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March 25, 2007

Comments

I think this is an interesting cultural gap, sorta like the feeling I get when von talks about trial lawyers. The problem of how to grade is something that keeps most teachers up, and we spend a lot of time exchanging stories of students who try to game the system in various ways. And, like any gaming, there is some underlying reason why they think the various reasons they present qualify them for a grade. Here in Japan, there is an underlying notion that complete attendance qualifies someone for a passing grade, even if that time is spent sleeping in class. Conversely, if you set up a class where effort dertermines grades, what do you do for the student who has already spent a year overseas and has to put forth no effort.

You put teachers together and the subject of grades usually comes up and this is what we talk about. I agree with CC that one has to be careful and it's a teaching moment that happens again and again.

I should add that I thought von was using "professor" in the diminutive sense, but I'm not sure whether Steve was. I'm not a professor, just a lowly TA.

Anarch: By way of illustration: I've had faculty friends at other universities hauled before the appropriate Dean and told, point-blank, that they needed to the change the grade of a complaining student or find themselves another job.

Which strikes me as being an effective warning to the faculty that they do indeed need to find themselves another job - since the institution which will change a student's grade because the student knew how to complain is not an institution that any honest academic should want to work for.

And yes, I'm aware such things happen - a well-connected overprivileged student. As I'm aware that faculty, having more power than students, tend to exaggerate the problems that students can cause them and downplay the problems that faculty can cause students, precisely because people complain louder at inconvenience caused them by people lower in the hierarchy than about discrimination imposed on them by people above them in the hierarchy.

I guess I didn't realize that. It makes the claim of the teacher's dominance over the student even weaker, in my opinion.

I'm not sure what it was about this thread that caused some people to rally so fervently to the defense of a student who was quite clearly trying to intimidate his teacher into giving him a better grade. This is not some poor, helpless waif y'all are sticking up for.

This is precisely the power inversion that von, and possibly Jes and OCS, isn't recognizing

I’ll cop to that. It is just not something I identify with from my college experience (both the situation and the type of student). Teachers were an authority figure and no one I knew would dream of threatening one to try to get a better grade. But then everyone I knew arrived on campus in a bus or a “beater” rather than a beamer and tended to work very hard for their grades.

Still, I think that the point could have been made just as well via anecdote as posting what appeared to be a slightly edited email. I took “redacted” to mean identifying information deleted vs. what it turns out to have meant in this case.

"This is not some poor, helpless waif y'all are sticking up for."

Don't think anybody is sticking up for the Wonder Bread.

Jes, I'm not sure you appreciate how messed American education is.

Jes: since the institution which will change a student's grade because the student knew how to complain is not an institution that any honest academic should want to work for.

If you really want an education, try putting yourself on the academic job market here. You'll see why pretty damn quick.

Scott Eric Kaufman: I'm not a professor, just a lowly TA.

Really? I'd thought you were an adjunct/associate professor. In that case, yeah, assuming the core content holds, that was definitely... well, a firm suggestion that a change in their grades was in order. Nasty business that.

And btw: TA solidarity, yo. *bumps fist*

liberal japonicus: The problem of how to grade is something that keeps most teachers up, and we spend a lot of time exchanging stories of students who try to game the system in various ways.

Exactly. It's pretty much the most important thing to talk about IME, since it's the one place where the Golden Rule really breaks down.

OCSteve: But then everyone I knew arrived on campus in a bus or a “beater” rather than a beamer and tended to work very hard for their grades.

Perks of an Ivy League education: you get to see that kind of attitude up-close-and-personal.* You also get to see people who rise above it, too, which is an equally valuable lesson.

* Hence my immediate, visceral dislike of Bush back in 1999. I knew too many people like that. And my opinion of him has proven almost exactly right.

Still, I think that the point could have been made just as well via anecdote as posting what appeared to be a slightly edited email.

Yeah, I pretty much agree with you on that now that I think about it. I don't mind the parody, but it should have been more clearly labelled as such.

My (liberal arts) college experience involved far more classes that were graded on attendance or 'participation' than on anything relating to actual knowledge.

Perhaps you should not have attended a liberal arts college. I went to an engineering school, and the only classes where grades relied significantly on participation where foreign language classes. Of course, just showing up to those and not studying like crazy was a recipe for failure.

