Take No Prisoners

Nine Reasons why Bad Grades Don’t Mean Squat

(or “Why your Teachers/Professors are Full of Shit”)

I bet we’ve all heard this one:

Student: “Why did you give me a C?”

Teacher: “I didn’t give you a C, that’s the grade you earned.”

 

This argument is based on the idea that grading is objective. Supposedly, your grades reflect your performance and are not assigned arbitrarily by the grader. I call bullshit. Objective grading is a myth, a dangerous myth high school and college instructors have been hiding behind for years. Here are 9 reasons grading is subjective, if not entirely arbitrary.

1. Rubrics can’t create the objective from the subjective

Clearly, the grading of research papers, essays, presentations, etc. is predominantly subjective. We can’t even agree what makes for a good presentation, for instance. Some professors will require a slide show while others bemoan DBPPT (Death By PowerPoinT). That said, some idiots actually claim that subjective grading can be made objective through the use of rubrics. A rubric is a set of criteria and standards used to structure the grading process. If you’ve ever had a grade broken down into 20 points for content, 5 points for style, 5 points for bibliography, etc., that was a rubric.

I hate to rain on the educational parade here, but dividing one made up mark into 5 made up marks and adding them up does not make this process objective. How does the grader decide what gets a 4 and what gets a 5? Furthermore, the process of developing the rubric is completely subjective. Why does content get 10 points instead of 9 or 11? Why does bibliography get 5? Why doesn’t originality get points? Why don’t I get points for being poetic? I agree that rubrics help structure grading and might even facilitate discussion of the grades, but anybody who thinks that combining a bunch of subjective grades in a subjective way will magically create an objective grade is delusional.

2. Many test makers write bad “objective questions”

First, “objective” questions like true/false, fill ins, matching, and multiple choice are supposed to have one clear, correct answer because having a question with multiple answers undermines reliability and consistency in test scores. Any student assessment textbook will tell you that (see, for instance, Gronlund (2006) Assessment of Student Achievement , 8 ed. Allyn & Bacon.) That means, no “all of the above,” no “check all that apply,” no decoy answers that are sort of right, no questions worded in the negative and none of that “I and II, I and III or II and III” bullshit. If a scientist tries to measure something, like attitude toward online shopping, with confusing questions, the paper gets rejected, because it biases the results.

3. The test creation process is subjective

But suppose we have a well-trained educator who makes none of these textbook mistakes. Most test are still subjective because they are created through an entirely subjective, ad hoc process. Why 30 questions instead of 29 or 31? Why 50 minutes? Why these thirty questions? Why not different ones? What makes you think this test is better than another? What is the measure of quality for the test? The truth is, most people just make up their exams without anything beyond a superficial rationale, and sometimes not even that. They damn well don’t pretest them to make sure they’re valid (I’ll come back to validity below) and getting the TA to write it doesn’t count because the TA is not representative of the students.

4. Grading scams

Educators have many, many ways to deceive students. Here are two I’ve experienced first hand.

Professor K was quite the piece of work. He would intentionally give exams that no mortal could finish in the time allotted. After the evaluation, marks would be dismally low. Then he would graciously scale the marks so we didn’t all fail. Except he scaled everyone’s mark differently. I started out with a 72% and ended up with 78%. One of my friends went from 71% to 80%. Another guy started with 70% and was scaled to… 70%. How is that possible? He just made up the marks of course. Since everyone started at least 20% below what they deserved, whatever he made up felt like compassion. I call bullshit. It was a scam.

Scam number two is quite the classic. As I was in a business program, I had to take a lot of math-oriented classes. However, business math is pretty easy compared to stats or pure math, so if the instructors gave sensible exams, students would get very high marks. As this is considered unacceptable (what is wrong with these assholes anyway???) they took action. Action 1 was to write trick questions that test the students paranoia alertness rather than knowledge (ex: wording questions in the negative). Action 2 was to give a test so long no one can finish it. Action three was to take off 4 (FOUR!!) marks for every arithmetic error. Thus, marks reflected speed, paranoia and persnicketiness rather than, I don’t know, understanding of the material perhaps?

5. The bull (bell) curve

Some instructors mark on the bell curve, meaning that marks are statistically adjusted to fit a distribution called the normal curve. This does not objectify grades for two reasons. First, the process requires the instructor to provide a mean and standard deviation. If these are determined subjectively (and you can bet your ass that most instructors just make them up or used something prescribed by their department, which was just made up by someone else) then the whole thing is still subjective. More fundamentally, this whole process is based on a deep misunderstanding of statistics. Many measurements can be approximated by the normal distribution, not the other way around. A class’s marks are not an imperfect observation of what should be the normal distribution. The marks are what they are. The normal distribution might or might not approximate that. If it does not, mathematically transforming the grades to match it is meaningless.

6. Grading against a standard

The alternative to grading against the bell curve is grading against “the standard.” I bet you know where this is going. Since there is no objective standard (at least none I’m aware of), “the standard” is just a figment of the instructor’s imagination; thus, not objective.

7. Invalid measures (Lack of construct validity and reliability)

This brings me to my most technical criticism. Scientists have developed a whole body of knowledge surrounding the theory of measurement. Without getting too technical, grades are a kind of measure. They’re supposed to reflect student performance, which is unobservable, in the sense that you can’t just look at it, count it, weigh it, etc. For a measure to be considered acceptable by scientists (i.e., objective), it must satisfy a bunch of criteria, including construct validity, and reliability. The problem with student assessments is, the reliable ones aren’t valid and the valid ones aren’t reliable.

Update (2009-09-01): this research, conducted at the University of Texas, provides convincing evidence that grades are only weakly related to subsequent achievements.)

A reliable measurement is one that produces consistent results in different situations. Multiple choice tests are pretty reliable. It doesn’t matter who grades the test, you usually get the same grade. Essays and projects and presentations are not. If you give the same essay to different markers, you can get wildly different grades.

A measurement exhibits high construct validity when it measures what it’s supposed too. If you’re trying to measure a student’s ability to read Japanese, and you give the student a passage of simple Japanese and ask what it says, that has high construct validity. Presentations, exams, papers, etc. tend to have low validity because they measure too many different things. For instance, a multiple choice trigonometry exam measures not only understanding of trigonometry, but also test anxiety, stress, alertness, ability to guess, ability to use a calculator (or ability to do arithmetic), time management skills, etc. The situation is far worse when you try to measure something like understanding of investment strategies, or, dare I say it, critical thinking.

The bottom line is, a measure must be tested to confirm that it is valid and reliable. Without said test, we have to assume the measures are junk.

8. Too many levels

One of the reasons grades have no reliability is because there are too many levels. If an assignment is graded out of 100%, good luck finding two graders who’ll give it exactly the same mark. And if two graders don’t agree on the grades, the grades are bullshit. Some of these crack heads have even started tacking on decimals (67.24% and the like). If you replace those 100% with, say, three levels: fail, pass, and pass with distinction, you might get a reliability approaching .80 (that is, two graders will agree on 80% of evaluations). Eighty percent is considered the minimum acceptable “inter-rater reliability” in many social sciences.

9. Testing the wrong things

Now even if we could get past all of the above problems, grades are still bogus because most assignments and tests measure all the wrong things. Ever wonder why those brainiacs from college don’t turn out to be the happiest, richest, most successful and powerful people? Ever wonder why Einstein, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and so many more, never finished school, and it never stopped them? It’s because what matters in this world is not just reading comprehension but independent critical thinking; not IQ but emotional intelligence; not memorizing facts you could just look up on Wikipedia, but creativity.

What really matters is not the meticulousness to avoid mistakes, but the courage to try and the tenacity to keep trying, when lesser people would give up.

Grades don’t measure that.

on to part two –>

UPDATE: Why do so many people who read this assume it means I got bad grades? First, this is not about me, it’s about the education system. Second, you’re making a logical fallacy (Ad Hominem) in rejecting the argument based on its source rather than its validity. Third, if you must know, I graduated top of my class in high school and undergrad, had a 4.0 GPA in grad school, and have a PhD from a top-50 university. I’ve been the student and the instructor, and grades look like bullshit from both sides.

120 Comments

  • Chris Howell
    Posted July 25, 2007 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Hey Kavan!

    Great blog! I just found the link off your Facebook. Hope you’ll be blogging regularly because this one was certainly a refreshing read. Anyway, hope everything is going well. Take care man!

    Chris

  • eye-of-horus
    Posted July 26, 2007 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    There are ways to construct multiple choice items which correct for the biases you note.

    The U.S. system in which teaching and evaluation are the sole discretion of one person really harms students, especially those in the humanities and social sciences, where ideology is often more important than rationally applied skepticism. (And textbooks are a very American form of fraud upon which the academic feasts.)

    Creativity is a different matter altogether.

    eye-of-horus

  • Jo
    Posted July 27, 2007 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Hey. get a life. So it is all bullshit. We know this. Give them what they want and move on to something better.

    Most of life is bullshit. Give people who eat bullshit, bullshit. Why do you try to reform a bullshit eater?

    I have to challenge you, man, your own logic, man. So it is bullshit. So move on.

    You were taken by surprise. It happens. It will happen again. You are disappointed. Yeah. Join the club. Stop sweating the small stuff. Get what you want and find better company. You will be disappointed again. So what. Finish what you are doing, get what you want, and move on. The world is full of bad restaurants and bad bosses. Find the good stuff and stick to it. Kill the bad stuff by giving it the least attn you can get away with.

