Friday, February 4, 2011

An A- is "Substandard" in my School.........

OK, I always knew SIS used grade inflation. How else can you explain the amount of students who graduate Summa cum laude or Magna cum laude? Granted, many students I know who enter SIS are usually overachievers anyway, but still. On top of that, I am almost always amazed by the complaints I hear about professors. "She gave me a 94 instead of a 95!" (overheard in Ward). "My GPA COULD be a 4.0 if only my professor was fair!" "My professor makes it IMPOSSIBLE to get an A!" It is easy to dismiss these as students with egos bigger than their work ethic and a severe misunderstanding of their problems as compared to their studies (usually involving poverty, war, environmental degradation and security threats). However, you know it's worse when you hear your professors say the following about a short assignment, "If I gave you an A-, it was because the work was substandard and, if you really didn't get it, I gave you a B."

I almost died.

I'll admit, I love getting A's and I will work for them. I want to graduate with a stellar GPA too (also to make up for my premed burnout three years ago). I want to get into those awesome grad programs as well. But I grew up with the understanding that A is for "awesome" and an A or A- was reserved for work that was truly excellent. You didn't get an A because you did what your teacher or professor told you to do. You got one because you went above and beyond what they asked you to do. One of my professors actually has a great quote about this, "If you do everything I ask you to do, you will receive a B, a perfectly fine grade for perfectly fine work," and goes on to say that A's are for those who take it further. That's what I always believed. A's are awesome, B's are good, C's are OK, D's are dangerous and F is failing. Apparently, A's are now good and everything else might as well be failing.

I can understand if my professors thought, "Oh, it was the first assignment and most of the work was actually good," but it still bothers me. Have we become a generation so entitled, so forceful, so convinced that we are deserving of all good things that now people are afraid to give us consequences? Have we become like the auto industry, that is, too big to fail? Have we lost our work ethic so much that we have to get the highest marks for merely doing what we're told? Have we lost a sense of responsibility for our actions or lack thereof?

Finally, if we're all graduating with degrees in IR and plans to go into politics, law, economics and other positions of relative power, what does this mean for the world we are serving? Are we going to shirk responsibilities and only do the bare minimum when it comes to the environment or reducing poverty? Will we still expect our gold stars then? If the answer to these is yes, I am truly frightened, not only for my school but for my generation.

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