Re: grades

Bob King (kingbx@HAMLET.UNCG.EDU)
Mon, 26 Aug 1996 12:50:07 -0400

On Mon, 26 Aug 1996, Kathleen Yancey wrote:

> There are lots of troubling issues here, to be sure, but one I'd like
> to stress is that if/when we take grades away, we need to see if we are
> eliminating standardized tests (eg, SAT, GRE)as well.

I'm for maximum "troubling" and you've raised an interesting bit of
trouble. The same question you raise relating to women and grading might
also be raised for cultural minority groups -- these groups, along with
women, may in fact benefit from grading, because it does provide something
of an objective court of appeal. In a somewhat related way, I can
remember having a typing teacher in h.s. who would have loved to flunk me,
but I met the stated standards for speed and accuracy to qualify for an
"a," and -- for that reason only -- she *had* to give me that grade.

Here's a further "troubling." The only reason SAT's and GRE's make any
sense is as certifying students for performing academic work (and I mean
"work" as in labor). In other words colleges are, much more than is
ordinarily recognized, vocational institutions.

If we wanted to make grades 9-12 have a theme of "career" -- we could be
teaching students to write and all sorts of other things while they would
also be looking, for "real," at options for meaningful work. Field trips,
service learning, etc. could easily add real spice -- a little loop here
back to the previous discussion of "real" writing assignments.

Rather than getting rid of the SAT, maybe there would be -- at the end of
grades 9-12 -- several sorts of proficiency exams that would then certify
students to enter different sorts of semi-professional schools, one of
which would be semi-academic professional school, now known as "college."

Like I said, this is going for maximum troubling, but maybe profiency
exams do make sense, and maybe grading does make sense, when a person is
doing some "for real" preparation for labor. I take comfort in knowing
that my physician or electrician has had to demonstrate her or his ability
in advance of plying their trades. What makes little sense is imagining
that the only proficiency worth preparing or testing for is academic
proficiency, and silly for a society to dump so much of it's resources
into creating a single-modality institution such as "college," rather than
creating institutes that are much more varied in nature and better able to
serve the individual needs of students.

I could easily see Habitat for Humanity as an institute that would be
capable of capturing the imagination and talents of many students for who
college is ho-hum or okay. We'd maybe be much better off as a society to
fund a few HFH institutes, even if this was at the expense of a few less
colleges, imo.

Bob King