Affects of Competition in Higher Education
Students at Princeton University upset about a new policy that puts a cap on the number of A’s that can be received in a given class (35 percent).
This policy was put into effect in order to combat grade inflation at the school. Students are worried that this will affect their relationships with fellow classmates-turned-competitors.
Well, Princeton, welcome to our world.
UCI students have endured grade caps and curves for years. We have never even had the luxury of becoming chummy with classmates, many of whom roll their eyes if you dare ask to look at their notes.
We are in a competitive school that is preparing us for a competitive world. And while it might not seem like much fun right now, in the long run, we’re better off for it.
Also, isn’t it about time that some universal grading standard for colleges is applied?
Not only do biology students at UCI who are applying for medical school have to compete with one another for top grades, they also have to compete with students at Harvard, where over 90 percent of students graduate with some form of honors, according to an MSNBC report. How can it be an honor if everyone gets it?
In all fairness, every college needs to apply grade caps and curves in order to ensure that graduating with honors actually means being at the top of your class.
Why? Because in the future do you really want to put your life in the hands of a doctor who is simply average?
Why are some courses structured to ensure that a certain number of students fail while others ensure that a certain percentage of students are given passing grades regardless of mastery of class material?
Grades are intended to measure a student’s understanding of course material. Why should we measure against other students in the course and not against some objective standard? When one goes to the hospital, who cares if the surgeon performed better in school than 90 percent of his or her classmates? Isn’t it more important that he or she is able to do the job?
Not all random distributions form a bell curve, especially when the sample population does not reflect a random sampling. Since much of the college admissions process is based on success in lower levels of academia, college students are likely to have more refined study habits and a better ability to absorb information. It is likely that their grades will not fall into the predictable pattern of a bell curve and instead lean toward higher grades.
Grade curves only encourage students to perform better than their classmates. This creates an artificial sense of competition in lieu of a collective effort to understand course material.
While entry into most job fields is extremely competitive, teamwork is integral to most jobs. An office is not a mere collection of people working independently for distinct objectives. Grade curves undermine the drive for group success.
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