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Skeletor

I hate grades

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"Grades are structuralized violence." - caption from a postcard in my profs. office

I hate grades. I had an A- average on my quizzes, an A- on my 1st exam and 2nd exam for pre-calculus. On the final, I get a B-. My whole fucking grade drops down to 86. Fucking bullshit.

You cannot deny that grades say something about a student, no matter if it's true or not. An F and D says that the student is a failure, C that the student is lazy, B that the student is "average" and A, the student is a fucking genius.

Let's say that one student A and another student B have almost equal ability in their math skills. They take a test. Both of them answer all the questions right, but on one of the questions student B blanks out. He may not know how to solve the problem for various reasons. Maybe he didn't think it would be on the test so the day before he skimmed this problem over not giving it much though. Or, maybe his family before him, like his father, mother, grandparents, and great grandparents weren't very educated. Most of them only finished high school while others dropped out. In other words, he never really inherited great genes. He was the first to go to college and the while student B is a smart person, most of it learned and not inherited, he can't really match up to student A.

Student A on the other hand, solves the problem easy maybe because he just happened to study a similar problem the day before. But also, unbeknown to student A, his family before for generations were very educated, almost all of his great relatives have gone to college and so on. Student A is smart because he has inherited good genes helping him in his memory, aptitude, information processing, and other areas that will help him excel in school and some of his intelligence is also learned.

Student B has a A- average but his score on the test is low B. Because the grades are averaged, the outlier score screws him pretty bad.

Student A has nothing to worry about.

Shit, I think I just proved that grades really are a true measure of a students ability. Then, I guess my question is why the hell do we use grades to put labels on people when ABILITY is not equal?

I'm just angry right now cause that outlier grade really fucked me up. If I'm just being a whiny bitch and grading is a holy and vital system to education then please tell me that I am a whiny bitch. No offense taken. I probably am.

Conversation between Alex D and Paul Denton from Deus-Ex: Invisible War

Paul Denton: If you want to even out the social order, you have to change the nature of power itself. Right? And what creates power? Wealth, physical strength, legislation -- maybe -- but none of those is the root principle of power.

Alex D: I’m listening.

Paul Denton: Ability is the ideal that drives the modern state. It's a synonym for one's worth, one's social reach, one's "election," in the Biblical sense, and it's the ideal that needs to be changed if people are to begin living as equals.

Alex D: And you think you can equalize humanity with biomodification?

Paul Denton: The commodification of ability -- tuition, of course, but, increasingly, genetic treatments, cybernetic protocols, now biomods -- has had the side effect of creating a self-perpetuating aristocracy in all advanced societies. When ability becomes a public resource, what will distinguish people will be what they do with it. Intention. Dedication. Integrity. The qualities we would choose as the bedrock of the social order.

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If that 86% was in the numerical analysis class I took, it would have been an A. The professor was from Germany, and he said that's how things were done there. Maybe you should move.

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Jodwin said:

No one is going to give a damn about your grades once you graduate.


Very true. To a large degree, very true.

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Jodwin said:

No one is going to give a damn about your grades once you graduate.

Maybe if you're a liberal arts major.

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Shit, that sucks. 86 isn't a bad grade though, just do better in the next class. Or take it again :P

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exp(x) said:

Maybe if you're a liberal arts major.


As a Comp. Sci student who was going on a coop job search and had top marks -- no one cared. I think I'm the only one, really.

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I hate grades too.

Over here in the UK we have National Diploma courses which can be taken at GCSE and A levels. There are no exams, and it is all coursework-based. They measure student ability using a Fail, Pass, Merit and Distinction structure. Fails are only awarded to students who can barely be bothered to turn up for half their lessons. Passes are generally awarded to good work, merits to very good work, and distinctions to exceedingly good work. To be honest, I think that this structure is far fairer on the students and examiners alike, seeing how there's only four possible results, and the examiner needn't bother with stars, pluses, and minuses.

