Inside Higher Ed today has a revealing story about grading and academic standards. Louisiana State has removed a biology professor who insisted on a rigorous approach to her introductory biology class at the Baton Rouge campus. She gave quizzes at the beginning of every class, gave multiple-choice questions with ten possible answers instead of the usual four (and it takes a lot of additional work to concoct that many answers!) and stuck to a set grading scale rather than curving.
At mid-term, more than 90 percent of the students were failing or had dropped the class. Unacceptable! So out with Dr. Dominique Hornberger and her high standards and expectations. The dean of the College of Basic Sciences lamely says, “LSU takes academic freedom very seriously, but it takes the needs of its students seriously as well.”
Needs? The need to pass a course without much effort? The need to keep thinking they’re good students when they aren’t?
Most Americans emerge from high school thinking that education is just a matter of showing up for enough classes and tests; that shows you’ve tried, and teachers will pat you on the head and give you at least a C. When they run into an occasional college professor who doesn’t look at the world that way, the students get angry or depressed, but seldom rise to meet the challenge. And too often, school administrators take the students’ side, as in this instance and one I wrote about a couple of years ago at Norfolk State.
Many administrators pay lip service to academic rigor, but they’re much more interested in keeping students happy.