Re: grades

Kenneth Robert Wright (kright@OREGON.UOREGON.EDU)
Sat, 24 Aug 1996 16:25:47 -0700

On Fri, 23 Aug 1996, Eric Crump wrote:

> On Thu, 22 Aug 1996, Kenneth Robert Wright wrote:
> > academy or society to abandon grading. We should start at the
> > academy/societal end first.
> Ken,
> I agree that it's important to keep in mind the consequences of
> rabble-rousing. We *can* put students in very real binds that have very
> real consequences for *them* if we promote radical ideas that society in
> general won't accept.
> OK. but then we should proceed to rouse the rabble anyway. I mean, how do
> we ever effect change if we defer action to addressing this big,
> amorphous *society* that is somehow Out There and No Where at the same
> time. We forget that society R us, that our students are society.
> Changing it means changing us & changing them. The Rest of Society may
> come along slowly or quickly or not at all, but one thing's for sure, if
> we look without and not within and around, society's dominant threads of
> belief remain safe and secure.
> --Eric Crump

You're certainly correct in saying that we and our students are
part of society, and that deferring "action to addressing this big,
amorphous *society*" will have little if any effect. I also agree,
though I snipped that part, with your point that we should rabble-rouse
"after" informing the students of the consequences of thwarting society's
norms. However, I think the rabble we should first rouse are the college
and university bureaucrats (which "are" us too) by constantly making them
aware of the negative effects grading has on learning. I feel that way
because, as far as I can tell, the only people who want grading abolished
are a handful of teachers like you and me. Our students expect to be
graded, their parents expect to see grades, and grad schools, medical
schools, etc., use grades to determine who gets in and who doesn't get
in (another distasteful activity, I think). If we start with the
students, and I'm not saying we shouldn't have them question grading and
even rouse them to some extent, we work from a weak position against
university adminstrations and social norms. But if we can get the
adminstrations to question the value of grading, then we start from a
more powerful position, and one the opinions of which are considered more
valuable and valid. (The above is an ideal, for I would be the last
person to say a bureaucrat's opinion is more valuable than any of my
students' opinions.)

Kenneth R Wright