At GCSE I was awarded 2 passes, 2 merits and 2 distinctions over the course of six units. I was pretty damn pleased - that's equivalent to (I think) two B's at A level, which was pretty much more than enough to get me into Sixth Form.

The IT course I am currently on (but only for a few more months, thankfully) is entirely different. There is a 15-hour exam at AS (Year 12) and a 20-hour one at A2 (Year 13). There are grades, that range from A*-E (passes) and then U, which is the only fail grade. The grade boundaries themselves are pretty fucking tight, with the bottom 40 marks (out of 100) awarding the student a U, and then the grades going up very steeply (every 5 or so marks).

Last year on my exam I was awarded 36. This year I got 35.

Two successive fails.

Academically, I've done fine in IT up until this point. My tutors think I'm very good at what I'm set, and THEY are mystified as to why I am failing by the AQA board's standards. It just goes to show how much the grades system utterly fails to achieve anything it should be.

Further onto that, I know it wasn't just me making a complete pig's ear of the exam. The other students I work with I'm sure are more than capable of getting good pass grades, and everyone in my class is perfectly IT-literate.

Only one guy got above B. The rest of us were D and below. -_-

So we now have to rethink our strategies for applying to universities. Do we omit the bad grade from our CV? Do we look for other courses? Do we stay on at Sixth Form and try to make amends by redoing coursework (what I'm doing)? We shouldn't have to do any of those. AQA should be able to mark papers properly and give us some sort of academic reward based on the amount of effort we put into the course - as they should've promised at the start. I've worked my bollocks off for two years in front of a crappy school computer, doing spreadsheets, newsletters, databases, projects and everything else MS Office-related - and in return, I've effectively been told that it turns out I actually can't use a computer. Twice.

Thanks, AQA, for proving to me just how completely illiterate I am with computers! :D [/sarcasm]

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Grades are my obsession in school and college, and I sometimes annoy others by calculating their scores against mine.

I just know they matter, and this thread may be a proof. My score isn't max, but is acceptable (9.4/10).

For not having enough grades (I had less than 9.6), I was unable to go to the Computer Science college for free, so I chose Electronics instead. It sure beats having to deal with OpenSource/GNU/Linux/Debian/Ubuntu/... programming hobbyists all my life :)

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Looks like the problem isn't grading itself but having strict rules about grades being tied to arbitrary test results.

Thankfully, I have no idea how that works since at no point in my education was I graded that way.

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Cjwright79 said:

As a Comp. Sci student who was going on a coop job search and had top marks -- no one cared. I think I'm the only one, really.

Some employers won't even look at students with a GPA below 3.00, and grades definitely matter for getting into a good grad school.

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Well in my field, grades were of the lowest importance, tending to zero even, after things like personality, attentiveness, and having relevant experience.

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My grades in high school have hovered around 4.0 for a while, but that alone isn't high enough to get into a state college or university in California without paying out the ears. As a white, middle-class kid, I would have needed to take up sports or some kind of community service to receive any scholarship money.

I opted to go to community college instead because it's cheap and close to home. As for General Ed, I took some AP Language classes, so I'm done with freshman and sophomore English already (some of my classmates have already finsihed a year of their undergrad in high school).

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My grades are getting worse and worse, but that doesn't actually bother me much, because they reason that they're getting worse and worse is because the notion of them getting worse and worse doesn't actually bother me much.

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Coopersville said:

Snake taught us that genes do not control our destiny.


Isn't a serpent the archetypal deceiver in the Garden of Eden?

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When I was in school, I'd be passing everything, then I'd get worse as winter goes by, then gradually go back to passing by the end of the year.

Also, your parents could be geniouses and you could know next to nothing. Also, your parents could know next to nothing and you could be a *******. It doesn't matter what your genes are.

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Im at GCSE at the moment.

