Princeton has decided to cap the number of A’s it gives, in the brave battle to stem the tide of grade inflation, yap yap yap.
As you might guess, the result is students turning against students and, thus, I imagine, less learning taking place. Go read about it if you care:
I have my doubts that grade inflation exists, A, and B, what if it did?*
What’s the deal with grades anyway?
What is our job as professors? To make sure, for some existential grade review board out there somewhere, that an A is really “worth” an A, whatever that means?
Or to teach the History of the English Language to all of the students in the class as well as we possibly can?
And, if (by some freakish chance) all of the students in the class do indeed learn the History of the English Language brilliantly in a given semester, are we then to give only 35% of them an A?
And yes, I know that the odds of all of them doing so brilliantly are not good.
On the other hand: to approach the class with the attitude that only 35% of them are going to do it brilliantly – to approach the class with the attitude that I will give 65% of them a B or lower, no matter what – seems to decide on failure beforehand.
My job is not to fail students: my job is, in fact, not to grade students. My job is to educate students.
*There was an essay by Alfie Kohn in the Chronicle of Higher Ed on November 8, 2002 on this subject – don’t know that it’s still accessible, but you can try:
Called “The Dangerous Myth of Grade Inflation.”