The Customer is Always Right

BY MAGGIE MCCONNAHA

Once upon a time, some high-achieving students left high school or preparatory school and entered college. Some failed, some did okay and a few succeeded. The end. Now, students are in a new fairy tale, where schools feed the students praise and inflated grades and almost everyone succeeds. College is no longer an adequate measure of character, intelligence or ambition, but is the expected and expensive, next step for many young people.

Today, colleges and universities are run more like businesses than schools. Students are fed high praise: “This is the brightest class to ever walk through these halls! 98% of our students were on the high honor roll!” They are constantly shown brightly colored advertising in the form of statistics: “99% of our students go on to a job in their field within a year of graduating!” And they are enticed by new, shiny objects like a new rec center. Colleges worry that if they don’t make the students feel super special, then they won’t be happy customers.

And this mind-washing agenda does keep the customers happy. Students lose sight of the fact that, in its essence, the purpose of college is to learn more. It’s really not to socialize or have a “growing-up” experience, it’s to learn (not that the other things aren’t important, they are just not the main purpose).

For the low, low price of 16,016 payments of $9.99 students can have it all spoon-fed to them: praise and grades.

There was a time when failing classes was a regular, even normal idea. It didn’t mean that a student was stupid, just that the course was hard. The “normal” grade in classes was a C (“the average”). Now, most students receive A’s and B’s. This is because of an idea called “grade inflation.”

Grade inflation is the modern tendency to give students higher grades that would have received a lower score several years ago. According to US News, the most frequently given score is an A. Because grades no longer really indicate an actual account of student abilities, employers and students alike don’t put much stock into their importance.

There are a few reasons for why grade inflation exists. Some argue that it’s to help students enter a competitive job market. However, once all students start to have 4.0’s, there’s no real point to it at all. It’s high school all over again, where one needs more than good grades to get into the right school (or the right job/internship). In-depth resumes and portfolios are going to become even more common than they are now.

Others worry it’s because some professors who don’t have tenure think students will give bad reviews because of low scores (boo-hoo), so they inflate grades to get better student reviews and a better shot at tenure.

But the main reason goes back to the happy customer idea. Colleges don’t make money off of students who don’t graduate. They will do all they can to push a student through the system, just like in the regular public education system. This is why schools have begun to offer free tutoring services and other programs to help students get better grades. But if that doesn’t help, they’ll often give a student a passing grade for an extra assignment, or the professor will beef up the grade on the last few assignments so the students don’t end up failing.

Fair? No, not really. Even if every student gets inflated grades, they are not getting an accurate idea of how well they are actually doing or how capable they are of doing a specific task.

We need to go back to the system where grades were a reflection of good work and colleges made students feel like they have to work in order to succeed, that they are not entitled to success and it will not just be given to them. Otherwise, students will get lazy, because they know they can get away with it.

College is supposed to be a challenge. Let’s get back to that.

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