The Spectacle Blog

An A for effort

By on 2.18.09 | 3:30PM

The New York Times reports today that students think that if they work hard in a class, they ought to be rewarded for it. Consequently, when they receive lower grades, they feel cheated. One professor notes that the students think they should get an A by default, by simply doing all the work required of them. But the default grade, she notes, is a "C."

According to researchers at the University of California, Irvine, 30% of students surveyed said that they expected B's just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.

The professor suggests that this could be because of a record of achievement, parental pressure, etc. Another professor suggests that this is possibly because of the hyper-preparedness of students coming to college. They're used to preparing for exams and knocking them out of the ballpark.

In either case, think about it this way. If you did all the work necessary for a class, but showed no growth in the area, and got a "c," would you be likely to stay in college? Or would you go? And would that be for the greater good?

Now think about this: We are bludgeoned with the idea that college is a path to enlightenment, not simply a means to get better employment. Yet the numbers show that students really aren't that serious about the enlightenment part. Just the jobs part. What's with all the pomp and circumstance then? Why do these colleges have seals, and robes, and podiums? Why even bother with campuses?

Colleges have made no effort to counter this, and the faculty is only a part of the problem. Advertising that everyone should go to college has dragged down standards considerably, such that you get credit for "doing the work." But are you paying upwards of $10,000 a year to do the work? Or to learn?

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