I don't think this was by accident nor do I think it was unique to my school. College in the 21st century has far, far more to do with socializing students into the rote work and routine schedules associated with collecting a low-level paycheck than it does with anything so mundane as knowledge or critical thinking. Most modern college graduates don't know calculus. The ability to place a comma in a sentence, or even to identify what a comma denotes, is no longer a requisite to earn a degree.

Every single graduate at my university knows calculus, including those who majored in philosophy or biology or political science. Calculus was simply a graduation requirement; most graduates actually took about three semesters worth, and many took four.


I've been working on a theory that our political problems in this country are due to the prevalence of liberal arts educations. In a decent engineering school, you cannot bluff your way to graduation: you have to build the damn circuit and it has to work, and no amount of argument or persuasion will change that. There's a lot to be said for having clear objective standards.

It seems like a lot of liberal arts or law school graduates have internalized the notion that reality can be argued away, if one argues strenuously enough. Scientists and engineers learn very very early on that reality is not nearly so malleable.

I could be wrong, but I have really been struggling to understand the Bush admin mindset; it really seems to be that perception creates reality, and perception can be modified by really loud screaming and/or lying.

Anarch: If you really want an education, try putting yourself on the academic job market here. You'll see why pretty damn quick.

Well, if that's the case, the academics who have to choose between working for a dishonest institution where students get graded based on their ability to campaign, and getting a job outside academia, should probably opt for getting a job outside academia, and pointing out that the reason they left was because they were officially told that they must give a student a different grade from the one he earned because he happens to be the son of a major donor. Someone who wants to be an academic so much they're willing to falsify a student's grade to keep their job really needs to consider what they're in academia for.

That is to say: as we have been discussing just recently, if you go along with the demands of a corrupt system silently and without protest, as Anarch is suggesting many nontenured faculty staff do because they want to keep their jobs, at some point you have to accept that you are in fact maintaining the corrupt system yourself, and have lost the moral ground to complain that it is corrupt.

Jesurgislac:

Um, are you aware of the fact that there are a number of fields in which university teaching is the only job you can actually get paid for?

Seriously, what work options does someone who loves philosophy have besides teaching at a university? Do you think IBM is going to be hiring lots of philosophy PhDs anytime soon? So they can theorize on the philosophical implications of a new 65 nm semiconductor process? Heck, what work options does someone with a degree in experimental physics have, assuming they want to do experimental physics? They might get a position at CERN, but there are not many of those.

Your statement just seems so divorced from reality . . . should people really quit their jobs if only one student gets a pass even though they love teaching and are making a huge difference in their students' lives? Shouldn't one at least attempt to perform a cost benefit analysis?

Yow -- I go off to, cough, teach my, um, er, students, and the comments go berserk!

I assumed that Wonder Bread just meant bland, and in the context of an answer to a (repeated) question about whether the student spoke English as a second language, probably meant white. I didn't read any class anything into it at all, and on rereading it, I still don't.

To those of you who don't teach: yes, there are students who try to get better grades through protests, and there are also, alas, administrations who let this happen. There are various mechanisms for this. (Note: in everything that follows I take it as an absolute given that complaints with merit have to be taken seriously; here I'm talking about complaints used as threats.)

One is that there are administrators who worry very much about student complaints, whether legitimate or not, either because of general overprotectiveness or because of Fear of Parents. Parents, to some administrators, are like their customers or clients, and are to be treated with the same level of 'customer is always right' deference. Having an angry parent storming into their office about a grade is a Very Bad Thing; and if you are the faculty member who put them in this position, that's Very Bad for you.

Another is that in many schools, student evaluations have a lot of importance in assessments of faculty performance. This tends to be less true the better the school, but it can occur anywhere. Moreover, it's a clearly acknowledged fact among younger professors, so even if in a given school it's not true, an untenured or adjunct professor, or a TA, might think it was. One of the drivers of grade inflation is that professors suppose that giving good grades gets you better course evaluations. I have never found this to be true, myself, but you can see how people might think it would be.

When you are an untenured, or worse an adjunct, professor, you are in fact in a pretty vulnerable position. The job market sucks. Tons of very smart, very qualified people end up working a course here, a course there, for a few thousand dollars a pop, ending up with a horrific courseload, near-poverty wages, and delightful drives from one campus to another. Getting a job is a Big Deal. Losing that job is also a Big Deal. And one of the things that can determine whether you keep or lose your job is how your students evaluate your teaching.