My parents tell me they dont care what grades i get so long as i try my hardest and im happy, my teachers aren't happy if i dont get at least an A (since i once got 98/100 in a maths test... about 4 years ago, all the teachers think i SHOULD be top of everything) and my girlfriend says i should be trying harder as my current average of A-B isnt good enough (she spends about double the recommended time on anything, still somehow has a decent social life, and gets at least a* in anything.)

im currently getting B's in maths, english and french.
A's in science and geography.
and A*'s in media studies and full course ICT.
...and a D in (obligitory) RE short course.

im quite happy with what im getting now, but almost everyone else says that i should be better. eh.

/life story rant

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Given today's standards (exams getting easier, too many fake subjects taken by too many people etc.) I think I know what the letters stand for in today's A Level (that's traditional education at 16-18 in England/Wales) grades:

A = Alright
B = Bollocks
C = Crap
D = Disgusting
E = Excrement

In short: anything less than A is a one-way ticket to the employment or unemployment scrapheap. (when I finished uni 8 years ago it was 3 C's that was the minimum for graduate employment, when my brother finished 4 years later it was 3 B's...I hate to think what it is now)

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I've noticed a lot of employers and professors around here are no more interested in whether you can build things or invent stuff than your grades. Too many guys are good at getting awesome grades without thinking.

At the college where I am now they don't seem to care too much about grades in some places. Sure, you need at least a 2.6 go get into a co-op work program, but I noticed they were willing to give me credit for university courses where I got a D+. Then we have some instructors who will happily change your grades for submitting corrected work. In the class where I have that happening now it seems the instructor wants us to know how to design what he gives us and everything else doesn't matter.

I see nothing wrong with As and Bs in high school. I got a B in chemistry in grade 12 because I always skipped it to do computer programming. I got 100% in programming. :D

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Skeletor said:

I hate grades... My whole fucking grade drops down to 86. Fucking bullshit.


You love grades.

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Exams aren't perfect, but it's difficult to think of anything which would be a decent alternative. For effective education, you need to be able to measure the performance of the students.

Skeletor said:

He may not know how to solve the problem for various reasons. Maybe he didn't think it would be on the test so the day before he skimmed this problem over not giving it much though. Or, maybe his family before him, like his father, mother, grandparents, and great grandparents weren't very educated. Most of them only finished high school while others dropped out. In other words, he never really inherited great genes. He was the first to go to college and the while student B is a smart person, most of it learned and not inherited, he can't really match up to student A.

When you think about it, neither of these are legitimate excuses.

In the first example, ("he didn't think it would be on the test"), student B is only trying to learn the things that he thinks he needs to pass the test. It's justified that he should receive a lower grade than someone who has studied the subject in greater detail.

The second example ("his family weren't very educated") is no excuse at all. Student B is the student being tested, not the members of his family. The grade that he gets is the result of his own work, just like everyone else in the class. If he chooses not to study as hard because he comes from a family that historically is not very academic, that is his decision, and he deserves a lower mark.

In the past, it might have been possible to reason along these lines if a student came from a poor family and was unable to afford the textbooks needed to study the subject in depth. However, nowadays we have the Internet, so pretty much any information is available that you might need. There are always public libraries, as well.

On a side note, I also think that your reasoning about "not inheriting great genes" is also bunk. This has nothing to do with genetics (or very little, at least). You might learn certain attitudes from your family as you grow up, but if you don't, it's up to you to develop the skills you need for yourself. Being a "smart person" is useless unless you develop the skills and attitude to apply that intelligence.

Then, I guess my question is why the hell do we use grades to put labels on people when ABILITY is not equal?


Nothing about this is intended to be equal or fair. It's inherently useful to be able to identify higher ability people (for university admissions, job applications, etc).

I can think of some examples of legitimate objections to exams. OTOH these would include dyslexia, and panic attacks / phobia of examinations. Most sensibly-designed education systems incorporate coursework modules and not just written examinations. At the university where I studied, students with dyslexia were also eligible to be given extra time to compensate for their disability.

