Get Better - Mates of State (mp3)
Rise - Eddie Vedder (mp3)
We had two students score perfect on the SAT. We had one student who left school a month before graduation to take a job in Silicon Valley. We had 23 National Merit Semifinalists -- over a fifth of our class and still a record for a single year -- and another dozen or so Commended Scholars.
This isn't bragging, because my class had plenty of flaws, particularly a load of hubris even larger than our brains, and the flaws didn't stop there. I'm the first to acknowledge that being of higher caliber academically didn't make us better or easier to manage or enjoy as students.
More often than not in the past 19 years, our school has struggled to tally more than 10 National Merit Semifinalists in a class, which is a great number in the South, but isn't all that impressive amongst high-priced independent schools nationwide. Since those two perfect SAT scores in 1990, the 19 years hence has produced maybe three, maybe four perfect SAT scores? Yet, I would bet a dollar to a dime that the GPA of a graduating class in the last five years is leap years ahead of the GPA of our class.
colleges across the nation. I rarely find myself nodding enthusiastically to anything Walter Williams writes, but his observations -- based on data, not mere conjecture -- on grade inflation leave me wondering if anyone cares. I mean, 91 percent of Harvard graduates leave "with honors." Shouldn't that bother, like, LOTS of people??
There's a reason people stopped giving a shit what Roger Ebert thought of a movie. That guy had his thumb up so often you woulda thought it got injured in a car accident or was a carpal tunnel reaction to sticking it up Siskel's butt too much. "At the Movies" suffered from the same kind of grade inflation. When movie critics start giving Two Thumbs Up!! to absolute shit, what's next? Well, then the guys had to start saying, "Two Thumbs WAY Up!" and "Two Thumbs Way WAY Up!"
If things were "right" with the world, shouldn't a 2.5 GPA student at Harvard be able to transfer to a less selective school and, putting forth the same effort and intensity, earn a much better GPA? As it stands, I have trouble believing an average Harvard student could drastically improve his or her grades by attending UT-Knoxville (yes, I'm besmirching UTK a little, but if that offends you, pretend I said "LSU").
Here's what's funny about the school where I work. If our teachers followed the rules they claim to follow, student GPAs would sink. They'd sink like the Titanic after it had cracked in half. According to our rule book, a paper is supposed to be reduced by a letter grade for every day it is late. If a paper is four days late, it would, in theory, automatically fail. Students can then re-write the paper and make up half the distance between the re-written grade and the late paper grade.
Here's the kicker. Guess what our teachers complain about? They complain that the students wait until the last minute to write papers. They complain that the students never turn shit in on time. I almost always ask them if they enforce the grade penalty on late assignments, and they either confess they don't, or they lay it at the feet of the administration, like they're just the foot soldiers of a dictatorship.
Teachers, you see, are world class hypocrites. They complain about lazy students, but they enable laziness. They complain about being micromanaged by their higher-ups but fail to take things into their own hands when the opportunities arise. They complain about inattentive and distracted students but are easily the most inattentive and distracted bunch of adults this side of a meeting of Cocaine Addicts Anonymous whenever you gather them together and ask them to pay attention to anything.
Grade inflation angers me not because grades are sacrosanct. They are mere symbols, but they are supposed to mean something: how deeply a student grasps the expected concepts and rigors of a particular class. Either teachers are a bunch of losers who expect far too little, or they're collectively being too kind to those in their care. I daresay most teachers hear about grade inflation, shrug their shoulders and wonder what the big deal is.
Let's either ditch the grades, reinvent another way of assessing our students, or get this shit in order before the entire academic bell curve nationwide is limited to the decimal places between 4.01 - 4.50.
I'd like to go back to the day when George W. Bush received "Gentleman's C's" rather than "Gentleman's A-minuses."
[NOTE: Speaking in broad generalizations requires that I acknowledge that, if you're a teacher reading this, I certainly wasn't talking about YOU. I meant those dorks and incompetent fools with whom you work.]
The Mates of State's latest album is The Re-Arranger and is sublime. "Rise" comes from the Into the Wild soundtrack. Both can be purchased on iTunes or Amazon.com.