    Cheers
    Jo

    • brian
      Posted October 1, 2009 at 1:13 am | Permalink

      jo jo!!?? you make this world what it is my bro!! feels good to know you cant change anything dosent it? he brings out logic and you rain down lack of understanding. i would love to meet you jo jo. so i could help find ur way of making a better world? please oh please reply.

  • Posted July 29, 2007 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Great article ^_^. I had my fair share of BS moments throughout my education. I’m finding that the most effective learning for me is self-taught subjects. Anyone else?

  • Anon
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    I can’t believe I put so much time into studying to die by powerpoint and a falling dollar.

  • Windsortenor
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    The only possible subject that could have objective marking is early education arithmetic. 1 + 1 = 2. Correct. As soon as you put the English (or any other language)into the mix, it becomes subjective. This relies on the teacher/professor. They are human and have failings. Unless you can come up with a completely logical and fail safe way of marking, shut up about it. Get over it and move on with your life. As another commenter said, life is not always fair. You will have to deal with this for the rest of your life. Learn to deal with it now, or learn to deal with it later where it will mean a lot more to your life. Stop whining about something you are not going to change.

  • Mitch
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Wow, this is all spot on. I started noticing this in middle school when some of the least intelligent people I knew made straight A’s through memorization or just based on the fact that they had “good” teachers.

  • dorkusmalorkus
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Test are to measure how hard a student has worked at the class. I know there are teachers that are just plain bad, but as many people here have said thats just what you have to deal with sometimes.

    I for the most part can say, I have earned every grade I got. However the test was written, if I put a lot of effort into the class I get an A. If I put average effort or I slack some, I get a B.

    However the tests were written. Mostly your just learning what the teacher wants and giving it back to them.

  • Posted July 29, 2007 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    I’ve been waiting for someone to write about something like this. Thanks for proving that we’re being taught WRONG by our schooling system.

  • Alexis
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I once had an honest english teacher. He told us that when grading papers, he’d just close his eyes and picture the student whose paper it was in front of him. Then he’d grade it according to how wide the smile on his face was.

  • Woofster
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    After having helped grade 120+ papers with two other TAs and the course professor in a History of Criticism class, I can quite honestly say that after checking each other’s work, we always gave a grade within a + or – of accuracy and, well over 80% of the time, we always gave the exact same grade, C-, B+, A, F–+-, whatever.

    So your assertion fails by my subjective criteria. Of course, I lack the emotional intelligence of Einstein and Bill Gates who, by the way, would be the last people on the planet in history or present to tell you that those “brainiacs from college” are somehow failing themselves and society by pursuing higher education.

    In my subjective, completely arbitrary and totally bullshit experience, people who go through life looking for bullshit tend to find it. It’s relatively easy to root it out, point at it, say “I call bullshit!”, because, after all, life is full of bullshit. But life is rife with good shit too, much of it relatively day-to-day: Professors who are brilliant, tests that are good measurements of learned skill, graders who are pretty damned good at making assessments.

    Live with it pal. You got the grades you earned, but pardon me if you’re secretly a billionaire or picking up where Einstein left off. Instead of writing poorly reasoned blog posts, you should study.

    I’d give this a C-.

    • Angry Student
      Posted October 29, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      The only tests that are objective are sciences and mathematics.

      Short answer tests in English, Economics, and Government are all subjective.

      When I can spend 8 hours writing a program that calculates economic price elasticities and receive an 85, while another group spends 30 minutes preparing a stupid skit or poem, and gets a 95, I don’t call bullshit, I confirm bullshit.

  • Chris
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    DUDE, amen! Thank you!

  • Posted July 29, 2007 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Excellent, excellent post. I mean, school has its purposes (its a cash cow, it gives employers one more factor to use in screening employees, it teaches you addition), but in all seriousness, for education, you’re better off reading books and asking questions. Tests are just a tool for the system, not anything useful or meaningful.

    One Man. One Year. $100,000 online. No degree required.
    http://www.oneyeargoal.com

  • Todd
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Maybe everythings subjective if you’re in the liberal arts. In mathenatics, sciences, and engineering, either you got to the right answer (and can prove it) or you didn’t.

    I think his complaints more a reflection on the worth of the field which he’s entered and the nature of the people who inhabit it than anything else.

  • Jeremy
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Great article, but you are making a classic mistake here. I agree that Profs often engage in some of the stupid tricks you mention, but your argument about subjectivity is wrong.

    You are treating the subjective/objective dichotomy as a binary situation. You are sort of saying that “if exam fails test A, then it’s subjective” (and therefore a waste of time.)

    In reality the difference between subjective and objective is a parabolic curve, with the values laid out along it. True subjectivity and true objectivity are the two exponential end points of the curve and are by definition unreachable. All values of subjectivity are plotted along the curve with the majority of real-world values occupying the flatter middle section.

    So the answer is yes, some of the decisions the teacher makes contain elements of subjectivity, because pretty much everything does. This does not mean that the results should all be uniformly thrown out because that state of true objectivity you are hankering for is basically a myth.

    Bottom line, a Teacher can decide something in a manner not based 100% on objective facts, but also on subjective experience and it can still be “fair.” The fact that you can construct a logical philosophical argument that proves the existence of subjectivity in this decision does not necessarily invalidate it in any “real-world” sense.

  • Ed
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Somebody is just pissy because he didn’t work hard enough in school, and got bad grades because of it. Waaa.

  • Posted July 29, 2007 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Others have made the point better than I. Your article misses the point entirely.

    If you’re studying business math, and make a stupid arithmetic error, you deserve your four point loss. You try making a stupid mistake in a real business environment, you’ll end up losing more than “points.” You’ll lose your job. You weren’t given enough time? You try telling your boss that you need another day to finish the 3rd quarter profit reports, and see what he says. Welcome to life.

    I study English. What I study and have graded is, yes, subjective as hell. There is, however, a legit basis for grades. If I don’t fully back up my assertion, I lose points. If I drift off topic, I lose points. If I completely bugger up the spelling and grammar in an essay, I lose points.

    The system isn’t broken. You just don’t get it.

  • Educator
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    I don’t understand, I mean, I worked all my life to get a good education. I graduated high school, graduated college, became an educator myself.
    Everyone is given the chance to have a free education and many educators work extremely hard to make sure they are fair and consistant with grading, projects, and the overall educational experince.
    Just because you have some bad experiences in education isn’t fair to make the assumption that grades don’t mean anything.
    I believe in giving credit where credit is due, if you had some bad teachers, poor graders, or just non-caring educators, then they should be credited, but not all teachers, not the whole education system, and not even the grading practices.

  • drunk bastard
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Sounds like you got bad grades.

  • NYProf
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Objectivity in grading is impossible, given the workload and time constraints placed on professors. Consistent grading practices are impossible. Professors therefore need to exhibit strong “common sense” characteristics so they can make good snap judgments. These characteristics need to be evident in the interview process when hiring new professors.

  • Voice of Truth
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Sounds like someone got a bad grade and wrote this to make himself feel a little less worthless.

  • JRS
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    “What really matters is not the meticulousness to avoid mistakes, but the courage to try and the tenacity to keep trying, when lesser people would give up.”

    So when a NASA engineer isn’t meticulous enough and makes the mistake to convert from standard to metric and a mars rover crashes on landing, it’s okay! Just do better next time. The millions of dollars you just wasted doesn’t matter.

  • Marcus
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Sounds like a whiner who slacked off in class and didn’t earn a good grade and now wants to call the whole situation bullshit to take the sting out of the fact that he’s an underachiever. Calling bullshit on something but not providing a solution is just crybaby whining. If you’ve got it all figured out then provide us with a better way to measure achievement in a subject area. I’m all ears.

  • Adam
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Uh just so you know– Albert Einstein graduated from the Swiss Polytechnic Institute with degrees in physics and mathematics in 1900. He received a doctorate for his dissertation “on a new determination of molecular dimensions” in 1905. I would have to say that qualifies as “completing your education” to the farthest degree possible.

  • nate
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    “As I was in a business program, I had to take a lot of math-oriented classes.”

    Bull. Shit.

    You may have used a calculator a lot, and may have even whipped out some middle school algebra. Some programs even have ‘business calculus’, although most teachers hate it because the students are so dismally incompetent.

  • Lazlo Toth
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Speaking of objectivity, verifiable facts, and looking stuff up in Wikipedia…

    Einstein DID finish secondary school. After dropping out, he re-enrolled in Switzerland, graduated, and went on to the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich.

    That’s, uh, kind of important and kind of a huge thing to get wrong. It makes the whole post look a little bit closer to something that belongs on Snopes.

  • witebuddha
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Grades are terribly subjective. I got A’s all the time for 0 work and I also got B’s when I deserved an A.

    People do fine without college as long as they are smart enough to rub 2 sticks together.

    All college does is put your foot in the door.

    Do the world a favor and learn a trade.

  • Posted July 29, 2007 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    yeah all this is true, and anyone actually making tests and giving grades knows all of this as well. however, the culture at large DOES ascribe meaning to grades and as flawed as it may be, this blog post printed out wont help someone with a 1.7 GPA from getting into Harvard

  • happy
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    most of the school curriculum I’ve seen are heavily developed. And while a grading rubric for a class/unit/etc may not be perfect, it usually does the job of assessing what a student HAS EARNED in regards to the objectives. Let’s use this idea in regards to a simple pizza delivery man. You order a pizza and either it gets there or it doesn’t. No this is basically a pass fail scenario, but what if he gets lost and the pizza is cold. I suppose that your idea of cold is “subjective” so the pizza wasn’t REALLY cold, that is just your subjective opinion, be sure to give him a big tip! And don’t even think about asking for a discount on your cold pizza.

