Saturday, March 27, 2010

* GRADING: Artificial, Bankrupt, Sadistic System

YCC wants to expand Credit/D/Fail
Science professors skeptical of proposal to open option to distributional requirements

By Greta Stetson
Staff Reporter
The Yale Daily News
Published Wednesday, March 24, 2010

If the Yale College Council has its way, the science gut may be an endangered species.
The YCC is beginning to discuss and gauge student opinion about a possible policy change that would allow students to fulfill their distributional requirements with classes taken Credit/D/Fail. YCC President Jon Wu ’11 said the council is currently in talks with administrators, including Yale College Dean Mary Miller, but the council has not taken any concrete action. If the results of the council’s recent policy survey, distributed by e-mail Monday, demonstrate enough student interest, he said, the...

#1 By '10 6:19a.m. on March 24, 2010

Science professors won't support making things more reasonable, students won't take GPA-killing classes. Seems we've reached an impasse.

For the record, I'm content with History of Life. It's too bad Porn in the Morn lost its Sc though.

#2 By 2010 8:10a.m. on March 24, 2010

A great initiative! I would definitely take a real math course instead of a worthless gut, where I learn nothing AND get frustrated.
#3 By CC 10 12:05p.m. on March 24, 2010
Great...because everyone needs a 3.8.

I think the thing that would happen in reality, if this reform comes to pass, would be people (cocky Poli Sci majors with 3.9 GPAs) taking Porn in the Morn or whatever C/D/Fail, which would be the opposite of what we would be aiming for.

#4 By 2010b 12:07p.m. on March 24, 2010

A better alternative would be to reinstate a core curriculum that would require everyone to take the same difficult science classes...then, people wouldn't need a 3.9 to get a job in banking because people wouldn't be as able to game their schedules in order to get the highest grades possible, without actually taking rigorous classes.

#5 By science2010 2:34p.m. on March 24, 2010

Remind me what's wrong with the current system? Hopefully, the professors don't budge on this issue.

Just keep revoking distribution credits for guts, encourage departments to offer non-major classes that are widely interesting and challenging (i.e., that aren't just the pre-major classes that are overly technical for non-majors).

#6 By Naive 3:00p.m. on March 24, 2010

It would be naive to think that nonscience majors would use this to take difficult classes. They will in reality use this to take easy but tedious classes and do no work. And here's the other thing: do we want nonscience majors to get credit on their transcripts for taking "difficult" science classes when in reality they did nothing and would have gotten a C- in them anyway? Also, totally unfair to science majors to allow humanities majors yet another way to keep their GPA sky high. The whole point of the distribution requirements is to ensure that kids are exposed to different fields. Using C/D/F on these defeats the point - either get rid of the reqs or make kids take them for grades.

#7 By 10 3:03p.m. on March 24, 2010

I think that this initiative unfairly favors students in liberal arts majors. Science majors take humanities classes that are filled with actual History and English majors and are expected to handle it.

#8 By Yale Engineer 4:13p.m. on March 24, 2010

All non-engineers are going to fail engineering classes anyhow.

#9 By Faculty 4:17p.m. on March 24, 2010

We should stop pretending that Yale actually awards real grades. With the current Cr/D/F, most students can opt out of work on most of their courses. And in most departments outside the sciences, most grades are A and A-. We do a lot of work, and students stress a lot, over an outcome that is just meaningless.

Of course, we could go back to real grades...

#10 By 2011 4:44p.m. on March 24, 2010

This is a horrible idea. I doubt that people who are already not interested in the sciences would see this as an opportunity to take more difficult science classes as opposed to slacking off.

#11 By derr 5:02p.m. on March 24, 2010


The offerings of non-science classes are wide and diverse. Plenty of guts from which to choose.

But science offerings are tiny, often with barely coherent professors, with unrealistic expectations for prior knowledge and preparation.

Any clown can show up to a history class without prior study and do well. The material is accessible to anyone with a brain.

