Re: force

Steve Finley (Finley@TTDCE1.COED.TTU.EDU)
Tue, 20 Aug 1996 10:48:46 +0000

>From Jeffrey Galin:

"Grades are institutional mechanisms for distinguishing among
students, primarily for institutional purposes. They also happen to
elicit Pavlovian responses from students and have real effects in the
real world. Make a few Ds in your major and see how easy it is to get
into Medical school.
Blunt or sharp, they are part of the social system of American
schooling. While there are many ways to get around giving grades in
specific classes, one gradeless class does not change the

I don't know why you're telling me this--I know they tend to elicit
certain responses (though calling them "Pavlovian" makes me think
that you think students have no control over these responses), that
they have real effects in the real world, and that a few Ds make med
school difficult. My contention is that institutions have to do
things on the basis of groups of people. That speed limits above 20
mph exist at all is evidence that a government has decided that, for
various reasons, it's better to have a speed limit of 55 or 70 or
whatever, even though you know a certain number of people will die at
that speed. Any individual case is a tragedy, but institutions have
to look at groups and trends and generalities.

The point is, it's true that an individual student might have reasons why
she made a few Ds and might make a terrific doctor if allowed to go to
med school, but as a group, people who make lots of Ds simply won't be
able to cut it in med school. Is that the fault of the institution (I can't
tell which side you're on here)? I mean, it seems like reasonable
policy to me. Next time I'm getting a heart bypass, I'd prefer
someone who's tended to do well in school, even if the measure of
"well" is that icky grading system. No, it doesn't mean she's a good
doctor just because she got A's in history and English, but making a
lot of Ds doesn't mean she's an intelligent, consciously rebellious,
wonderfully creative person, either.

It just seems to me that, over an entire academic career, good students--
and I mean creative, intelligent people--tend to make good grades, not
bad ones. The real flaw in the system is not that poor students are
weeded out, but that drudges can make good grades only by connecting
the dots or painting by the numbers.

Sorry. I get the feeling I'm lecturing the wrong person here. . .

s finley