Some students don't know this, but I have certainly run into those who do. The vast majority of students, in my experience, are much too decent to try to use it against their professors, but 'the vast majority' does not equal 'all'. I've been very lucky about this: the one time a student tried to zip me with a complaint, I had thought something was odd from the outset, and had therefore kept copies of all that student's papers, with my comments, so it was easy to deal with. (The Dean called me in with a very grim and sober face; when she saw the actual evidence of what had happened, she burst out laughing, so completely ludicrous was the student's actual case.) Also, I've worked at very good schools, and as I said, my sense is that the degree to which this is a problem in roughly in inverse proportion to the quality of the school in question.

As for making fun of things students say: I have a real problem with posting identifiable stuff on the internet, which (I assumed) was why SEK redacted the email. However, I now post here, for your delectation, my collection of amusing sentences from my students' papers, not redacted, all over 5 years old. (I don't think this is a breach of something since these are short snippets without names.)

"Descartes divides the truths into three groups: true, false, and on slim grounds."

"As you know, scepticism results from being a sceptic."

"Kant thinks that all of our knowledge is subject to the bias of space and time."

"Causality produces a necessary connection of one object to another by habit." (From a paper on Hume.)

"Aside from being terribly pretentious, self-righteous, and a trifle smug, Plato has obviously reflected a great deal on the subject."

"Mill's statement, "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied", is certainly very cruel, for a human being who's satisfied with his life is therefore seen like the pig. What's so wrong about being content and appreciating the good things in your life?"

"Berkeley's arguments come in the form of Philonous, who represents Berkeley's voice."

"Although, there is no substantial evidence supporting either side, which makes these ideas philosophies."

I have kept these sentences because they make me smile. On a really bad day, all I have to do is think to myself: "true, false, and on slim grounds", and I start to grin. Was I wrong to post them? If so, why?

"Aside from being terribly pretentious, self-righteous, and a trifle smug, Plato has obviously reflected a great deal on the subject."

What's wrong with that? Would you prefer "Socrates was a jerk who argued by browbeating strawmen?"

Someone who wants to be an academic so much they're willing to falsify a student's grade to keep their job really needs to consider what they're in academia for.

For the 90-odd percent of students who are not White Bread and his/her ilk. And because a frelled-up administration is not a good reason to quit the work itself. Not that I've had to falsify a grade, or had students whine about the ones they got (yet). But I don't expect I'd let one rotten kid and a spineless administration end my career out of a sense of wounded dignity, either.

This doesn't make sense. If most of the letter was made up, why would one attribute it to a specific person or type of person? I mean if the "wonder bread" target is so worthy of ridicule, shouldn't his (or her) words standing alone be enough?

Second, people who slight others by referring to them as "wonder bread" seem to labor under the misconception that sophistication can be demonstrated by eating by eating a whole grain artisan-baked bread.

Last who is more of a whiny twit a) a person who writes a letter like the one above to a professor or b) a professor who makes up most of the parts of a letter like the one above?

lowly_adjunct: But I don't expect I'd let one rotten kid and a spineless administration end my career out of a sense of wounded dignity, either.

If you are willing to falsify the grade of one student because you were ordered to do so or lose your job, you would be willing to do it again. This isn't "wounded dignity": this is a basic principle of academic integrity. The fact that so many people were unwilling to lose their jobs and therefore agreed to falsify grades is, my guess, exactly why it is taken for granted that an administration can tell a TA to falsify a grade, and the TA will.

Again: what exactly do you want to be an academic for, if becoming an academic requires you to abandon the principle that students get the grades they earn?

This argument is essentially the same one in defense of the US Attorneys who went along with the demands the Bush administration were making: it wasn't worth giving up a career just because of one frelling administration demanding they do just one corrupt thing.

If your career requires you to become corrupt, is that the kind of career you want to have?

"If your career requires you to become corrupt, is that the kind of career you want to have?"

While some people may think I went in the wrong direction, this is exactly why I left law firms for the corporate world.

tde: Second, people who slight others by referring to them as "wonder bread" seem to labor under the misconception that sophistication can be demonstrated by eating by eating a whole grain artisan-baked bread.

As anyone who has ever tasted wholegrain homebaked bread knows, this doesn't prove you "sophisticated", when you prefer it to Wonder Bread: it only proves you have functional tastebuds.

