Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Case for Grade Inflation in Legal Education by Joshua M. Silverstein :: SSRN

" marks in the `C' range injure students psychologically. Students perceive C’s as a sign of failure"
Is that a reason to eliminate the grade?  I recall the sting when I got a C in a history course in law school.  This was surely a sharp blow, since I had gotten a master's degree under Howard Zinn, the radical historian, at Boston University.  But I think I deserved the C.  Rather than injuring it made an impression.  Now one man's impression is another's bruise.  But the point was that my paper - on the trial of the French revolutionary Gracchus Babeuf - was a pointless account, a mere recitation, without critical substance, of his brilliant rhetoric and defiance. So for that bruise I am grateful to the late John Anthony Scott who is recognized in this obituary on the site of the American Historical Association, which begins:
John Anthony Scott (January 20, 1916–June 25, 2010), a scholar of history and the law and a leader in history education, died at home in Holland, Massachusetts, at the age of 94. Tony, as we all called him, was variously a teacher, an author, a scholar, and a leader in the movement to make students their own historians. He sought to make teaching a central mission in the American Historical Association and in the life of the profession as a whole.
Tony Scott grew up in London, attended St. Paul’s School, and graduated from Oxford University with first-class honors in Modern Greats. He moved to New York to do graduate work in political science at Columbia University, but following the attack on Pearl Harbor he joined the U.S. army for a four-year stint. His knowledge of several European languages drew him into intelligence work; he participated in the invasion of Normandy and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, receiving a Purple Heart and American citizenship. He received his doctorate in history and political science in 1950.
For 30 years Scott taught history at the Fieldston School in the Bronx. Founded by Felix Adler in 1878 as the “Ethical Culture School,” the school has been influential in the field of progressive education. Scott published numerous books on educational topics. He was a contributor to the Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West: A Source Book, prepared for the contemporary civilization course at Columbia College (1946). That project led to Living Documents in American History (1963), one of the first collections of primary sources for classroom use. How to Use Folk Songs (1969) and Ballad of America: The History of the United States in Song and Story (1967) grew out of an organization whose newsletter Folksong in the Classroom he helped produce.Teaching for a Change (1972) articulated the central principles of the movement for “inquiry” education. Tony Scott was for some time the singer-on-the-green in Old Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts; he was an old friend of Pete Seeger....
...Scholarly volumes on both European and American history are prominent in his list of publications. Republican Ideas and the Liberal Tradition in France, 1870–1914 came out in the Columbia Studies in the Social Sciences in 1951. He edited The Defense of Gracchus Babeuf before the High Court of Vendôme (1964) and wrote Woman against Slavery: The Story of Harriet Beecher Stowe (1978). He published numerous articles on the history of the law in the Rutgers Law Review, Civil Liberties Review, and the Women’s Rights Law Reporter.
A Case for Grade Inflation in Legal Education by Joshua M. Silverstein :: SSRN: Abstract:      
This article contends that every American law school ought to substantially eliminate C grades by settings its good academic standing grade point average at the B- level. Grading systems that require or encourage law professors to award a significant number of C marks are flawed for two reasons. First, low grades damage students’ placement prospects. Employers frequently consider a job candidate’s absolute GPA in making hiring decisions. If a school systematically assigns inferior grades, its students are at an unfair disadvantage when competing for employment with students from institutions that award mostly A’s and B’s. Second, marks in the C range injure students psychologically. Students perceive C’s as a sign of failure. Accordingly, when they receive such grades, their stress level is exacerbated in unhealthy ways. This psychological harm is both intrinsically problematic and compromises the educational process. Substantially eliminating C grades will bring about critical improvements in both the fairness of the job market and the mental well-being of our students. These benefits outweigh any problems that might be caused or aggravated by inflated grades. C marks virtually always denote unsatisfactory work in American graduate education. Law schools are the primary exception to this convention. It is time we adopted the practice followed by the rest of the academy.
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