 18, 2002
SECTION: COVER STORY; Number 3770; Pg. 72
LENGTH: 3719 words
BYLINE: By William C. Symonds in Boston, with Rich Miller in Washington
Larry Summers has an ambitious agenda to remake the nation's leading
university. Can he do it?
During Lawrence H. Summers' days in the nation's capitol, the former U.S.
Treasury Secretary earned a reputation as a prickly guy with an impolitic
streak. Summers eventually learned to be more diplomatic, but he seems to have
slipped back into his old habits since returning to Harvard University as its
president last year. Indeed, after just one semester on the job, Summers
already has managed to kick up more controversy than some of his predecessors
did during their entire time in office.
Right off, he rattled students and professors alike by lambasting a grading
system so generous that, last year, half the grades were A's, while 90% of the
seniors graduated with honors.
Yawn--Further support about my mere assertion that grade inflation impacts
University Wire February 14, 2002
Copyright 2002 Harvard Crimson via U-Wire
February 14, 2002
LENGTH: 820 words
HEADLINE: Harvard faculty tackles grade inflation
BYLINE: By Kate L. Rakoczy, Harvard Crimson
SOURCE: Harvard U.
DATELINE: Cambridge, Mass.
Harvard University is about to enter a new phase in its battle against grade
By Friday, all of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences' departments must report on
their grading practices to the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) -- the body
that advises the Faculty on most curricular matters.
The departments' reports will inform the EPC's discussion this spring of how to
best bring grades down from their lofty heights. By the end of the spring, the
committee hopes to present the faculty with concrete proposals. And as the
faculty begins this new investigation, professors widely agree that Harvard's
grades are inflated. But they hold varied opinions on why and to what degree
these high grades present a problem.
As data released by the faculty this fall shows, grades at Harvard are higher
than they have ever been. Over half of the grades distributed among
undergraduates last year were in the A-range, and during the last 16 years,
mean grade point averages have risen a full point.
But high grades do not automatically indicate inflated grades, many professors
"I am very committed to the view that there should and can be courses where
there are lots of assignments that are hard, students learn a lot and all get
A's," says Christine M. Korsgaard, Porter professor of philosophy and chair of
the philosophy department.
But instead, most professors define grade inflation as a lowering of
professors' standards in evaluating work.
Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis summarizes the phenomenon as "giving higher
grades for the same work for which in the past one would have given lower
Lewis says he believes that this is what has happened at Harvard -- a sentiment
shared by the roughly three dozen faculty and administrators interviewed for
The Crux of the Problem
Those faculty who do believe grade inflation is a pressing concern say inflated
grades lead to a compressed grading scale.
"We have lost some grades that I think students would see as meaningful grades,
like B-minus and C-plus," says Dean of Undergraduate Education Susan G.
Pedersen. "Having a whole pile of grades that mean the same thing and four
grades to do all the work -- that's our problem."
Such a compressed range of grades leads to two different problems in the eyes
First of all, some note the difficulties a compressed range of grades presents
for differentiating among students -- in their minds a critical responsibility
Former Dean of the Faculty Henry A. Rosovsky says discriminating among students
of different caliber is Harvard's "professional obligation."
He warns that the inability to distinguish among students could lead to a
return to a system in which personal connections are necessary for success --
harkening back to an earlier elite era of Harvard.
However, for those whose job it is to evaluate and differentiate among Harvard
College graduates -- recruiters and graduate school admissions officers --
grade inflation is virtually irrelevant.
Jean K. Webb, director of admissions for Yale Law School, notes that law
schools are provided with the last three years of grading data for many
colleges -- including Harvard -- which allows them to account for changes in a
particular school's grading trends.
And according to William Wright-Swadel, director of Harvard's Office of Career
Services, recruiters rarely even consider grade point average, as long as it
meets a minimum standard.
"There's no indication that grade inflation or stories about grade inflation
are affecting employer or graduate school perception of our students,"
But a second problem, most professors say, is the inability of these compressed
grades to provide accurate feedback to students on the quality of their work.
They fear students do not know when the work they submit is substandard -- and
have no incentive to submit top-notch work.
