Grading and Mediocrity
I was amused by this Facebook status update from my friend Christian Sandvig (reproduced with permission):
Three contractors promised me an estimate for a job by today. First contractor: “My Internet’s down.” Second contractor: “Family crisis.” Third contractor: “Didn’t we say Wednesday?” Remind anyone of teaching?
It indeed does–sad but true. But taking this seriously for a second, I’ve always wondered: does our grading system encourage mediocrity? Some students will knowingly say, “well, that’s OK–I’ll at least get a C.” Does the student who thought the homework was for Wednesday turn into the contractor who thought the meeting was Wednesday?
The competitiveness of the workplace in most sectors is just brutal these days. The employee who hands in an “I’ll just accept a C” level performance is now unemployed. In a college course, you can just accept a C and there are minimal consequences. You can even get into a good grad school with a sprinkling of C’s on your transcript, amazingly enough. But in the workplace, a C means you have let your coworkers down. Something is not right, and it’s not OK. I worry that Christian’s post is all too true, and there may even be a causal relationship.
Maybe there should be only three grades: A, B, and F. What do you think?
(NB: My liberal educator friends will say there should be NO grades. But that’s a whole other, more complicated conversation.)