Sebastian, in my first job post college, one I had struggled very hard to get and very much needed, my employer told me - five months into the job - to do something dubiously legal and definitely inethical. (No one was directly harmed by my doing it: but I knew it was only dubiously legal, and I knew my employer, who was a lawyer, also knew it was dubiously legal.)

I did it, because I couldn't afford, at that point, to lose the job. I have no business looking down on other people who do the same thing.

But from that moment on, that company had lost me as a long-term employee - I started job-hunting again when I hit the 12-month mark, and moved on after three months.

Since then I moved from corporate sector to public sector, precisely because I've found that working in the public sector means that when I say something is possibly illegal and definitely inethical, I get thanked for pointing this out, rather than glowered at and suggested I shut up.

tde: I mean if the "wonder bread" target is so worthy of ridicule, shouldn't his (or her) words standing alone be enough?

Among other things, it would be a grievous breach of confidentiality to relay them verbatim and, depending on the circumstances, potentially an actionable offense.

Second, people who slight others by referring to them as "wonder bread" seem to labor under the misconception that sophistication can be demonstrated by eating by eating a whole grain artisan-baked bread.

Sadly? No.

[If you're interested in understanding this further, btw, you've got something like eight posts above you explaining, in minute detail, the exact content of the "Wonder-bread" comparison. Based on your post, however, I'm not going to hold my breath.]

Jes: If you are willing to falsify the grade of one student because you were ordered to do so or lose your job, you would be willing to do it again.

You realize that's simply false, right?

The fact that so many people were unwilling to lose their jobs and therefore agreed to falsify grades is, my guess, exactly why it is taken for granted that an administration can tell a TA to falsify a grade, and the TA will.

No, it's because a) there are a lot of people who love to learn and teach who b) are willing to put up with a lot of crap because c) this is what they love to do... and d) have essentially no political or economic power to counterbalance the power of the administration at their university.

What you're arguing here is essentially the same argument that's made when artists are accused of selling out. Sometimes the artist really has violated the core of their artistic integrity; sometimes they should simply throw up their brushes/bows/whatevers and bid farewell to their true profession and become a mindless office drone like everyone else; and sometimes you have to make compromises in order to pay the rent and continue doing the thing you love.

I mean, I know you love a Manichean world, Jes, but really, it isn't that simple.

[As it happens, I've never done that before and I'd probably laugh in the face of anyone who tried to make me... but I also have a union backing me and enough experience and education to waltz into the private sector at will. I can't blame others for knuckling under, though.]

Added in proof: so wait... you once knuckled under and now you're bitching at other people for doing likewise? Sheesh. It's not like TAs give shonky grades recreationally, you know.

I think Harold's Chicken Shack in Chicago used Wonder Bread, which was just perfect for soaking up the grease and hot sauce. Sophistication isn't everything.

Incidentally, "Wonder Bread" in the context above doesn't work in my version of English.

Jes- The fact that so many people were unwilling to lose their jobs and therefore agreed to falsify grades is, my guess, exactly why it is taken for granted that an administration can tell a TA to falsify a grade, and the TA will.

Oh good, next you will be telling us all that it is the low wage worker's fault that s/he is paid so poorly because s/he did not demand higher wages.

"Falsification" is a mischaracterization of what is at work here. When a course director, administrator or ombudsman decides that grades need to be changed (for whatever reason), the grades change. Not sure if a professor has more say in the matter, but for those of us in the demimonde of TA/Adjunct, our grades are subject to approval.

That and most of us make subsistence wages for the privilege of teaching and only some of us get health benefits. Not much safety net there.

If you are willing to falsify the grade of one student because you were ordered to do so or lose your job, you would be willing to do it again.

This is just not true.


One difference between academics and USAs is that USAs take an oath; most academics do not.

You keep using this phrase "academic integrity" as if it were a real thing . . . what exactly is it? Do you have a single definition that all, or even most academics would agree on? Or is "academic integrity" just shorthand for "things that Jesurgislac considers wrong?"


Again: what exactly do you want to be an academic for, if becoming an academic requires you to abandon the principle that students get the grades they earn?

Maybe you become an academic because you want to do experimental physics work, or be a philosopher or a theoretical mathematician? In those cases, teaching might just be the cost of doing business.