    So what am I saying? Most educators that I’ve met know a cold pizza from a warm pizza from a hot pizza from a burnt pizza, etc etc. Of course there are exceptions, where in life isn’t there?

    We tend to live in a lazy, ignorant, self serving era (at least from the coworkers I’ve had OUTSIDE of my teaching jobs), so it doesn’t surprise me that this blog exists. Everyone wants something for nothing and too many people have a poor work ethic, most have one that is self serving at best. Conclusion? Too many people are ignorant, lazy, self serving, and moreover, operate without thought.

  • Matt
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Here is another problem, a C was supposed to mean average meaning that about 75% should get this grade. This should be acceptable to anyone. But hiring managers figured they could get ‘above average’ and ‘exceptional’ so they began paying for it, but not paying anything for average. Seeing as colleges like donations, and it’s hard to get them is 80-90% of your students cannot find reasonable employment, they began producing more students on the upper end of the grade scale. It has resulted in a complete mess with employers now changing the meaning of entry level because they don’t want to take a chance on that 4.0 student because he may just be an idiot. And is that not-quite a 3.0 student really not that good, or just fed up with the BS and an academic under performer?

    Pure objective testing can be screwed up too. There are plenty of people who can run through the motions, but jobs are about problem solving and this is something education just plain has trouble with. It can be taught, but it usually gets left up to employers to do this.

  • Posted July 29, 2007 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    i meant “get into Harvard” obviously. And additionally, no, grades don’t purely measure effort as the beautifully crafted quote at the end attests, but people who are awarded with good grades often have strong efforts as well if necessary, so that is somewhat flawed too. Sorry bro.

  • Cory
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Take action. Become a teacher.

  • fingerling
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Certainly there are lazy teachers who don’t really care, and their grading schemes reflect that, favoritism, being out of touch with the real world, etc.

    When I was teaching (programming to high school students) I included plenty of annoying stuff, like in-code documentation, readability, and pre-written test cases as components that factored into my grading. Why? Because those are the things I found useful in writing good code, debugging production problems at 4 am, or doing maintenance. Did my students believe me? No. Did they call it BS? Not to my face, but I’m sure they did. Doesn’t make any difference: when they are in the real world putting food on the table, they will appreciate that aspect, anyway, of what I tried to teach them.

  • Jon
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Dude.

    Everything you said is true, but you are implying a premise that education was meant to be fair and an accurate measure of some objective reality. It’s a game, more or less. If you can’t beat it, that’s your problem. The sooner you realize that, the better.

  • Posted July 29, 2007 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I am a teacher, and I love my profession. With that being said, I agree with everything you said. I’m only three years out of college, so I’m much newer than many of my co-workers, who are content to work in the old system of grading with averages or just letter grades. It’s broken, that’s obvious, because grades are totally subjective, 100% all of the time, and anybody who tells you otherwise is blowing smoke up your… well, you get the idea.

    Standardized testing (No Child Left Behind or graduation requirement tests) is the same way. It doesn’t test students, it tests the bureaucracy that is the educational system. I could go very deep into the why’s of this, but I won’t here in your comments section, but it boils down to the fact that yes, we test the wrong things. We test reading comprehension when we basically teach kids to hate reading. We test math when we do nothing but teach kids shortcuts, not actual algorithmic understanding. Heck, we don’t even teach science and social studies most of the time (I’m talking about we as a profession, not me, I do everything I can to do what’s right).

    However, my school district does use letter grades on the report cards. I tell my kids that their grades reflect effort, and in that, it is subjective. Is it broken? Yeah, it is. Are there alternatives? Of course. Will they ever happen? Not likely. As with most of the government, the status quo is in place, so why change it, right? Hey, great post, it’s nice to see someone who understands what’s wrong with the system.

  • chlon
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    another thing: who did decide that half wrong was right ?

    if i have 51% right i pass, 49% i fail…
    (i know not everywhere but in 99%)

    the same thing for elections who decides what is majority

  • Posted July 29, 2007 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    This article is absolutely and completely dead-on. My favorite part is the bit about how Professor K gives a crazy test that nobody can finish in time… so he gets to make up any number of curve-scales. We’ve all had that one.

    It’s high time for a blog like “The War on Bullshit”

  • David
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Great post. I once talked to a math department head who told me once you get a PhD in the department, you’re effectively allowed to teach in whatever class you please, regardless of ACTUAL teaching qualifications. Thus there’s no actual teaching training and one to tell teachers things like bell curve grading and “compassionate” grading are complete BULLSHIT (or at least to tell you why they are not). Spot on.

  • Pithambaran
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Down here in India, one will go for teaching profession ONLY if he couldnt get into a decent engineering OR medical college. Thus almost all teachers (who inturn teach in these engineering and medical colleges) are actually those who scored real low in their academics.

    At the end of the day, this means that , the so called exams that determine a student’s intelligence is defined by the questions set by those who performed worse in these examinations!!

    In short , the whole educational system is fcuked up!

  • Brian J.
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    I’d have to admit that you’re kind of a joker. Honestly you know you didn’t/don’t put in enough work to be getting the kind of grades you want, so stop being a little whining ass and either man up and do what you’re told (i.e fall in line) or actually burn your own path through the forest of economic life.

    If you’re the independent type, which I can tell you are, you should flat drop out and pursue what you do, which is exactly what anyway?

    And yea a lot of college professors can’t pick up anything original or thoughtful, because they, like the kind of people and sentiments you are railing against, are just people that fall in line and do what they need to do, there are positives and negatives for both. They study and know their stuff, you probably don’t study enough. You (or your type) most likely won’t reach your potential, but if you did it’d be far and away better than what those other sorry shits could do. My suggestion is put your shoulder down and relentlessly pursue what you do, and quit your bitching.

  • OK
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Your arguments are too subjective…

    Very 1980’s…

    Nice try…

  • JD
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Your nine reasons are not reasonable.
    For argument’s sake, let’s pretend they are. What do you suggest as a non-bullshit way of assessment? Or does everyone get a gold star and a wave on through? You call this a war on bullshit. It is vaguely clear what you are fighting against, but what exactly are you arguing for?

  • Slam
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    You seem to have left out how personality affects grades, especially in subjective type classes like English. I schmoozed myself to an A in both of my English classes by sucking up. Sure, I did the assignments and my writing was decent, but by becoming friends with the instructor definately had a positive influence on my grades. Someone reading this might think this is bad; I call it a strategy for success. Afterall, isn’t that what we do in life to get ahead? Suck up to the boss, bring flowers to our wives, reward children with candy, give discounts to clients. I treated my instructor the same as I would treat a client and that insured I got certain advantages that the other students didn’t get. For example, the standard punishment for missing an assignment due date was a drop of one letter grade in that assignment. Get an A, and it’s already dropped to a B. I turned in one of my final papers 3 weeks late and still got an A!

  • T.Johnson
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I understand where the author is coming from. I was a student who was in the bottom 1/3 of my high school class and was rejected by most, if not all, decent colleges (deservedly so). I really didn’t care. I went out and started to work in the real world and saw what I was up against and who had given in and who had not. I decided to go to college to get out of the that existence and I (I was from a low to middle income family) went to the local public college, in the belief that this would help me on my way.
    I had my a$$ handed to me, all F’s – first semester. Wow, never experienced that before but I had never had never really tried, didn’t have to. I had to sit out a semester. I came back and kicked everyones a$$ in every course I took! All A’s. I proved to myself that I COULD DO IT! I took math, chem, bio, the liberal arts, etc. and I did very well in all but I found the prejudices in all the subjective courses I took.
    I decided to major in math and in the 500/600 level courses I did not do as well as I thought, since we were back to subjective courses. Some of the girls in my class were kicking my a$$. I decide to collaborate on some homework with these A+ students, they agreed. We turned in basically the same work, they got A’s, I got C’s, not on one but a couple of same papers. I confronted the dean of the department who also taught that course. I was told that since I was well known and respected on the campus (I taught and help other problem kids) that I was held to a higher standard than those girls (which was way sexist for me) and that he was grading my work more stringently due to my profile on campus. I said this was not fair but he said that is the way it was. The girls went on to some very large compaines (not to be named) when they graduated and I went out on my own to start my own business.
    I retired 12 years later, after building my own company and then selling it. Did any of this BS hurt me? At the time, yes – now NO! Some of this crap makes you stronger and if you are determined, it means little. I knew what really mattered is all that matters. Hard work, being honest and doing a good job and respecting those who respect you is what will get you far. My daughter is in a top 10 college now and she is facing some of the same crap. She did not come up from the bottom, as I did, but I have instilled into her some of the same moral beliefs. She finished her freshman year on the President’s list.
    Here is what I can tell any college person, if you feel and KNOW that what work you do is GOOD then defend it to the professor and see where that takes you. If you take it up the rear and roll over dead, then that is were you will be when you graduate, still taking it. Never give up and defend your work, if it is defendable and you are truly proud of your effort!
    BTW, writing was never one of my best asset but I hope I can get this message across the line.

