Phi Beta Cons

Passing at Princeton

Princeton’s very salutary step toward reducing grade inflation was the subject of a recent report in the Newark Star-Ledger. The school mandated that A’s constitute no greater than 35 percent of grades awarded in given classes. Princeton instituted the policy at a point when A’s constituted 46 percent of grades awarded. If this wasn’t a surfeit I don’t know what is. It seems an excellent step towards restoring some meaning to an A, sadly devalued in decades of, as the article elegantly puts it, “upward meandering of grades.” Many commentators have written on the problem of grade inflation, yet individual professors were hobbled in their responses for fear of harming their students. Harvey Mansfield, for one, spoke of his policy of awarding a “genuine” grade and then another aligned with inflated reality. University-wide institution of policies frees professors from such a need – and also provides a clear model to grad schools and employers that their A’s really mean something. If only this trend could prove so infectious as the end of Early Admissions.

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