INFLATED GRADES

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A recent study listed twenty-some colleges where it is hardest for students to get As. I say “get” here, because in a huge number of colleges—and especially in high schools—there is often very little “earning” of those grades. The average grade at many institutions is no longer the gentlemanly “C”; it is a high “B”—not just a B, but a high B. (One is reminded of Garrison Keillor’s claim that Lake Wobegon parents do not produce merely “average” students.)

Why do we have this grade inflation?

I lay the blame largely at the feet of parents with an overly developed sense of their own importance and educators who are simply too cowardly to stand up to them. Such parents want to be able to brag that not only is their kid enrolled in AP classes, but the little darling is an A student in those classes. (Never mind that the parents themselves never measured up to the standards they demand of their children.) Of course, this trend means that educators, unable to stand up to assertive parents, offer an increasing number of “advanced” (?!) classes which then have to be watered down to accommodate students who cannot otherwise cope. God forbid that the student take a different class or that the pushy parents admit that they are biting off more than their kid can chew! Talk about the dumbing down of America . . .

Is it any wonder that college admissions people place little importance on an applicant’s grade point average? GPA is simply no longer a reliable indicator of a student’s potential for success.

Like parents who just sigh and give in to the whining pleas of their kids for the newest techie gizmo, educators usually just cave to parents who demand higher grades for their little darlings—because Johnnie or Susie “worked so hard on that project or that essay.” Never mind that the work itself did not measure up. Often enough, such parents try to put the same pressure on college instructors, and are only marginally less successful in undermining the system there. (Bequests to this or that college building project are powerful persuaders.) One wonders what will happen when that overly protected, overly indulged kid hits the real world of work.

Unfortunately, I do not have a solution to this problem, but I do deplore the lowering of standards and I, for one, am no longer at all impressed when someone brags to me that his or her child is “a straight A student.”

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