I'm teaching a "writing for scientists" course this term, my first in some time. On one level, I enjoy it; I've always liked science myself, and my students are lively, genuinely interested in their chosen fields of study, and idealistic, dedicated to helping everything from people to animals to the environment. They get to pick most of their own topics and sources, and I'm happy to learn more about the ones they choose.
But I'm also reminded of why I stopped taking science courses in college: they are so, so grade-focused, interrogating every decision on a rubric that adds up to a grade worth less than 10% of the final. Of course, there's a reason for that: many of them want to pursue medical careers of one kind or another (nurse, veterinarian, doctor to humans), and they're keenly aware of the competition for the slots in the relevant graduate (and, in the case of nursing, undergraduate) programs, and the minimum GPAs necessary to have even a shot at admission. But they don't seem to understand that if I and other undergrad proffies were to set up a system where everyone could get an A if (s)he worked hard enough (the approach one of my students suggested today would be "fair") , then the medical/nursing/vet schools would have to come up with some other weeding mechanism, most likely a very-high-stakes one-day test.
I tried explaining that, when initiating a conversation with a professor in whose class you hope to raise your grade, it's best not to lead with "why did I lose points on this, and this, and this?," but they honestly didn't understand the difference between that and asking "how could I improve this when I rewrite it?" And they have a lot of trouble with the idea that fully satisfactory work earns a B, with As going to work that goes above and beyond in ways that I can't necessarily define until I see it.
Q Has anyone found a good way to explain why everybody shouldn't get an A to students facing stringent admissions requirements, or to students, period? Should I even try? Should I just give all the complainers As (or A-s, or B+s) lest they torpedo me on the end-of-term evaluations?