Look, falsifying grades is obviously wrong, but it seems not to matter much in the real world. Most companies I work at don't actually look at transcripts for people that have been working for over a year; many of my brightest collegues have no degree.

Frankly, I'm a little disturbed by your implication that corruption is a binary concept where one either is or is not corrupt.

I don't buy this idea that integrity is like virginity, a binary concept that, once lost, is gone forever. Life just isn't that simple.

Oh dear, I've been preempted on the "binary" point. Oh well, I stand by it.

Anarch: you once knuckled under and now you're bitching at other people for doing likewise?

Bitching? Well, I guess. I still feel like crap about myself because I didn't tell my employer "What you are asking me to do is probably illegal" and went through a considerable amount of worry because there was a possibility it would escalate to something that was definitely illegal, and I didn't want to do that. (It didn't, for which I am grateful.)

It is not in fact the "once knuckling under" that I'm condemning. It's the acceptance of it, that both you and lowly_adjunct advocate.

Look, falsifying grades is obviously wrong, but it seems not to matter much in the real world.

*cough* George W. Bush *cough*

Oh, never mind. Clearly, a whole lot of TAs who are determined that there's nothing fundamentally wrong with the system that requires them to acquiesce to corruption are going to out-argue me. I'm right, you're wrong, we're never going to agree, and it's past time I went to bed.

Damn, the last sentence should have had a /sarcastic tag. Consider it inserted at whatever point you feel appropriate.

Jes:

It's the acceptance of it, that both you and lowly_adjunct advocate.

Before you sprain something climbing up the moral high ground any further... You asked why a hypothetical someone would continue to teach if admin asked that a grade be changed. I offered an answer. It does not therefore follow that I "advocate" a pattern of behavior.

The fact that so many people were unwilling to lose their jobs and therefore agreed to falsify grades is, my guess, exactly why it is taken for granted that an administration can tell a TA to falsify a grade, and the TA will.

See, that's the problem here. "Your guess." You don't seem to get much actual power a TA or adjunct has over grades. If someone wants the grade changed, gosh, it'll be changed no matter if I refuse and quit or not.

what exactly do you want to be an academic for, if becoming an academic requires you to abandon the principle that students get the grades they earn?

You do realize that all institutions are not the same, right? Becoming an academic does not, nor does it ever, require one to become corrupt. That's just silly. Working in a particular institution, however, might entail bad administration or dodgy practices. Were I in financial straits when I discovered that, I'd suck it up. Were I solvent and able, I'd seek another institution. At the moment, I am grateful for my union and my course directors, who are decent people.

I would, at no point, consider quitting teaching altogether because of a bad university experience.

Jes,

Everyone who's ever done serious time at a big university knows that the system is corrupt. So what? Do you really believe that there is some magical world where large organizations are not corrupt to some degree, in general? The question is not whether the system is corrupt, but what an individual should do about it.

Do you think the UK government is significantly less corrupt? Do you think the non profit sector is significantly less corrupt?

For that matter, if someone who donated a very large amount of money to a non profit insisted that the nonprofit hire their kid for an internship, do you think most nonprofits would say no?

Do you think any of the many nonprofits who set up refugee camps to help people who had literally committed genocide in rwanda are corrupt?

So, just to stick up for academics: I have known very few people who have changed grades under student pressure. The more common thing -- which is still nothing like universal -- is just to shift the grading scale up generally, on the assumption that this will somehow make you more popular with students, which will in turn somehow help you. Alternately, some people do this because everyone else does, and they don't want to harm their students' grad/med/law school applications by being the only person left on earth who still uses 'C' to mean 'average'.

As I said, I have never found it to be true that giving good grades make you more popular -- I think it's sort of insulting to undergrads, in fact. In my experience they tend to be quite concerned with knowing that they were graded fairly, for better or for worse, than with getting good grades per se.

Nor have I found university administrators (leaving any in my own family entirely out of the conversation) to be particularly bad, or for that matter particularly anything. Offhand, I suspect that academia is less corrupt (using that term in its 'intellectual corruption' sense, not meaning e.g. taking bribes) than a lot of other places. Possibly if I had more experience with big sports schools, I might modify that, but I don't.

