Elsewhere on this site, Roberto A. Ferdman notes that the most frequently awarded grade at Harvard College is an A, while the median grade there is an A minus. “That ought to dispel any notion that Harvard is tough on its students,” he wrote. “Grade inflation may be a victimless crime, but what is the point of having a range of grades if half of them are A- or higher?” I think I have an answer.
Ivy League educational institutions attract a disproportionate share of grade-obsessed overachievers. These young people are extremely driven, aren’t in need of external motivators to learn, but often react to the grading system by gaming it: that is to say, they engage in cut-throat competition with classmates rather than helping one another learn; they manipulate teachers; and they choose earning a higher grade rather than learning more when there is a tension between the two. Their compulsion to succeed as others define it and their sheepish failure to prioritize higher-order benefits with their time at college perhaps makes a grading system based on obvious inflation the best option available.
What’s the cost of grade inflation?
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Yesterday, we ran a story about a rather astonishing fact that the Harvard Crimson uncovered: The most common grade at Harvard is an A.
To a lot of readers, this high-grades bonanza is a symptom of today’s “cult of self-esteem.” Kids these days—especially high-achieving kids who end up at elite colleges—are so conditioned to expect praise that they fall apart when they face failure. Harvard perpetuates the cult by patting its students on the head rather than truly challenging them. “Everyone gets a trophy,” Ryan Foster tweeted in response to the story. “Everyone is special!,” wrote Caspar Melville.
Not everyone was so quick to criticize Harvard.
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University of Cambridge academic James W. P. Campbell and Will Pryce, the award winning architectural photographer, have spent the last three years visiting 84 libraries in 21 countries, compiling a history of library design from the ancient world to the present day. The Library: A World History covers the development of university libraries across the world, as well as public and private libraries. Here we provide a selection of key moments in the history of the development of academic libraries.
While we speak of libraries everywhere being under threat, university libraries are coping with ever greater quantities of printed material created by the digital age. Architecturally they are changing, too.
In the latest Economics in Plain English, Derek Thompson looks at why the rising costs of college is more complicated than they might seem.
"We receive more research funding than almost any other university in the world,” Michael K. Young, the president of the University of Washington, crowed during his annual address to the school’s community in October. His enthusiasm seems justified: Research money has become a main source of lifeblood in higher education, especially at science- and technology-focused schools like the University of Washington. While donation dollars contribute to many aspects of university life, including student scholarships, government grants and private fellowships exist to support professors’ intellectual pursuits.
As schools pursue this kind of funding, they face a fundamental question: Should universities strive to produce research that has real-world applications, like the anti-aging drug development process that became the core of a start-up called GenetikSignal? Or should universities focus on basic research, like investigations into the neurological damage that can be caused by pesticides? Although these two ideas aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, they are at tension, especially when funding is limited (which is always). If one lab’s work might lead to the creation of new start-up while another only hopes to solve a theoretical problem, which deserves to get money?
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Oregon wants 80 percent of its adults to hold a college degree or postsecondary certificate by 2025. To meet that goal, lawmakers are focused on making college more affordable—whether that means increasing funding after years of budget cuts or rethinking tuition payments altogether.
Currently, about a third of students in the Beaver State don’t graduate from high school on time—or at all—and just 61 percent of graduates immediately head to college. A third of Oregon students are nonwhite, and half of students are low-income.
State and local funding for higher education dropped by 32 percent between 2007 and 2012 even as enrollment jumped by 36.2 percent, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. Unsurprisingly, Oregon students are paying 18 percent more in tuition and fees than the national average, and students’ debt loads are soaring.
Here are three ideas kicking around the state Legislature that would make college free, or much cheaper, for Oregon’s increasingly diverse student population. If the state can successfully pilot these concepts, they could catch on nationwide.
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Imagine walking along a road past a pond, when out of the corner of your eye you see a toddler boy flailing about in the water. You quickly look around. There is no other adult in sight. If you don’t jump in to save him, no one else will. He will drown. You know what you have to do. You dive right in and drag the drowning toddler from the water.
But what if that little child were drowning—proverbially—half a world away? What would you do to save him then?
This is one of many questions Peter Singer, an Australian professor of bioethics at Princeton University, asks undergraduates during his popular semester-long course on practical ethics. The lecture course covers euthanasia, animal rights, infanticide and abortion, effective altruism, and other weighty topics.
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In a few days, many college freshmen will be going home for the first time since August. They’ll retreat to what is comfortable – spending time with family, old friends, and for some, a high-school sweetheart. Thanksgiving will also be a time for big questions, particularly for those freshmen still in high-school relationships. Did they take advantage of their first three months in college, or did they lose out by spending too much time on Skype? During their first trip home, freshmen have to decide whether they stick it out with their first love, or succumb to what is known as the “Turkey Drop”— the phenomenon of high-school couples breaking up when they come home for their first Thanksgiving.
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One hundred dollars.
This is all that stood in between my aunt Gwen and the 1960 Olympics and a college degree. Following her senior year of high school in 1956, Ed Temple, the legendary coach of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Track and Field team, invited Gwen to the prestigious summer training camp at Tennessee State University. Her roommate there was Wilma Rudolph, the fastest woman in the world and first African-American woman to win three Olympic gold medals.
Over Christmas dinner last year, Gwen told the family how Coach Temple had offered her a scholarship to cover most of school, but that she’d need to come up with the remaining $100 on her own. That amount may sound small—about $900 in today’s dollars—but it was insurmountable to my grandparents, who were sharecroppers in the Deep South. It wasn’t that they didn’t value an investment in the education of their eldest daughter of eight children; it’s just that they couldn’t afford it.
In 1956, there was no such thing as federal student aid. And in the Jim Crow South, blacks below the poverty line had little to no chance of being approved for a private loan. So instead of standing on the podium collecting Olympic gold with her Tigerbelle teammates from Tennessee State, she spent decades in Newark and Boston working hourly-wage jobs.
It’d be nice to think federal student aid programs were originally created to help indigent students access the opportunities afforded through higher education.
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