So long and thanks for all the Bs

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.

In the NY Times. Psychoanalysis follows. “I think that it stems from their K-12 experiences,” says one august researcher.

I have a different theory why students have such expectations: because it’s true. Most professors do give them a B just for showing up.

I think grade inflation is all a bit ridiculous, but this is not a war an untenured faculty member is wise to wage.

Besides, you think this is bad, you should see what top schools let the PhD students get away with…

11 thoughts on “So long and thanks for all the Bs

  1. I wish this was the case in Canada. At my esteemed university, in the 300-level econ courses required for economics “specialists” (it’s like a step up from a major, populated entirely by folks who want to go to graduate school) averages are always C-. I’m taking a second-year linear algebra course which I hear has spit out a D average for four years running. And at the best undergraduate university in Canada, only 10% of us graduate with CGPA about 3.5, which is the cut off to *apply* to top-tier schools.

  2. I don’t think it’s just grade inflation… as a 30-something new academic, the attitudes described in the article seem sympotmatic of an underlying cultural change that horrifies me.

    On behalf of Generation X, I would thus like to officially congratulate today’s young people for having successfully horrified the previous generation, as we did to the generation before us, and all generations before us seem to have done to the generations before them as well.

  3. I’m a PhD in econ, and I’ve been asked for transcripts. Mostly from private employers though.

  4. hey chris fyi: no one cares about your grades in phd programs; not the teacher, not you, and not the prospective employer.

  5. @Anonymous:

    Perhaps here in Chicago A’s are truly hard to get, but it is also almost impossible to fail. I’ve taken college classes here (physics dept) where I know I should have failed, yet I got a C anyway.

  6. Apparently you are not counting Chicago in your sample. I haven’t seen any grade inflation here. Not in the college, not in the PhD programs.

  7. That’s because PhD grades don’t matter. Truman and Don Andrews said that multiple times during out first year classes. That’s what the comps are for :(

  8. PhD grades are hard to compare, though. C is the lowest grade awarded here (borderline top-20), but get two C’s and you’re asked to leave the program; one B-minus and your funding starts to go, and about a quarter of the class lands in that category, it seems.

    Though attrition does seem to decrease markedly as program prestige improves.

  9. Murder. Or at least doing the bare minimum and getting top grades anyway. I had a prof who believed that getting into his esteemed graduate school meant you should get a grade of honors regardless of performance.

    I’m very excited that the job I’ll be starting next fall is at a place where grade inflation is frowned upon. Apparently, students will receive the grades they earn. What a novel concept!

  10. Don’t leave me hanging…what will I be able to get away with when I start my PhD next year?