  • Square Ninja
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations, you’ve discovered what anyone with a working cerebellum has known for quite some time. While you do point out some glaring flaws, the logic behind your argument could use some work. The idea of grading “measurements” being completely useless because they don’t conform to idea of what is perfectly subjective is bunk. Like you said, the teacher determines how the grading scale is used. Yeah, there really are some asshole professors out there. Conversely there are teachers out there that are as good as those asshole professors are bad. The very nature of grading a subjective work on some sort of scale is pretty ridiculous on paper, but that’s part of what the teacher is there for. The grading scale is only a tool. Ultimately what you’re arguing against is the way the professor uses the tool.

  • Galois
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    In my youth, scholastic subjectivity was evident.
    My personal solution was emphasis in mathematics.

  • Toni
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I understand that grading can be a very frustrating matter. I have encountered many grading situations that I believe should have been dealt with differently. However, I think it is rather difficult to equalize all aspects of grading. As a high school English teacher, I have encountered all types of students and I realize that each student handles assessment in different ways. That’s the key word “assessment”, not grading. There are educators out there who do not fully value the work their students accomplish, and professors have the luxury of keeping a very basic relationship between them and their students, which in turn makes it easier for them to issue grades in the manner they do. I believe it is necessary for the student to establish their own goals, particularly at the advanced level, and meet those goals by whatever means they chose. Also, please understand that much like the conflict of teaching students with a wide range of learning levels, teachers have to issue assessment in the same manner. Basically, I understand where you are coming from, and I appreciate your opinion since these thoughts are vital in improving the educational system. I simply ask that you as well, remember the issues at hand for educators in the assessment process, for every side has an associating opinion.

  • Matt
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Your list suggests that you entirely miss the point of education. That purpose is not the rote memorization of “objective” facts. The purpose of education is to learn to adapt to complex environments and to learn how to perform well within a set of changing conditions. The fact that professors and teachers are not objective is designed into the system so that you’ll have to learn how to deal with them—just like you’ll have to learn how to deal will bosses and other authorities in the future.

    Silly—I bet you were the kid who always complained that everything is “unfair.”

  • Bud McGinty
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Dude,

    You whine just like a D- student. Kinda makes me think you have a reason to…

  • Posted July 29, 2007 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    0. Please define objective and subjective. The point has previously been made that you see them as dichotomous, and not as perhaps 2 orthogonal poles.
    1. A rubric is a set of requirements. A student concerned about his/her grades should discuss what s/he can do to meet the requirements ahead of time. Showing up on the day of a presentation having, in the student’s mind, met his/her own criteria for a 4 or 5 and expecting it to be the prof’s 4 or 5 is naive. It demonstrates a lack of concern and preparation by the student.
    2. Content validity. See point 7.
    3. See point 0. Do not confuse “subjective” with “contains variance.” Second, if you wish to concern yourself with the number of questions or the amount of time alloted, you will soon ask the question, “Why Arial and not Courier New?” And although you say you return to validity, you return to it poorly (see point 7).
    4. Item analyses of multiple choice exams include functions that allow you to determine which items were answered correctly by only those that did well (e.g., discrimination functions). This is not subjective, it is based on the sample. If you wish, again, to blur subjective with sample and objective with population, feel free to do so. You will continue to think that you are correct. As for scam two, imagine you are attempting to assemble a bookshelf — you know what the tools are simply by their names. If you are of average intelligence (not above or below, mind you), you can complete the task with ease. Now imagine that the name of the tool means nothing, and you are forced to look up what a “screwdriver” is because the instructions require one. Will this building task not take longer? Recall being the first hinderance to expedient exam completion, let us move on to your ability to screw. Have you ever screwed before? If you have practice screwing, screwing is easy for you. Let’s imagine you’ve never screwed before — would your inability to properly screw (because you haven’t practiced/prepared) slow down your construction? Efficiency in test taking demonstrates familiarity, practice, and preparation. Arithmetic errors are like common household injuries: you have no practice with a screwdriver or you’re simply using it wrong.
    5. Means and standard deviations should be calculated by the sample (i.e., those that took *this* test under *these* conditions). However, exam scores should have a negative skew, and I tend to agree with you on this.
    6. Vacuuous — playing on the desire of your audience to want to agree with you. Shame on you.
    7. I shall go no further than: reliability is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for validity. To say “valid ones aren’t reliable” illustrates your lack of knowledge of basic logic.
    8. Artificially dichotomizing continuous data is dumb. However, intercoder reliability is not the be-all and end-all of bullshit grades. But I’m fascinated at the lack of coherence of your point, so I’ll move on.
    9. As for measuring the wrong things… you consider them wrong. But, child, as you will soon see, responsibilities are nothing more than doing “the wrong things” because they are asked of you. If you don’t do what’s asked of you, you are irresponsible, even if they are “the wrong things.”

  • docjoe999
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Some good comments. Obviously, by the name, I have endured 20 years of education often frustrated by an ineffecient grading system and lousy teachers. When it comes to math, science, and fact based English and History, grades work well, and they fairly reflected my knowledge on the subject matter.

    However, when you start talking about English and History essays or classes in communication or advertising, they are as subjective as all get out. I had one teacher who wrote on one of my English papers, “No one sentence paragraphs.” I then presented her with three of the most influential authors of the century and their one sentence paragraphs, and she said, “Well, you’re not them.” WTF?

    I used to think that griping about a multiple choice test was a waste of time, but even in medical school, I later learned that wasn’t the case. I knew of an instance where one student correctly challanged an ambiguous question on a test, and she was right, but the teacher corrected the question for her alone. His looking bad about writing a bad question was more important than correctly grading students. Again, WTF?

    Good looking women fliriting with male teachers for better grades has become so much the rule these days, I almost expect it. I have talked to too many women to believe otherwise.

    A college professor friend of my father came right out and admitted to him that the only way to get an A in his class was to have sex with him. He is tenured and cannot be fired. What are you going to do about it? I think tenured professors are a huge part of the problem. Why are they of all people immune to being fired? One cool professor, who was born in Spain and objective about being tenured, was so disgusted about this he told me that the only way he could be fired is if he raped the President’s wife in front of the Hallmark card catalog. It is ironic that tenured teachers themselves are above being graded for performance.

    If I had to give any advice though, it is that education in school for the most part is overrated. I have no idea why people think paying $200,000+ for an education is going to pay off. If you can get a decent return on that money, it would be a million in cash in 10 or 15 years. My favorite math teacher taught one course at our private college at 10X the rate per hour at a local CC. The class there was the exact same.

    I learned 95% of what I know medically doing hands on training in residency and not in medical school. I could care less where someone went to medical school, but their residency, that is another story.

    As far as business schools go, Warren Buffett and Jim Rogers, two of the world’s best investors, have said MBA schools are a waste of time. I have learned more about business running one myself and reading their books than in any business class.

    In short, getting good grades is a game. Find out which teachers give out As and which ones don’t. I used to get frustrated too that education wasn’t more objective, but you know what? Life isn’t either. Use the subjectivity of the educational system to your advantage. You already know now that educational objectivity in some subjects is an illusion.

  • iacobus
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    The test isn’t supposed to test if you know your subject but it is supposed to test all of those layers of information and data. I recently took and scored very highly on the American Chemical Society Organic Chemistry Exam, which is designed to be very challenging and is done under a time limit. It isn’t supposed to test only your knowledge of organic chemistry, like you assume a test or grade should, but rather, it is supposed to test how well you know your organic chemistry, how familiar you are with the subject (reaction times are shorter when the subject matter is more similar), how well you can work under a deadline, etc. Same thing with the MCAT. Medical schools are not interested only in how well you know your biology, physics, chemistry and how well you read and write, but they are also interested in how you handle stress, manage your time, and adapt to your environment. In a job, whether as a doctor or as a CEO, you are going to be working under adverse conditions, under high levels of stress and under serious time constraints. A test is designed to measure your ability to work under those conditions.

    More subjective items, like essays, are designed to measure other aspects of your job ability. Your grade on an essay reflects, fairly accurately as mentioned above, your ability to make a reasonable argument and communicate that argument in a standardized and understandable manner. Your command of the language, your grammar skills, your spelling, etc, all those subjective layers, do matter then if an essay is understood as a predictive measurement of your ability to communicate on the job.

    You are misunderstanding the purpose of tests and grades, they are not designed to show only your understanding of the subject, but also show your mastery and command of the subject under non-ideal conditions.

    Also, standards are not something pulled out of the air. For example, I mentioned I recently took the ACS exam in organic chemistry. This exam, like all of ACS’ exams, is normalized by giving the test to several thousand students and tabulating the scores. These scores inform the testing team of what the mean and standard deviation from that mean score is. From this information, the team can then assign “grades,” most commonly reported as percentiles, for those who take the test.

  • Posted July 29, 2007 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    I had one comp sci prof who was an absolute bastard. He once admitted, once I got to year 3, that with yr 1-2 students, he decided their marks on the first day, depending on how they behaved. He was an absolutely hated prick. And he failed me in one 3rd year course(even though my father was also a prof – no preferential treatment), despite my having a legit reason to have missed a couple of important classes.

    Anyway, what I learned is that your marks really don’t matter, as long as you didn’t fail everything. A bad mark in college doesn’t mean you can’t learn later in life. And not all employers care. A few prefer B-C students over A students because the former are easier to deal with.

