Re: grades

Tom Maddox (tmaddox@WELL.COM)
Sun, 1 Sep 1996 22:59:30 -0700

Jeffrey Galin wrote:

>The fact is Marcy, that we live in a highly competitive capitalistic
>society that is driven by an epistemology of ranking, of naming, of
>quantifying. To argue that grdes and evalution are incompatible and
>therefore mutually exculusive is to argue that teaching and learning in
>our current instututions are impossible. We all know this is not the
>case. We also know that much more effective teaching and learning could
>be going on. Within our society, there is next to no evaluation wihtout
>grading. Why pretend that the academic institution is so rarified that it
>can move above the epistemology within which it is grounded?

Just a point of fact: I agree that we live in such a society, but it is
not yet an utterly monolithic one. For instance, I am writing director at
an institution (Evergreen State College) that does not give grades but does
give narrative evaluations, and we've done quite well by any standards I
would care to invoke. Graduate schools like our portfolios, as do
professional schools, and, more to the point, we do some very interesting
writing teaching without grading *in a state college*.

So it can happen. Academic institutions don't have to mercilessly serve an
epistemology of ranking and quantifying. That they often do is a fact of
life, but a contingent, not a necessary one--like suburban sprawl or the
Marlboro Man.

I don't know whether institutions like Evergreen will ever be more than
anomalies among vast congeries of grading factories, but I know where I
want to work, and, more to the point, I know what I want to work *for*, and
that includes teaching and evaluating without grading.

Tom Maddox