"[Professors] should not be afraid to give D's or C's," says Roderick
MacFarquhar, Williams professor of history and political science and chair of
the government department. "Some people here may be smart and just not working
up to their potential."
Nearly half of Harvard College students surveyed in a random telephone poll
conducted by The Crimson last weekend agreed with that sentiment -- saying they
did not believe the current grading system motivates them to do their best
Even though many professors say grade inflation poses a serious dilemma for
Harvard, some faculty question the very premise that grade inflation is a
"I worry about what my students learn, not the grades," says William M.
Gelbart, professor of molecular and cellular biology. "I don't think
[administrators] should lose a lot of sleep over this. There are a lot more
important things to worry about here like pedagogy and scholarship."
Hmm! This one is a little Conservative, but I think you get the point:
National Review September 5, 2001
Copyright 2001 National Review
September 5, 2001
SECTION: National Review Online; Stanley Kurtz
LENGTH: 652 words
HEADLINE: Grades & Race
BYLINE: By Stanley Kurtz; NRO Contributing Editor
Last year (last school year, that is), Harvard University's distinguished
political theorist Harvey Mansfield attracted national attention to his
long-running battle against grade inflation by deciding to hand his students
two grades - an official but inflated grade and a true grade. That
double-grading system not only kept Mansfield's students from being
disadvantaged in a grade-inflated world, it also shamed the nation's elite
universities, by forcing attention onto the reality of lowered standards. What
got Mansfield into trouble, however, was his claim that affirmative action had
played an important role in the rise of grade inflation. That claim is
difficult to substantiate, although in two pieces last school year, "Crimson
Truths" and "PC Hits Anchorage," I presented evidence supporting the link
between affirmative action and grade inflation. Now it looks as though,
disguised as an argument against the alleged race-bias of standardized
admissions tests for law schools, some significant empirical evidence on the
link between affirmative action and grade inflation may have surfaced. A study
released last week by "Testing for the Public," a group critical of
standardized tests, found that white students scored higher than their minority
counterparts on the Law School Admissions test, even when those students
attended the same colleges and had the same grade-point averages and majors.
According to Testing for the Public, that proves that the LSAT test is racially
biased. The Chronicle of Higher Education quotes William C. Kidder, a spokesman
for the group, slamming the LSAT for its role in forcing down minority
enrollments in law schools. Said Kidder, "I believe the LSAT is the single
largest contributor to resegregation in law schools, especially those that can
no longer practice affirmative action."
But wouldn't a reluctance on the part of professors to give honest grades to
students admitted through affirmative action make perfect sense of the results
of this study? The study looked at applicants to California's Boalt Hall Law
School from 15 of the top undergraduate colleges and universities in the
country, including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. It is at just such schools
where affirmative action is practiced most assiduously, and where minority
students are most likely to be admitted without adequate preparation - and with
vastly lower SAT scores. If professors at these elite colleges hand these
students the same gentleman's B's and B pluses and A minuses they give everyone
else, it stands to reason that students with the same grades from the same
majors will nonetheless test out differently when taking the LSAT's.
Yet Testing for the Public has concluded from its study that "the continued
emphasis on the LSAT acts as an artificial barrier for students of color
aspiring to enter the legal profession." It might better be said that, in
attempting to lower or eliminate standards, organizations like Testing for the
Public have erected their own artificial barrier to minority success -
authentic success based on honest achievement, that is.
The attack on the LSAT's is an obvious follow-up to last year's attack on the
SAT's by University of California President Richard Atkinson. And it has
exactly the same source, as indicated by the fact that the study in question
focuses on the University of California's law school. The elimination of
affirmative action by California's voters has now prompted an across-the-board
attack on standardized tests at all levels - exactly the wrong way to go about
raising the presence and performance of minority students in higher education.
But at least Testing for the Public has provided us with some useful evidence.
Either the LSAT test is racially biased, or we now have important empirical
proof of a link between affirmative action and grade inflation at our nations
most prestigious universities.
LOAD-DATE: September 6, 2001
Needless to say, I can back up my "mere assertions" in less than a few minutes.
Too bad you can't. Perhaps you should do a little research yourself. Do your
homework--or is that a requirement for the IVy leagers?
Still kicking Preppies.
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