  • Jalarmo
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a pretty American idea: “just because I cannot write a test does not mean I am stupid”

    The fact is that THE POINT OF A COURSE IS TO SHOW THAT YOU CAN LEARN AND REMEMBER ENOUGH ABOUT THE SUBJECT, THE INSTRUCTOR, AND THE INSTRUCTOR’S VIEW OF THE SUBJECT that you are able to answer questions by the instructor at the end of the course.

    If I explain something to you for 4 months, and then at the end of my explanation you cannot tell me what I think about that subject, YOU FAIL!

    Because after all, education is a way of measuring your intellect and teaching you to use it — not a way of informing you about the great depression or cellular mitosis. You will learn the actual facts you actually need when you actually get a job. In school, you are learning how to learn.

  • Dan
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I took a research methods course as a prereq for my psych major. In the course I learned all about reliability of measure and construct validity, yet the tests were anything but valid, reliable measures. The second test I took was nothing but trick questions and questions on worthless details, so I was forced to guess as well as deal with anxiety that occurs when a grade is being hinged on guesses. I received a high C. Well for the final, I was prepared. I had read and reread all material over and over. But again the questions were all bullshit and again I was forced to guess. I got three questions wrong and squeaked out an A in the class, yet never once had my knowledge objectively tested in a class that was focused on teaching us how to reliably measure.

  • brad
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    You think you get hired and fired purely objectively? So every job interview is Bullshit too? Welcome to judging quality.

    Any student who expects that the teacher is always right and knows/teaches everything they need hasn’t learn anything. For all the whinging in this post, there’s not one reason why the student shouldn’t cut past any bullshit and learn for themselves. And guess what – that’s the point.

  • George with Good Grades
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    What a whiny twat. Bad grades much?

  • Posted July 29, 2007 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    I am a teacher. I teach ART. A notoriously difficult subject to grade. While I agree with some of the points you are makeing please understand this about the teaching profession.
    1. State and federal legislation mandate that certain subjects are graded as well as mandate certain ways(test, essays etc) and specific information(how we choose Which of those 30 M.C. questions we give) that is used to “give” a grade.
    2. I have never met a teacher who thinks “standardized” tests are a good thing or that they even give an accurate picture of what grades a student deserve. Again mandated by the federal government.
    3. Teachers have created Rubrics out of necessesity. Parents want it concrete and in writing why their child received a certain grade. Sure they are subjective/objective blah,blah blah BUT when you go into the “real world” your boss is going to be “grading” you in the same manner.
    4. Grading scams do exist. Many teachers do “inflate” grades. Many teachers do give “trick” questions. But did you know that EVERY standardized test has “trick” questions? From the IOWA test taken by elementary kids to the ACT and the GRE! Even the written test you take to get your drivers license has “trick” questions. So again teachers are helping to prepare you for the “real” world.
    5. The bell curve is used to show where grades fall. I do not know of any teachers who adjust grades to make them fit a bell curve. If they are then the teacher has serious ethical issues!
    6. My state (Arkansas) has specific “Standards” that we must teach. Each lesson plan must specifically address and document these standards. We are required to test based on these standards. Students in Arkansas take a test at the end of each school year to see how they do on the specific standards compared to the rest of the state population. Some school have even started using these student taken tests to assess the quality of teacher. Monitary awards are given to those teachers whos students do well. The teacher of the students who do poorly risks loosing her job! If you are interested in seeing the Arkansas “Standards” by subject go here: http://arkansased.org/teachers/frameworks.html
    7. Again 95% of what teachers do is MANDATED by your local, state and federal government. We may not like all the “rules” but it is our job to follow them! I love teaching and if it means I have to deal with the bureaucracy made by a bunch of ties in their Ivory towers I will. If you don’t like the way things are done then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT OTHER THAN WINING! Research the educational platforms of politicians and work to elect somebody who will do something to make a change in the educational policy of this nation!

    I may be wrong but without those teachers who are full of shit I bet you wouldn’t have had a clue about how to formulate your post, collect your data and resources and hypothesize about why those teachers are so full of shit!

  • educator
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    “He is tenured and cannot be fired.”

    You get tenured for working hard for several years, proving your teaching ability, and contributing positively to your field of study. It’s not easy. Once you are tenured, you’re given job security and paid better (though of course most educators of all sorts are not exactly rolling in money).
    That does not mean you cannot be fired.
    Almost every college has evaluations at the end of each course and for students leaving the school. A good college/department will care about these responses. People go into education with a desire to learn themselves and to share their knowledge with their students.

    Rubrics, when used correctly, provide a great deal of standardization to a subjective subject (namely, grading essays). A good rubric won’t just say “organization, 10 possible points.” It will say, “does the thesis tell the reader what the essay is about? do the topic sentences lead into the content of the paragraph? do the ideas flow together naturally and clearly? is the essay readable and clear? etc.” Sure, it’s subjective; a teacher decides what’s important, what errors are bigger problems than others, where effort outweighs minor errors, and so forth. But that’s what teaching is all about: teaching what you think is important.
    In my classes, a B paper might conceivably have more mistakes than a C paper if the B paper strove to do something more sophisticated with sentence variety or diction.

    All of the unfair things in education are similar to the unfair things in the working world. A boss decides who gets promoted, who gets good assignments, who get a bonus, etc. You need to learn what your boss expects and how to deliver it, whether it’s objective or arbitrary. The world isn’t “fair,” but that realization and the ability to adapt and deal with it is a vital aspect of functioning in any discipline.

    Sorry you felt cheated in school; I think you missed the point.

  • Peter
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    You did a good job complaining! Congratulations.

    Except you didn’t give any ideas to improve the system, so really what was the point of complaining? Thats the way things are. Of course tests are subjective, we are human after all. Until you can get robots to both make, take, and grade the tests, good luck trying to get a completely objective test.

  • EconGuy
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Your 9 points are all interesting, and may even be valid. However, I think you are missing the point. If you’re a smart student, and your in a good school, you will choose your classes so that you will be evaluated by a decent professor whose opinion you respect. Yes, your grade may be a subjective opinion, but if others are scoring better than you they’re obviously impressing your professor in a way that you aren’t. Instead of ranting about how grades are bullshit, try to find out what you can do to improve. You may say that you don’t care what the Prof has to say because of these arguments. If that’s true, then why are you in his/her class? If you can’t find a professor worth learning from, switch majors, switch schools, or just get over yourself.

  • Karl
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Grades don’t necessarily mean anything, but that doesn’t mean that they are meaningless. It would be like saying that because there are many things that can and often do go wrong with our cars that it is impossible to drive anywhere. And that is ludicrous.

    I’ve worked as a tutor, and I have helped with classes, and when people do horrible in classes they always decide that grades are meaningless. That is, first they do horrible, then they decide that grades are meaningless. And the reason they do horrible is because they are lazy, and never do the work. And so I’m sorry, but the real bullshit here isn’t the grades but why people complain about them.

    If anything, it is too easy to get a good grade. I use to think that getting an ‘A’ in the class meant that I knew the material, but then when I tried to tutor it I realized that getting a good grade was vastly EASIER than learning the material. So acing the test doesn’t mean that you understand the material, but that doesn’t mean that you can understand the material without acing the test. That is what you seem to take it as meaning, and you are simply and bluntly mistaken – if you understand the material then you will annihilate the test.

    But lazy people would rather complain about how everything is subjective and vague. Because then they don’t have to accept that they are full of bullshit.

  • Posted July 29, 2007 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Now, take all of those ridiculous practices, and apply them to students ranging from 5 to 18 years old, and the insanity is multiplied by a factor of a thousand.

    You’ve summed up just one of the reasons I’m leaving the teaching profession.

    Good postage, I am now a regular.

  • Amelus
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    shut up, you monkey.

  • Sam
    Posted July 29, 2007 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Number 4 is invalid:

    I started out with a 72% and ended up with 78%. One of my friends went from 71% to 80%. Another guy started with 70% and was scaled to… 70%. How is that possible? He just made up the marks of course.

    Excellent logic. Not even considering options that don’t endorse your theory?

    From my high school PreCalc teacher, who was obviously well versed in math: you create a function, where the top grade in the class when multiplied by a coefficient and with a certain percentage of the grade tacked on creates less extreme differences in the class’ marks(It’s been a while, humor the lack of proof and such). Therefore, it doesn’t make as large a difference to average grades as it does to below average ones. In above average grades, it actually lowers the scores, but usually the professor will keep the higher grade.

    That is the point of a curve, douche bag.

    I hate people who play on others’ insecurities.

  • john
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    rtdetrhe7t6ketyjsyu test

  • aurajihad
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 2:46 am | Permalink

    yeah beb..ure rock

  • fvbgrsdnyrs
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 4:25 am | Permalink

    First off that comment by “Jo” at the top made no sense to me. I don’t understand what he was trying to say. Did he like/hate the article, is he angry at the comment before him?

    Second, great article. There were a lot of good valid points in it.

  • esmerelda05
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Suck it up. It won’t get any better when you’re working. Performance appraisals suck.

  • Posted July 30, 2007 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Seems to me your biggest issue is with the subjective vs. the objective. I happen to agree with you about how teachers and tests seem to lean towards the subjective thereby making them terrible gauges of anything whatsoever. I had a professor who used to write “WC” (i.e. Word Choice) above several of the words I used in my term papers. She said that she would “use a different word here.” What? Of course I could use a different word!!! The dictionary is full of different words… I chose this one because I liked it better than the other 100+ options… WORD CHOICE???
    Why don’t you just give me the words you like and I’ll make sure I use them :)
    http://www.theHAPPINESSblog.com

  • Posted July 30, 2007 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Dude, you gave like 20 examples of people who didnt finish formal school and had a great life. The contradictory result is much greates. Intelligence matters more than creativity.