The problems, such as they are, come (I think) more from people's preconceptions than from reality. There's the assumption that students will like you more if you give good grades, that administrators will flip out if anyone complains, etc. I think these assumptions are on a par with some students' assumption that what professors really want in a paper is to hear their own views regurgitated: sometimes true, but not nearly as often as people think. (To me, the idea of grading a large number of attempts to parrot my views is horrible -- sort of like that scene in Being John Malkovich where everyone seems to be conversing normally, but is in fact just saying "Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich...")

But as long as people hold these assumptions, some students will try to parrot their profs' views, and some professors will try to ingratiate themselves with their students. Human nature.

Jes: It's the acceptance of it, that both you and lowly_adjunct advocate....Clearly, a whole lot of TAs who are determined that there's nothing fundamentally wrong with the system that requires them to acquiesce to corruption are going to out-argue me.

Wow, did you miss the entirety of the point there.

hilzoy: I have known very few people who have changed grades under student pressure.

Likewise. My friend who was pressured refused, had the grade changed anyway, then sought a job elsewhere at the next available opportunity.

Alternately, some people do this because everyone else does, and they don't want to harm their students' grad/med/law school applications by being the only person left on earth who still uses 'C' to mean 'average'.

Which is what happened to me my first year as a TA, actually. And it's the one legitimate argument in favor of localized grade inflation, much though it galls me to say it. An individual TA or professor simply cannot fight grade inflation by themselves without seriously screwing over their students, which is the last thing any of us want; so as long as there are institutional forces driving an increase in GPA -- I'm looking at you, Business School -- the grades will continue to creep up.

[Of course, the upshot will likely be to add an additional grade level, as the British secondary system did a few years back -- A*? pfeh! -- or to require jobs to put ever-increasing, and ever-more-ridiculous, weight on non-academic qualifications and saccharine letters of recommendation.]

that administrators will flip out if anyone complains...

In my one brush with this, the administrators kind of did flip out. [Not the dean, but the department.] It wasn't my fault -- the median grade on the final was 100% which made it rather hard to meet the Officially Approved Curve, except that the department doesn't exactly recognize the Officially Approved Curve and nobody had told me -- but yeah, those kinds of things really can happen. It was resolved to everyone's satisfaction, though, so all's well that ends well, I guess.

Adding to Hilzoy's and Anarch's note about allowing a degree of grade inflation out of fairness to one's students...the departments I teach for do a lot of work with grade norming in order to try to cut down on fluctuation from one instructor to the next because it is unfair to the students. And the problem is complicated not just by differences between departments and schools and universities, but also between different classes at the same institution. If the classes of 6 years ago were held to lower academic standards, then the students of today have to both fight against the institution's reputation as a lax school and compete on the job market against older alumni with higher GPAs. And if the institution's rep goes up, the older graduate gets a greater rebound effect than the newer one. Corrections have to be done incrementally in order to be fair to the students.

I usually try to mitigate this unavoidable distortion by making a clear distinction between grades and feedback and placing more emphasis on the latter. It's more important that a student know what things they need to work on in order to improve than that they know whether or not their work is "competent" "good" or "superior" according to whatever historical or institutional standard.

Are there a lot of people who rely on grades for hiring decisions? I can see how they might be important for those going on to pursue graduate degrees, but they really do seem useless for hiring decisions.

At least when I'm evaluating candidates, grades don't enter into the equation. Of course, we have the benefit of insisting on code samples from our candidates, but surely analyzing a candidate's work product is more valuable than looking at their grades, right?

Personally, I wish transcripts would include not just a student's grade in a course, but what percentile that grade put them in. I always include that information in letters of recommendation, unless it's downright unhelpful (in which case I usually don't end up writing the rec. But if I were ever in a position to write: "X took my course in Y, in which he received a D, which placed him in the top 90% of the class ..." -- well, I'd just skip the last bit.)

This is one of the more bizarre and overly-outraged threads I've experienced here at OW.

And I realize that's saying a lot.

Really. Lots of you just need to get over yourselves. Von? Is that really you?

Common Sense-- I should probably be clear in saying that I teach a course in the humanities that is requred for majors in my department but not for anyone outside of it and that most of the undergrads who are stressing over the grade I give them are going into education or grad school. I doubt that it matters as much to those who are just looking to get through as long as the final grade does not land them in academic probation.

Are there a lot of people who rely on grades for hiring decisions?

Google supposedly requires college transcripts for potential hires, even when they're interviewing for senior positions.

