Before the fiery death of our once-beloved blog, it had come to our attention that Loyola Law-LA had recently artificially inflated all students' GPAs in order to make them more "marketable." (For hiring, at least; woe betide the employer who then has to rely on the new employee)
This story has stuck with me for a few days, because it seems emblematic of many developments in our collective misery.
From students: The lucky students at Loyola-LA have achieved their goal of getting something for nothing. They can walk away with a purchased high GPA that does not correspond to any proven work.
From administration: teachers who penalized students for lateness, skipping exams or classes, trying to argue that George Orwell was a tool of the Obama Administration, drooling through class, or plagiarizing their work have been overruled in favor of our dear customers. Administration goes up in students' esteem, they get more money, they eliminate a few more tenure-track positions and hire more poverty-stricken grad students.
For teachers: this continues the long trend of grading becoming more and more complex and arbitrary. At one of my schools, I am required to prove an average of 85% for any of my course's final grades. Despite the hard-working (or over-slacking) character of any given class, 85% is the absolute must for all averages. Going above that average will result in a completely RANDOM selection of students whose grades are then dragged downward. Going below, and a few lucky stoners will find a B where a C+ once stood.
So what is the answer here? Universities, strapped for cash, need to appear more and more competitive with each other. They must produce students better-prepared for an impossible marketplace on paper rather than informed and educated. We abandon these lofty "higher-purpose" goals of education in favor of straight-jacket numbers.
I suggest that before the universities just return to the ways of the Catholic Church indulgences (or have we already?), the regional accreditation councils step in. Evaluate not just courses and teachers and requirements, but methods of grading as well. Establish that Chicago-area accreditation means that 80% is an average grade, 90% is a very good grade, 95% is an impossibly high grade. Hold all those accredited in that reason to that standard, and threaten to strip them of accreditation if their grades begin inching higher.
What problems am I missing through proposing this fail-safe measure? What are your experiences with artificially inflated/deflated grades?