  • Posted July 30, 2007 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    I hate grade system, but I hate the THE CUMULATIVE GRADE POINT AVERAGE (CGPA)SYSTEM the most.

    Luckily in UK don’t have this system.

  • Dan
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Interesting argument, but there is still no better guide for future financial success than your SAT test scores. That’s right, overall the higher your SAT score the more money you will make.

    I think it is because all of the extra factors that impact test scores “anxiety, stress, alertness, ability to guess, ability to use a calculator (or ability to do arithmetic), time management skills, etc.” are incredibly valuable in the real world.

  • T Wright
    Posted July 30, 2007 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    This is so true, I would get 5E, 4D, 3C if i was lucky my whole life. I did well in my final exams and now I’m at the best University in the world, so fuck off to all the teachers that gave me shit grades, it didnt mean anything in the end.

  • Posted July 31, 2007 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    A great article, I’ve never heard this argument so well put, though I’ve known it to be fact for years. Going to a creative college was the best thing I could have done short of dropping out.

    The only negative thing about going to a creative college was it killed my sense of wonder for a time.

  • Bob
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Great article…

    As someone that did some teaching for a bit, I can say that you’re spot on. Grading is bullshit. The one part of my job back then that I hated the most was grading. You’re right. A teacher can define the grades however they want if they really want to.

    One thing you’re missing though, is that nothing is truly objective; so in that sense evaluation through schooling does have some merit in preparing you for the real world, even if it isn’t objective.

    Also… “not IQ but Emotional Intelligence”… WTF? IQ measures ability to see patterns, trends, logic, problem solve; EQ measures awareness of emotion. It doesn’t have anything to do with your article.

  • Posted July 31, 2007 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Humans are fallible. All you are pointing out is that fallibility.

    In all this criticism, where are your suggestions for improving the situation?

  • FL
    Posted August 1, 2007 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    Wow! The comments here are more interesting than the original blog post.

  • ps1350
    Posted August 1, 2007 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I call whiny bitch! To think you got points off for calculation errors on a MATH test! Suck it up and deal, dude.

  • Nick
    Posted August 1, 2007 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    Just off the top of my head, a few refutations, numbered correspondingly:

    1. Rubrics are created to give you standards – in virtually any aspect of life people will judge you according to what they value. Rubrics are designed so you know what a teacher/professor is looking for, so you can prepare accordingly. Does this mean that you’re being measured on how well you appease their standards as well as on the actual information? Of course, but you’d be hard pressed to find a moment where you are being judged, but not according to a subjective, albeit generally fair, standard.

    2. This is fair, but ~90% of multiple choice and true/false questions are pretty clear in their intent. Also, saying that a question is confusingly worded is no excuse if you don’t know the answer/subject matter.

    3. Well, why not 30 questions in 50 minutes? If you question something for being arbitrary, you should offer an alternative that is clearly better. Suppose, in the teacher’s experience, it takes the average student 100 seconds to answer each question. I don’t see any reason why this makes an exam unfair unless you have a genuine learning disability (in which case the professor is generally fairly understanding).

    4. These are due to bad professors, not a bad system.

    5. If the bell curve does not make sense, then why are raw scores often arranged in a bell-curve pattern? It’s a relatively fair way of showing which students did particularly well, which did average, and which did poorly. Throughout most of life, you will find most people perform a certain way at a certain task, while a few are very good or very bad.

    6. Ever hear of an average? That’s usually a pretty fair standard.

    7. I don’t think anyone claims that tests, presentations, etc. measure solely the material that is being given. Again, in any aspect of life you will need to be able to relate information, not simply compute it according to your own standards.

    8. Ever hear of standard deviation. Yes, instructors will not agree down to the decimal point on virtually every grade, however, you’ve already refuted your own point by bringing up rubrics. Rubrics are designed to explain the professor’s values in grading. Different people will hold you to different standards – this is a pretty accurate reflection of virtually anything in life.

    9. I agree that scores, etc. don’t necessarily dictate happiness, but on the flip side, how many high school dropouts do you know that you’d consider happy or successful? College graduates statistically make more money than people who did not finish college. There are always exceptions, but I’d venture there’s a pretty good correllation between level and quality of education and the amount of money people make, and maybe even happiness.

    To sum it up: no man is an island, why should anyone be an island in the classroom?

  • delao
    Posted August 4, 2007 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    I don’t remember ever being given an “A” for learning how to ride a bike….nor walk…etc.

  • jj townes
    Posted August 11, 2007 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    your conjectures are not objective. you need to refrain from expressing opinion as fact since you lack data to support your position.

  • Daemin
    Posted August 15, 2007 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Clearly, the grading of research papers, essays, presentations, etc. is predominantly subjective.

    Sorry, but you are incorrect. There are standards about what should happen in these sorts of things. Generaly, you have to state a claim, and offer reasons to in support of that claim, and reasons for dismissing counter claims. How well you do at those two things is the majority of your grade.
    For example, if my thesis is “The grading of research papers, essays, presentations is predominantly subjective,” and then ramble on for several pages and never offer support for the claim other than prefacing it with “Clearly”, the paper gets an F.

    You essentially argue that because there are different types of presentations, then it must be subjective as to what makes a good one. This a second argument, nominally put forth in support of the first, but just as unsupported.

    The test creation process is subjective

    Not quite. What is slightly, and I stress slightly, subjective is the material of the course. But once you’ve pegged “what it is they should know after taking this course,” the test creation procedure almost falls out. At the least, the content of the test should. If I expect you to know differential calculus and test you for your understanding of Ulysses, obviously something is wrong and the grade is bullshit. But if my test consists sole of homework problems with different values substituted into it, how is that arbitrary or unfair?

    The bull bell curve

    Think of it this way. Your class contains a random sampling of students. Getting an A in the class is a measure of your understanding of the material in relation to everyone else taking the class concurrently with you. Transforming the grades into a standard distribution is merely a way of exaggerating the already present differences in your grades.
    The mean and standard deviation are already present in the unadjusted grades. What adjusting to a curve, if done correctly, does is merely moves the mean to be a C. If 3 people take s a test and get 98, 99 and 100, and we adjust the grades to a normal distribution, then the C grade is the 98. This makes perfect sense because C is called an AVERAGE grade, meaning neither spectacularly good nor spectacularly bad. If everyone got an A in the class, then everyone did spectacularly well… relative to what? Look into grade inflation.

    Grading against a standard

    Reference my comments about test creation. The “standard” is “What should you know when you leave this class.” Nothing complicated here.

    Invalid measures

    “Essays and projects and presentations are not. If you give the same essay to different markers, you can get wildly different grades.”

    This is an empirical claim, and it has actually been tested, and you are in fact wrong. Take an essay and give it to 100 English professors and have them grade it, take all their grades and compare them, and you will find that 99% of the time, all the grades are +/- half a letter grade. I.e. most of them will be a B with a few giving B +/- and a couple of outliers going higher or lower.

    Testing the wrong things

    Again, go back to my comments on test design. Your charge here is a non sequiter. They ARE testing the rights things: what did you learn in this class? What you are complaining about is that school, in itself, is worthless.

    To wrap up, I agree with you that grades are largely bullshit. Just not for your reasons. But then again, schooling in general is bullshit. I can give you a multiple hour lecture on the minutiae of genetic programming theory, even though I never took a class on it. I have, on the other hand, spent significant amounts of time reading about it and experimenting with it.

    The problem is that when I apply for a job that wants experience in genetic programming, the company wants a bit more than my unbacked assertion that I know my shit about it. The point of school is to enable to gauge your knowledge level before you’ve worked professionally and therefore lack any of means of conveying your knowledge to them.

  • Mort
    Posted September 1, 2007 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Interesting article, but I think I disagree with point 8 since it gives a much higher margin for error.. getting a “pass” intested of “with distinction” is much worse than getting (say) 80% instead of 81%.

  • Dustbin
    Posted September 5, 2007 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Really great article. My grades are released today and it’s well so damn unfair. Getting slacking team mates who did totally nothing.

    Resulting in so many sleepless night working on the final year project alone and to also teach them/explain to them how the developed end product work in hope that they could at least pass during the presentation/evaluation if the evaluators ask some hard questions (after all I’m not so cruel). But at the end of all ur hard work u get a sad grade while they got fantastic grade for the weirdest unbelievable reasons.

    But oh well, trying to fight ur grades usually result in ur grades getting lowered instead. Feel quite fed up. U r right. Grades are unfair. The world is unfair.

  • pravin benjamin
    Posted January 22, 2008 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    Hi,
    As I an India(n) let me contribute my 2 cents on this.
    College professors or school teachers be it in USA or India are a bunch
    of losers.
    Do you know a college professsor or school teacher who could have said to have achieved anything ‘great’ in life.
    I know some average guys in my BS Chemistry batch of 1990 who have ended
    as ‘top notch” professors both in USA and India.
    Three years before when I heard about their status my head swirled.
    Were these guys not said to be below the average.
    Here is the irony of it.

    The loser teacher/ professor rates these guys x,y,x as losers academically.
    x,y,z end up as professors.
    Now these x,y.z are going to rate some guys as losers who in turn
    fill up the rest.
    so the cycle goes.