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In the worst cases of students who can't write due to disabilities I've seem them permitted to have someone write their answers for them or use a tape recorder. They let me do that in fifth grade before it was feasible to have me type everything. It became moot when more of the retarded olde conservatives retired and the system stopped caring if we just printed everything we couldn't type.

Fraggle is right. I see three excuses for doing badly on tests: disability, external circumstances (illness, death, terrorists, etc.) and idiots making the tests. Gotta love the ones that cover things not in the course!

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fraggle said:
In the first example, ("he didn't think it would be on the test"), student B is only trying to learn the things that he thinks he needs to pass the test. It's justified that he should receive a lower grade than someone who has studied the subject in greater detail.

The second example ("his family weren't very educated") is no excuse at all. Student B is the student being tested, not the members of his family. The grade that he gets is the result of his own work, just like everyone else in the class. If he chooses not to study as hard because he comes from a family that historically is not very academic, that is his decision, and he deserves a lower mark.


I see your points and agree with them as you have stated them. Let me clarify a few things. In the first example, he actually did go over it. He skimmed it over, possibly doing a few practice problems. Lets say that student A studied the same topic for 30 minutes, while student B studied it for 20 minutes. Heck, would 29 minutes make a huge difference? It's almost the same amount of time. For some reason though, student B blanks out on the test. Why does he blank out? It can't be known. It might be something physical, or whatever known or unknown reasons we have on why people might forget something.

I don't know too much about the connection between genes and intelligence but I'm pretty sure that intelligence is not all nurture. Some of it is nature as well and when I say some of intelligence is inherited, it doesn't mean that student A knows how to do calculus out of the womb. People are all different and some have a better memory, and are able to process information faster than others. Some of these differences are nurture but some of it is also nature.

In the past, it might have been possible to reason along these lines if a student came from a poor family and was unable to afford the textbooks needed to study the subject in depth. However, nowadays we have the Internet, so pretty much any information is available that you might need. There are always public libraries, as well.

I have to disagree with this. Even when resources like the internet are available you still have to pay $50 bucks a month for it, and even if the internet and other resources are available free at the public library, children who live in an area of poverty are rarely surrounded by people or community who might encourage them to pursue their education/stay out of trouble and/or give them support (transportation to the library, money for supplies or bus fare, etc).

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fraggle said:

Exams aren't perfect, but it's difficult to think of anything which would be a decent alternative. For effective education, you need to be able to measure the performance of the students.

Only if the exam is a proper exam that allows students to present their knowledge as required by the teacher, and not some dumbed down standardized test which can only show how good a student is at preparing for such tests.

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Skeletor said:
I have to disagree with this. Even when resources like the internet are available you still have to pay $50 bucks a month for it, and even if the internet and other resources are available free at the public library, children who live in an area of poverty are rarely surrounded by people or community who might encourage them to pursue their education/stay out of trouble and/or give them support (transportation to the library, money for supplies or bus fare, etc).

Yeah, fully free and public universities tend to be more useful to the more well-off because they have the resources to follow a career or are associated with people of learning from a young age. Often, people have all or most of the data they need before them yet can't take advantage of it due to issues or a lack of preparation to use it well. The only way to counter that in general is with policies that guarantee a good degree and high level of universal education. More and well-used funds for public education, especially. While sometimes it can be improved, you can't really do much by just tinkering with the grading system.

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Skeletor said:

An F and D says that the student is a failure


You're obviously not in college yet. The only failing grade is an F, which is below a 60.

And you're making "just" an 86 in your pre-Calculus class? Dude, I'd have killed to get that good an average...in ANY math class! Seriously, what's with people who aren't satisfied with themselves when they're doing not only just fine but damn near perfect?

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Texas Libra said:

You're obviously not in college yet. The only failing grade is an F, which is below a 60.

The college of engineering at my university considers a C- or lower in math, science, and engineering classes to be failing. If you don't get a C or higher, you have to retake the class. I think the college of science has the same policy.

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