Harvey C. Mansfield, a longtime faculty member at Harvard, brought attention to the debate over grade inflation at universities of higher learning Dec. 4. In an interview with The Boston Globe, Mansfield expressed disbelief that the average class grade for students at Harvard was an A-minus.
He believes the university has become relaxed in its grading, and in doing so cheats exemplary students from the recognition they deserve. The problem, though, is not only isolated to Harvard — it has become a greater national issue, according to Mansfield.
While others agree with Mansfield that grade inflation is becoming a bigger problem, some, like Samuel Goldman, believe people are interpreting the problem incorrectly.
In an article for The American Conservative, Goldman said, “The students who earned the proverbial gentleman’s Cs are rarely found at Harvard or its peers. Dimwitted aristocrats are no longer admitted. And even the brighter scions of prominent families can’t take their future success for granted.”
The problem with grade inflation, according to Goldman, is not that it’s a poor indicator of a student’s subject mastery, but rather a poor indicator of a student’s performance in comparison to other students in the class.
His solution to the problem is remarkably similar to what Mansfield already does for his students, which is to give two separate grades, one of which shows the mastery of the class while the other shows students’ standing among their peers.
Others, like Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic, don’t believe grade inflation is a problem. Friedersdorf argues that students who get accepted to such prestigious schools as Harvard and other Ivy League schools fit the profile of overachieving students who dedicate the time and efforts to grades rather than learning.
Furthermore, he said that grading to show standing among peers isn’t necessary at an Ivy League school where admittance is usually enough to impress potential employers in the future.
Sam Clemence is an intern for Deseret News where he works with the opinion section staff and as a reporter for the enterprise team.
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