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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Harvard Professor Gives Two Sets Of Marks To Combat Grade Inflation

Harvard University's Massachusetts Hall. (Wikimedia Commons)

Harvard University’s Massachusetts Hall. (Wikimedia Commons)

Harvard University is back in the news for questions over grade inflation. A Harvard professor and longtime critic of grade inflation discovered yesterday that the most frequent mark given at the university is a perfect A.

Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield has long been a critic of grade inflation. He’s developed his own way of trying to combat it: giving students two sets of grades — the one they deserve and the one that shows up on their transcript.

Mansfield discusses his strategy and the issue of grade inflation with Here & Now’s Robin Young.

Interview Highlights: Prof. Harvey Mansfield

On how grade inflation hurts students

“Right now you don’t know what you’re really good at, because you can get an A in a course that may not really be your specialty, or that you should really develop. So students aren’t told the truth, they are flattered.”

“When good grades are easy, people don’t become less concerned with grades, rather they become more concerned. Now in order to get into a good graduate school … you need to have a near perfect record, and that does induce more stress. You can’t find a student who can take a C in stride anymore.”

On professors who are complicit in grade inflation

“What we are missing is a sense of the common good. You can analogize it to a company that pollutes. A professor who gives a whole lot of As is reducing the value of an A for his colleagues and the rest of the faculty … A professor has the right to give the grades he wants, but that’s always been understood with a responsibility that’s attached to it, mainly to see to it that you don’t debase our common currency.”


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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