Then again, lots of things about Google's hiring process are screwy.

Outrage, you say? TIO to the rescue!!

To second hilzoy, I spent the better part of a decade teaching at an institution where the mantra of student as customer was pervasive. And I could imagine some of the administrators there, particularly the less experienced ones, pressuring faculty about grades. But I also know that such an act would be very dimly viewed by the administration as a whole--not least because a documented instance or two of administrative interference in grading could be an issue when renewing accreditation.

Grading pressure tended there, as elsewhere, I think, to be indirect--the central role of student evaluations, annual review discussion of one's grading curve vs. the department's as a whole, an internalized ethos of avoiding conflict with students even when necessary. As usual, the corruption of ideals tends not to come in dramatic scenes of crossing bright lines.

Slarti: How dare you!

Being Dutch (is there an English as a Foreign Language abbreviation too?) and not in academia I must admit that I still recognized the type of student that was mocked. I did not recognize the threat in the email though. I am rather taken aback by how plutocratic the general culture in the US seems to become.

I understood how OCSteve initially reacted to publishing the email (I used to see teachers as authority figures - my single mum only had primary school) but I seem to be in total agreement with Slartibartfest about this thread.

Slartibartfast: This is one of the more bizarre and overly-outraged threads I've experienced here at OW.

Re-reading in the cold light of day: Yeah, you're completely right, and I don't think even TIO can save this now.

Apologies to all.

1. I look at transcripts when hiring. Not for undergrad, but then you gotta have the right GPA to get into a good law school. (If you didn't go to a good law school, don't send me a resume. It's as simple as that.)

2. Jes & MarBel, one thing I wanted to point out to you guys is that the entitlement mentality discussed above (and elswhere) is not at all limited to children of big donors, or people who otherwise have what an outsider would consider genuine clout. Obviously it's individual to a student, but I'd say that it's prevalent well into the middle middle class. Because the stakes are so high, and because administrators can be such weenies.

Reviewing it all in the cold light of day, I stand by the substance of my prior comments. I acknowledge that my tone could have been improved, however.

This is one of the more bizarre and overly-outraged threads I've experienced here at OW.

I was going to say something similar earlier.

lawyers

one thing I wanted to point out to you guys is that the entitlement mentality discussed above (and elswhere) is not at all limited to children of big donors, or people who otherwise have what an outsider would consider genuine clout.

I assumed it would go for all obnoxious elements in 'upper middle class'. We have those too ;) and some even try. You're better off with good arguments though, Dutch don't like preferential treatment.

A short while ago I saw a poll about preferential treatment for medical waiting lists. 90% Felt there should be no preferential treatment for our Royals, Prime minister or top-sporters. 75% felt there should not be preferential treatment for employed people, nor should non-smokers be advantaged. The first feeling that some groups *can* have preferential treatment is when 46% felt that mothers with young children should be helped faster than single old people.

Of course it is still benefitial to come from a white middle-class (or upper middle-class) environment, but the advantage lies more in things like domestic support and opportunities offered.

"Among other things, it would be a grievous breach of confidentiality to relay them verbatim"

What piffle. If you altered the content of the letter such that it could not be recognized by its sender - then you are just making fun of an imaginary strawman and you have fabricated the letter.

If you only made slight changes so that it was not exactly the same letter, then you have utterly failed to protect this confidentiality you now assert.

I hope part of your job is not to teach reasoning skills, because you haven't thought this through at all.

If you'd bother to observe whom you're addressing, tde, you might notice that I didn't post the letter in the first place. I was merely answering the question that you had posed, namely "shouldn't his (or her) words standing alone be enough?" You might also notice that I explicitly said that I felt that the letter should have been more clearly marked as a parody -- which isn't to say that it's a strawman, mind, a distinction I realize may be overly subtle for this conversation -- but, reasoning apparently being your forte, I'm sure you'll get around to it eventually.

Anarch

I don't think I ever said you posted the letter in the first place. Wait - let me check my post . . . . nope never said that.

And the gaping holes in your logic certainly didn't depend on you being the original poster.

But, I guess it's easier for you quibble about the petty rather than addressing the real issues.

Or maybe there is some other reason that you spilled all those words with addressing my post.

Do carry on.

Perhaps you were confused by the fact that I used "you" in the generic sense.

Never seen that before?

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