The Dangerous Myth Of Grade Inflation By Alfie Koh

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THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION November 8, 2002 -- vol. 49, no. 11, p. B7 The Dangerous Myth of Grade Inflation By Alfie Kohn Grade inflation got started ... in the late '60s and early '70s.... The grades that faculty members now give ... deserve to be a scandal. --Professor Harvey Mansfield, Harvard University, 2001 Grades A and B are sometimes given too readily -- Grade A for work of no very high merit, and Grade B for work not far above mediocrity. ... One of the chief obstacles to raising the standards of the degree is the readiness with which insincere students gain passable grades by sham work. --Report of the Committee on Raising the Standard, Harvard University, 1894 Complaints about grade inflation have been around for a very long time. Every so often a fresh flurry of publicity pushes the issue to the foreground again, the latest example being a series of articles in The Boston Globe last year that disclosed -- in a tone normally reserved for the discovery of entrenched corruption in state government -- that a lot of students at Harvard were receiving A's and being graduated with honors. The fact that people were offering the same complaints more than a century ago puts the latest bout of harrumphing in perspective, not unlike those quotations about the disgraceful values of the younger generation that turn out to be hundreds of years old. The long history of indignation also pretty well derails any attempts to place the blame for higher grades on a residue of bleeding-heart liberal professors hired in the '60s. (Unless, of course, there was a similar countercultural phenomenon in the 1860s.) Yet on campuses across America today, academe's usual requirements for supporting data and reasoned analysis have been suspended for some reason where this issue is concerned. It is largely accepted on faith that grade inflation -- an

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