14 December 2013

I Don’t Think the Retards Are Getting Into Harvard

Reports that A- is the median grade in Harvard College have reopened the debate about grade inflation. Many of the arguments offered in response to the news are familiar. The venerable grade hawk Harvey “C-” Mansfield, who brought the figures to public attention, describes the situation as an “indefensible” relaxation of standards.
More provocative are defenses of grade inflation as the natural result of increased competition for admission to selective colleges and universities. A new breed of grade doves point out that standards have actually been tightened in recent years. But the change has been made to admissions standards rather than expectations for achievement in class.

Mansfield would be right if Harvard let anyone on the left half of the bell curve into their hallowed halls.  I presume there are a couple of legacy students who are in Harvard because of their daddy’s money but are cursed with his trophy wife’s brains (I don’t know if this is the case, I’m just theorizing).  However, I would generally suspect that most Harvard students have a lot of raw intelligence.  This doesn’t make them wise, or necessarily brilliant or insightful, but I don’t think that any of them are going to turn in shitty work.  As such, it doesn’t really make sense to distribute grades on a typical curve because the students themselves are distributed on a typical curve.

But more to the point, just why is the lack of low grades a problem?  Do employers actually ask for grades?  Are there any besides bored pundits on a slow news day even asking this question?  Do college grades even matter in the grand scheme of things?  Hell, is it even legal for employers to ask about grades?

I readily admit that this is nothing but intellectual masturbation on my end.  I just wish all the other pundits would admit it too.