Wednesday, August 11, 2010

No Mercy Grades

In an article published yesterday, Thomas Sowell wrote:
One of the biggest fallacies of our time is the notion that, if all groups are not proportionally represented in institutions, professions or income levels, that shows something wrong with society. The very possibility that people make their own choices, and that those choices have consequences-- for themselves and for others-- is ignored.
The fallacy that Dr. Sowell indicates here indicates is one of the driving forces behind the modern "liberal" movement, and is representative of their coercive collectivist mindset. Ignorance of, or a willful refusal to accept, the fact that all people are not created equal in ability, potential, personality, or motivation is a factor that leads them to attempts to force certain outcomes on others, or to grant certain outcomes without the requiring the necessary actions.

However, being given a reward that represents achievement does not alone mean that the individual has actually made that achievement. Trophies for kids on a team that lost every single game that season do not mean that those kids are champions, or winners, or successes.

You do the work, put in the time and effort to the maximum of your native potential, and you earn the results.

I try to make this clear to my students. Here is an excerpt from my syllabus.
All students are expected to learn the same material. Regardless of the reason, if mastery of the concepts, etc., is not shown sufficiently, a grade indicating such mastery will not be given. So-called "mercy grades" are incompatible with education at a university, and make a mockery of the efforts of all students, because all students must overcome many difficult challenges as they strive to do well in their classes.
Elsewhere I write
The purpose of this course is educational, not therapeutic or recreational. Thorough demonstration of excellent mastery of the material through assigned work and testing is what earns an "A" grade. Lesser results earn a lesser grade.
I believe that this sums up the results of other activities in our lives as well. We choose our actions, and actions always have consequences, both positive and negative. This principle is vital to our "pursuit of happiness," and is a requirement for growth. Attempts to undermine the function of that principle hinders our happiness, and prevents meaningful growth.

Our actions--and the natural consequences of those actions--are always 100% our own.

1 comment:

  1. Bastiatarian - Excellent post.

    I has a great deal of respect for Thomas Sowell. He is truly a thinking mind.

    The points you make here are absoluting, without a singlular doubt, right on the mark!

    They are concepts taught by my grandparents and parents generation, as well as many teachers during the 50's. With the advent of the sixties it started becoming less and less prevalent to do so. Our nation is paying the price today. - Just one man's opinion.

    It is refreshing to see at least one educator (I know there are many others as well, though you are in the minority) holding to the values that are rationaland proper.

    Thanks for this post!


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