  • imani
    Posted February 1, 2008 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I am happy that some fell the same way my teacher give me that bullshit every time i get my report card. the next paper you should do is what if your teacher lose your paper, and do not give you the right grade. what should you do in how should you do it. Again that is a great paper.

  • Posted August 9, 2008 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Thousands and legate left buy cytotec dead hand daughters.

  • John Smith
    Posted October 16, 2008 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    This blog has much validity, and in fact most grading is bullshit. In my experiences with college, I’d say for subjective courses and even math courses, the grades are at least 30% dependent on the professor. You either have a good math teacher or a bad one, he makes easy tests or hard tests. Its all subjective, which is why you need to understand how your professor operates, and then manipulate everything from there. My philosophy teacher just plays Russian Roulette when grading the papers, it’s entirely bullshit, I followed his rubric and grading criteria precisely, and he gave me a D, because he didn’t feel the topics were clear. Others read it and thought it was crystal clear, whose correct? Definitely not the dumb ass teacher who misspelled grammar, and various other words while insulting my grammar. Other teachers I’ve had would have praised the paper.

  • school is shit
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    There is this Prof., who never disclosed the weightage of individual course components and eventually played with it favoring few students. Something that required hours of slogging got 2% weightage in the end.

    There is another Prof., who never disclosed a test marks. He is a big deal, no one questioned him, assuming he will be honest, the image he portrays big time. Big subjective retard. A prof can justify his actions, even if he favored another student, because of this privacy shit — i.e., I cannot ask about another student’s grades.

    There is this third Prof., who just repeated questions on one test alone and had a open book component with a question that few brought solutions to or knew where it was vaguely. The ones who tried desperately just lost time and points on the difficult question. The ones who gave up and just copied are securing A’s.

    Lastly, memory type questions, what the heck?

    I hate to be graded by these jerks. As much as these people enforce academic dishonesty policies on students, they better enforce a tiny bit of academic integrity on themselves.

  • Smarter than you guys moron!!
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    I think you guys are just plain dumb!
    Just get on with it and improve!
    Stop being so ignorant and idiotic and posting
    such stupid posts!
    It’ll only make you people look worst than
    how you can be on your report book! Dumbass!!
    What I’ve read about on this website is what I
    call a total bullshit! You people are full of shit
    and understands nothing! All you people know is
    go on and on bladdering and complaining how your
    dumbness got you the shameful grades! Sometimes
    just have to go the extra mile to earn it people!
    Get serious and stop whining!

  • Reality
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Dear anonymous posters,
    Stop using ad hominems to make yourself feel better or to attempt to demean the post. If you don’t like this post, then form an argument to counter act the reasoning used or don’t post. Making assumptions about the writer of the post and insulting them shows your ignorance. I can understand that if you got good grades in school you want to believe that it was because you earned those grades and worked hard for them and I agree that I have worked for my grades, but I also agree with the poster that most of my grades were subjectively given to me. I had to get into the head of the individual professor and write what they wanted me to say and suck up to them. I don’t deserve higher grades than someone who decided to write a legitimate argument against the professor’s opinion. If you can’t be honest with yourself and admit that grades are mostly subjective in many subjects, then you are a weak person that lies to themself, because you can’t handle the truth.
    Sincerely,
    Reality

  • The posie
    Posted April 18, 2009 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    I don’t really care if grades are subjective or not. An answer to all this problem, is to choose a mayor and a career that you really like, do some research on your professors, take easy classes that you enjoy and get a high GPA. Life is too short, don’t waste you time begging your professors to give you a good grade when they don’t want to. That’s why we are individuals, and not equals, people have different abilities and strengths. If you can’t be a doctor, or a lawyer, because the courses are really tough, choose something else. There’s so many options like IR, politics, humanities, history, art, engineering, etc. It’s better to life life without a grudge on past professors, than a life full of melancholy.
    Think about it guys!

  • Rob
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    HAHA! This idiot is just whining becuz he got bad grades. He probably hated school too. That’s why he proably working at mcdonalds right now and this is blog for whing about how much his life sucks becuz he got good grades.

    Thankfully public education rewarded me well with good grades. Becuz I did my best in school and I liked it. Now I have a good job becuz I got a degre and a 4.0 gpa to go along with it.
    Remember, good grades meen your smart!!!!1

  • Posted June 4, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    At above: Stop bashing other people when you know nothing about them. How do you know he works in McDonalds? Stop assuming he has bad grades. If you can assume he has bad grades, I can assume you have bad grades and that you are just trying to make yourself feel better by lying about how you have a 4.0 GPA.

    On a sidenote: Nice grammar. -.-

  • Terry
    Posted June 5, 2009 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    [Posted by Rob]”HAHA! This idiot is just whining becuz he got bad grades. He probably hated school too. That’s why he proably working at mcdonalds right now and this is blog for whing about how much his life sucks becuz he got good grades.

    Thankfully public education rewarded me well with good grades. Becuz I did my best in school and I liked it. Now I have a good job becuz I got a degre and a 4.0 gpa to go along with it.
    Remember, good grades meen your smart!!!!1″

    Your not really in a position to judge anybody on there intellect seeing as you still need to complete elementary school.

    And grades DON’T mean everything.

    I’m a very dedicated programmer and my GPA is barely a 2.5 to 3.0 mainly because I spend most of my time programming instead of doing my homework or studying for a test.

    I find it somewhat useless to learn about things that I will never use in my lifetime.

    For example… Why do I need to learn about the various wars and conflict that happened decades ago when I know for a fact its irrelevant to the profession I want to pursue?

  • Marla
    Posted June 25, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve always thought what you said, but it was so nice to have it validated by what you wrote. You’re right to call the bullshit. The psychological damage and stress that grades cause should make us angry. Someone telling us that our intelligence is defined by a letter from A to F is bullshit and we shouldn’t tolerate it.
    So thanks again. It was nice to hear a clear voice.

  • daniel pimentel
    Posted June 27, 2009 at 3:23 am | Permalink

    well, sometimes it does matter.like when you are a doctor……..hhuummm.how was i supposed to cut this guy right now?oh, yeah i member now!!!

    yeah, some people dont know perseverence, because it is not taught in school.

  • Alexandrine Henry
    Posted September 5, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Well said and to hear it from a “great” student really brings it home. Thanks for your humility and honesty. I’ve always been an “average” student and it’s been a self esteem crusher for me all my life. Great GPA’s don’t reflect what is really needed to succeed in life – tenacity and determination. I had a friend who ALWAYS got near perfect grades and scored high on her SAT’s. Well, I was very jealous because she got into a better college than me. Well she never finished her degree. I barely got into a state school but I graduated. I did poorly the 1st 2 years but did fairly well in my major during the last 2 years. Of course, my overall GPA is very poor. I’ve done well as a paraprofessional and I’m not done. I’ve started graduate school and may complete a PhD one day. I plan to publish a book and more. It’s just that average grades do create obstacles for me not because I’m stupid but because the grading system is inaccurate. I’ve finally figured out the game. Thanks for sharing.

  • professor death
    Posted September 26, 2009 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Stop complaining and crying. Unless you are ready to offer an alternative, the education system we do have is better than the current alternative; a lack of education.
    let us know when yo are ready to be constructive rather than destructive. your teachers were right; you will never amount to anything.

  • n
    Posted November 4, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    i like your site and what you’re all about. not something you haven’t heard before i bet but i thought adding one more to the ‘voice of the masses’ would make it so much more..massive.
    and you made me happier. thanks

  • Aims
    Posted November 8, 2009 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    I just kinda glanced through this, and as Im currently studying statistical analysis the bell curve (5) grabbed my attention so I read it. In regards to “5. The bull (bell) curve,” the mean in a normal distribution is the average in this case, and the standard deviation would be the difference between the mean and the median in this case. Its fairly simple. And much like any other data the mean would be the average, and the median could easily be taken to be the standard deviation as it is the deviation away from the average/mean. And you forgot to talk about variance, although it isn’t needed in the production of a normal distribution curve using statistical analysis modeling it is important to talk about.

  • Zambam
    Posted December 11, 2009 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    School isn’t about the grades it’s to educate you and help you get a good job. Grades are just updates about how you are learning.

  • ATHLETE
    Posted January 27, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    In reason 3 test should be spelt as tests

  • Domino014
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    I know what you mean. I had one instructor mark off points because I used a synonym. i.e. the answer was jaguar and I wrote preying feline. Being in school has made me so paranoid of plagiarizing another’s work that I go to great lengths to regurgitate the meaning via synonyms, metaphors, and the like. People tend to say I’m creative but I also get misinterpreted. Needless to say, my instructor still cannot get my name right. I’ll just give her a synonym.

  • b
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 2:16 am | Permalink

    I have bad grades.

    I would like to make excuse that I have bad grades because the education system sucks the way they shape your thought process (forcing you to be a cookie-cutting, non-risk taking, mistake paranoid person).

    I particularly don’t like the way my math teachers teach. All through out school, I arrive at the right answer many times, but they always subtract points if I don’t do a problems they way the like it. I guess that’s the bullshit your talking about.

    Oh yeah, and if too many students get good grades, the teachers makes us do some assignments designed to make us fail.

    And if too many students fail, the teachers makes us do some assignments designed to make you succeed.

