Re: force

Jeffrey R Galin (galin+@PITT.EDU)
Tue, 20 Aug 1996 12:29:50 -0400

I guess I was responding more to the whole thread than just to
you. But I do think that students are conditioned to respond to grades
in certain ways and come to expect grades based on certain cues within
the class. Studens have no control over how institutions manage them
with grades. Ultimately, this is what we are talking about here. But
grades and evaluation need not mean the same things. If grades are
necessary but not sufficient for learning, then why not create opportunities
for all students to make good grades while maximizing their response to
helpful evaluations?
BTW, I'd be willing to bet that some of the best doctors never
reach medical school because of the competitive nature of the field.

\ Jeffrey R. Galin
_/ Department of English
o// University of Pittsburgh
/-/ Pittsburgh, PA 15260
/\/ (412) 624-6506 (W)
|/ (412) 521-1472 (H)
o |\
|< \ (print/digital publishing)
_____/_\__/ (subscribe to WebRights-L)
_/ \___________________________________________________ . . .

On Tue, 20 Aug 1996, Steve Finley wrote:

> Steve,
> 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
> institution."
> 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