\ Jeffrey R. Galin
_/ Department of English
o// University of Pittsburgh
/-/ Pittsburgh, PA 15260
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|/ (412) 521-1472 (H)
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On Tue, 20 Aug 1996, Steve Finley wrote:
> 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