  • APPRECIATIVE
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for putting the time and effort in writing this. I was in the midst of a break down concerning why on earth I’m getting such average grades for back-breaking work! I spend hours upon hours, weekdays and weekends without seeing friends or doing anything of leisure, while the people next to me who spend the entire weekend drinking and throwing up on themselves and spend half the amount of time and effort on the same project gets the same grade as me or better! I sacrifice so much and get so little in return.

    Again, thanks so much for this. I was so close to finding a gun and aiming it at my head. The education system sucks, especially for college, its expensive, and can kill the spirit and creativity of a human being.

    For the idiots who are posting negative/disrespectful comments…what is the point? You must also lack in areas of your life (Ugly? Abused? Friendless? Bullied, perhaps?) Take your damaged self someplace else to act out.

  • jonathan
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    bad grades do mean doom in many disciplines. want to work at mckinsey and co.? you better be at the top of the class. period. so, you isolate yourself without poor marks. there is no way around it.

  • jonathan
    Posted October 10, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    i meant, you isolate yourself WITH bad marks, not WITHOUT.

  • peteacher56
    Posted November 11, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I am physical education teacher. I came across your article and I must say I agree with the content and message it provides. Basically, in terms of testing and assessment, tests/assessments should measure what they are suppose to be measuring. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Sadly, especially at the College level, although their are many brilliant professors out there that are quite knowledgeable in the subject matter they teach, they themselves have never went through a teacher education program. Some professors really don’t have the best strategies for teaching material to students and assessing them on that same material.

    Many times, a great number of professors will rely upon poorly written multiple choice tests to use as evidence of how students are learning the material in their courses. To make matters worse, some of these professors will make 60% or higher of your final grade in the class on how well you scored on your course exams.

    For those interested, I would suggest looking at this website:

    http://www.youblisher.com/p/9375-Multiple-Choice-Tests-Thinking-Handcuffs/

    No Partial Credit

    “Even if a student has some knowledge of a question, they receive no credit for knowing that information if they select the wrong answer. Free response questions may allow a test taker to demonstrate their understanding of a subject and receive partial credit. Even carefully constructed exams that reflect very detailed curriculums can be used to improperly assess students. If an exam was created to carefully reflect a certain curriculum, you might see only one question that covers a specific outcome. What if the student did in fact understand that outcome but for any number of reasons, they get the question wrong? That means that this test would report that the student understood nothing of that concept-which most likely would be wholly misleading and untrue. How often can a teacher honestly report that a student understands nothing?”

    This passage is quite critical. From when I was in college, this is the error I seen many college professors commit over and over again. It was bad enough my classmates and I had to memorize so much useless information to get where we wanted to go in our chosen professions because of the way many professors relied upon multiple choice testing for their assessment practices, but they also struggled to write quality tests that actually reflected a clear correct answer included with the dis- tractor questions. So many mis-leading questions among answers choices A, B, C, and D where quite often, two of the answer choice where correct, but one answer was just a little more correct in the eyes of the professor. And, you got no partial credit for being partial right. Therefore, you might have understood some of the material (maybe even in the whole concept/question) but because how it was phrased in the answer choices if you selected the wrong answer the teacher was looking for, you get the whole multiple choice question wrong.

    A learning experience I have learned from college is if I ever give any multiple choice test (and arguably we don’t do a lot of this cognitive assessing in a gym) I give very careful consideration to the question being constructed.

    Just my 2 cents in one area among many areas where education has a number of flaws and problems.

  • Barock
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Actually I was mad about a grade given to me this last week in my graduate studies and do not think I am biased.

    I am writing for any body in the future to use such honest information for research or alert themselves.
    This is gradute study program and I was on the op notch until final project paper out of 70 I scored 69 and final project was out of 30 and I prepared my paper and submiited two days before dead line.

    Relaxed I did not log in back until begining of next week which is end of semester. When I log in to check I found email says I did not get your final paper I was shocked and went to submiited documents and it was there and resumitted the paper again and I explained the professor that there might be error on system…she did not answer me five days and kkep on emailing her. Finally she said she do not give me any credit because I did not submit the paper.

    I was mad like crazy because I know I have done the asignment and submiited it and the professor was just an evil bastard not to reconsider the grade..

    Now my whole point is I am certain and I am 100% sure that I was right but there are lots of so called professors who are focused to bitch on every thing and want to make you look bad..do not always think all professors are intellectuals it is just like whn you go downton and hop in a taxi if Taxi driver knows you are guest to a town they just rip you off..professors are scams like taxi drivers if they find a little hole they prefer to dig in to the negative than build some one positively….and do not make a mistke this is common in University professors….they are bunch of bastards with out common sense who just have the degree caled PhD or Profeesorship.

    I have been in teaching for 10 years in College I spend 16-18 hours talking to students to make sure I am in same page with them rather than jusge them on one time grading and my students were my all time best friends…I still have the feeling of friendship untill now more than the money I earned teaching…

    All professors are not same, teaching is also about making others understand the subject not grading them A….F. Education in America is one of the worst systems..every thing is sold in market…why even go to school now a days….Especially the online schools please watch out…not worth it to put your hard earned cash on online schools…it is so joke.

  • Russell
    Posted December 19, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    interesting. I understand that the current testing system is flawed but how does an educator know a student has learned the material? There has to be some way to measure that and test are, in my opinion, the easiest way for an educator to measure both themselves and the student.

  • In Hoc Signo Vinces
    Posted January 2, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Just to put my 10 cents in… I really appreciate the work of Mr. Wolfe – this article was articulated and substantiated very well and made several excellent points. Reality check ladies and gents, the U.S. education system is going down the tube – something is severely wrong with it. My belief is that it needs to catch up to the “information processing speed” of the modern student. Kids are bored in classrooms because the systems are ancient; it worked back in the day because technology was limited. But to go back to the points made in this article, to say grades are NOT arbitrary or objective is completely illogical for many reasons articulated in this piece. It all makes sense and I applaud your work Mr. Wolfe.

    And as a side note, I love how a few of those who commented negatively on this article, a certain “Smarter than you guys moron!!” for example, is quick to express how intelligent he is and how all you have to do is “Stop being so ignorant and idiotic and posting such stupid posts! It’ll only make you people look worst than how you can be on your report book! Dumbass!!” Cheers to this guy for explicitly making several glaringly obvious grammatical errors and using extensive colorful language to express his disapproval/dismissal of this article – can’t help but think how this guy clearly is a product of good grades in America. Follow the rubrics and you’ll be smart like “Smarter than you guys moron!!” (By the way, even his username is grammatically incorrect).

    Cheers!

    An American Political Science Student
    Ivy League, NJ

  • Posted February 9, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Most people who believe grades don’t matter had poor grades themselves. Should have studies harder in college guys!

  • Ashley
    Posted December 20, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Despite being a straight A student, I agree with a lot of these. This isn’t for just people with bad grades. This is a war on the corrupt grading system itself.
    I was never a fan of the grading curve that some teachers believe is more “fair”. It may lift some grades but it pulls down others. I also despise those teachers who get a kick out of failing half the class. I’ve had teachers who put half-correct answers on the test to deliberately trick students. I especially agree with the point that essays, projects, and presentations are subjective. Even with a rubric, they will never be objective. Other than for English, Communications and similar classes in which essays and subjective grading seem to be required, I avoid teachers who base their grading system solely on subjective assignments.

  • Fariani Nisha
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    today, i gave my perspective work and got a very bad grades. you know, i’ve been work on it all the time and all i got is about B-!

    the teacher gave me that fuckin grade bcz just a lil fault! that was unfair!!!

    unfair!!

    my friend gave the teacher a very strange and bullshit work was got an A-!! hell yeah!!

    fuck you

  • Cary Xiao
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    Not only are grades arbitrary, they are also detrimental to the learning process of students. The late Peter Scholtes demonstrated that reward and incentive programs are harmful when used to encourage studying. His point is illustrated by an anecdote:

    “My friend Dave from Indianapolis was upset. His daughter Emily had been a good student, an avid reader … that is until Pizza Hut got into the reward business. It seems Pizza Hut provided teachers with coupons for free pizzas to be awarded to a student when he or she had completed a book. Dave’s daughter started reading shorter and less challenging books or just skimmed longer books, so she could get more coupons.
    Meanwhile, Emily’s classmates also started reading more books. Even those who were not readers started reading. The books they read were short and simple, but at least these kids were reading something. The students who, like Emily, were avid readers, switched their reading preference to short, simple books. Eventually, however, Pizza Hut’s reading-for-pizzas campaign ended; and so did the reading … all reading … by those who used to be avid readers of challenging books as well as by those who didn’t read.
    “What my wife and I unwittingly allowed Pizza Hut to do,” said Dave, “was substitute their external motivation for our daughter’s internal motivation. They replaced her reason for reading and then eventually removed their substitute reason.” With pizza coupons no longer available, the kids in the class felt that there was no longer a reason to read.
    This story — a true incident — demonstrates the fallacy of all incentive programs. Research on rewards, merit and incentive pay programs, etc., shows them to be ineffective and — as in Emily’s case — even harmful.”

    Just like pizza, grades are an incentive to study hard rather than a simple perk. My classmates do not study to have fun and to learn something useful, but to mash on a handsome cover for their fluffy college applications. Grades encroach on the joy of learning and must be eliminated from the U.S. Education System before it causes further harm.

    To my opponents for this “debate”… Do realize that you are on enemy turf and anything stupid you say will weaken your case.

  • AHT
    Posted May 25, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I’ve got one good reason why they do matter – a good job.

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