Education

Inflated Egos Require Inflated Grades

Studies show that the average grade has gone from a C to an A, not because of merit.

Arnold Ahlert · Jul. 18, 2019

“When everyone is somebody, then no one’s anybody.” —English dramatist Sir William Schwenck Gilbert, half of the Gilbert and Sullivan team that produced 14 comic operas

If Mr. Gilbert were alive today, he’d realize how prescient he truly was. In Britain, a new analysis published by the Office for Students (OfS) reveals that the number of students receiving top grades in their major courses of study is soaring. Between school years 2010-11 and 2017-18, the proportion of first-class honor degrees has increased from 16% to 29%. “In total, 94 per cent of the 148 universities and other higher education providers included in the analysis demonstrated a statistically significant unexplained increase in the proportion of first-class degrees awarded in 2017-18 compared to 2010-11,” the report states.

It’s no different here in America. A 2016 study, representing the first major update of a grade-inflation database in seven years, revealed that a staggering 42% of four-year college grades are A’s, and 77% are either A’s or B’s. This hyperinflation is the result of awarded A grades increasing at a rate of five to six percentage points per decade. As a result, A grades are now three times more common than they were in 1960.

“Back then, a C was the grade college students received most frequently,” explained college lecturer Vikram Mansharamani. “Later in the decade, the B took its place. Professors boosted students’ grades in part because if the students did too poorly, they could be shipped off to the war in Vietnam. The B reigned supreme until the 1990s, when the A claimed the crown. It’s been strengthening its lead ever since.”

British Education Secretary Damian Hinds stated the obvious with regard to the increases in his country. “It cannot be right that some students are awarded higher grades for the same level of achievement than those from previous years,” he declared. “We owe it to the hardworking students and institutions who play by the rules to stamp out this unfair practice.”

Who’s kidding whom? On both sides of the Atlantic, college tuition has skyrocketed, and students and their parents seemingly view higher grades as a better “bang for the buck,” regardless of whether or not such grades are truly merited. Moreover, when Princeton University tried to limit A’s to 35% of course grades, they ultimately abandoned the 10-year effort — because, according to Quartz, it created “a negative campus atmosphere” impacting applications to the school, and precipitated “unnecessary stress for students.”

When did a stress-free existence become the norm rather than the exception? When concern about a child’s self-esteem became a full-blown obsession among educators, therapists, and “helicopter” parents. Educators, therapists, and parents who nonetheless managed to flip the entire relationship between self-worth and accomplishment on its head, asserting countless times that one built self-esteem in order to educate, rather than educating to build self-esteem.

In short, everyone began getting a trophy just for showing up.

Unfortunately, this wholesale insulation from the vicissitudes of life is reaching metastatic proportions. On Monday, columnist Stephen Green revealed that a Millennial writer going over edits to her piece with her editor had a meltdown because the editor insisted that she spell the word “hamster” correctly — as in without a “p.” Not only did this triggered Millennial insist she could spell the word as she pleased, she texted her mother, who immediately called her back. When the mother was put on speakerphone, she not only defended her daughter’s misspelling, she suggested her daughter should file a complaint against the editor for not allowing her to be “creative.”

With regard to college, Mansharamani notes the seemingly irreversible trend apparent here. “Whether we want it or not, we’re effectively barreling towards a world without grades,” he asserts.

Not just without grades. Without anything resembling objective standards and meritocracy. A world where “hampster” will be accepted, lest someone’s feelings get hurt — or worse, because someone can actually file a successful grievance in the workplace for the same reason.

Too fantastic? Not when the “ego preservation at all costs” mindset is nurtured long before college becomes part of the equation. As the New York Post reports, 94% of students in grades 6-8 passed their math classes in the 2017-18 school year at the Bronx’s Science School for Exploration and Discovery, and 100% of the students at Harbor Heights middle school in Washington Heights passed their state English Language Arts classes. Yet when those same students took state tests, only 2% of the Mott Haven students passed the state math exams, and only 7% of the Washington Heights kids passed the ELA exams.

NYC’s Department of Education was unconcerned. “It’s apples and oranges to compare students’ classroom grades over the course of a full school year with their performance on a two-day state exam,” said DOE spokeswoman Danielle Filson.

No, what’s “apples and oranges” is the divergence of interests between students and their parents, and the Democrat/Education Union Complex. “It doesn’t serve students and parents well to think that the kids are performing at grade level if they’re not,” insists David Bloomfield, a Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center education professor.

No doubt. But it certainly serves the interests of unions, whose sole reason for existence is to promote and protect the rights of its members. Such machinations also serve feckless politicians who can point to blatantly fraudulent graduation rate increases as evidence of their “success.”

“When you meet a dog who flinches from being petted, you can be pretty sure they’re abused at home,” Green states in reference to the snowflake scribe. “When you run across an adult-aged human who can’t take constructive criticism, you can be pretty sure they never got any from their parents, or maybe even not from their teachers. But the saddest part of this tale is that no one ever loved this young woman enough to provide her the guidance and discipline everyone needs to cope in the real world.”

Perhaps. Or perhaps, much like the elimination of shame, guidance and discipline will also be extinguished in an orgy of intersectionalist-inspired, self-serving emotionalism, where the only job “qualification” that matters will bear a striking resemblance to the “adversity score” included on the SAT test used for college admissions. Perhaps it’s the real world that will be making the adjustments to a Millennial Generation that considers itself the most stressed generation that ever lived. Perhaps there is no going back to a time and place where fortitude was more revered than self-pity.

And perhaps if Mr. Gilbert were alive today he’d issue the only warning that really matters to millions of Americans who can’t see where such “wokeness” ultimately leads:

When everyone’s a victim, then no one is.

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