I never took high school physics. If I try physics at Yale, I will fail. You can't learn the basics fast enough to catch up. The material is only accessible to those with prior training.

#12 By MC'11 5:29p.m. on March 24, 2010

Thanks everyone for calling out the foolishness of this initiative. I had a lot of comments, but #5,6 & 7 said it all already.

I'm really glad they made all classes open for Cr/D/F. But let's hope this one doesn't happen.

#13 By SY '10 7:17p.m. on March 24, 2010

As a history major, I have to agree with those who think this sort of change would be terrible. There are good, non-gut science classes out there that are accessible to non-science majors. In fact, two of my favorite classes at Yale were science classes - Ornithology (E&EB 272) and Galaxies and Cosmology (ASTR 220 - not a total gut like the 100-level Astro courses, in fact, it even counts toward the Astro major). Most humanities majors are simply not interested in spending any time on a science class - it's not that the non-guts will lower their GPA, so much as that they don't care to put in any effort, so they look for classes in which that is a possibility.
Yale, rather than allowing distributional requirements to be taken CR/D/F, should do what commenter #5 suggested - take away distributional requirements from guts and from SC classes with little science content.

#14 By '12 8:54p.m. on March 24, 2010

Seems to me like the solution is simple: allow CR/D/Fail for distributional requirements in most classes, but certain guts (History of Life, Geometry of Nature) must be taken for a grade if you want distributional credits. Or just have professors who don't want their easy classes to be taken advantage of make CR/D/Fail not an option in their classes.

#15 By Yale '08 8:57p.m. on March 24, 2010

"Any clown can show up to a history class without prior study and do well. The material is accessible to anyone with a brain."

Yeah right. Math is a language. So is English. I know so many students who stick to hard sciences because they can't actually think, argue, and write well in a humanities/non-science class.

And every field, whether physics or english, has a method and process. You will NEVER get that A or A- in an advanced-level class unless you have the analytical training that that field demands.

Don't get all science-superiority complex on us.

#16 By physics major 9:45p.m. on March 24, 2010

@11- There are four intro physics sequences designed for students with all levels of prior preparation. Most of them are also pretty well taught. Maybe if you try one you will be pleasantly surprised.

I think one of the problems with science classes is that, frequently, the most interesting, relevant classes are advanced classes with multiple prereqs (quantum mechanics, for example). The more rigorous intro classes are not so much too difficult as too dull. This is a problem, but allowing students to take these classes Credit/D is not the solution.

#17 By y12 12:00a.m. on March 25, 2010

This is a horrible idea. How do you think this will affect Yale's reputation in the sciences and engineering (which is already far below its peers)?

#18 By '11 1:34a.m. on March 25, 2010

How about offering more writing credits? There are wayyy more science and QR classes to choose from than writing credits...

#19 By Recent Alum 2:01a.m. on March 25, 2010

Credit/D/Fail should not be allowed. What we need instead is to come back to a standard curve (30% A/A-, 50% B+/B/B-, 20% C) that would apply for ALL classes (science and others).

#20 By alternate idea 9:28a.m. on March 25, 2010

I think this idea is a terrible one for reasons stated above. I think what's lacking is not access to higher level science classes, but the equivalent of classes like Astro 160 (a mildly challenging, but maximally interesting Astro class that's NOT OPEN TO SCIENCE MAJORS). There should be classes in the humanities and social sciences that are not open to majors, granting quantitively minded students access to such topics without being forced to deal with the curve.

#21 By Yale '11 11:48a.m. on March 25, 2010

A standard curve is a terrible, terrible idea. What makes you think the top 8-9% of applicants to Yale would show enough variation in performance, relative to the objectives of the course? And in any case, this variation wouldn't be consistent enough across courses to impose an artificial grade distribution. It is perfectly possible, for example, for all students in a language course to perform at an A level and they should get that A. I'm all for professors demanding a lot out of their students and grading them hard, but all an artificial grade curve does is make people work harder on less important things. The difference between an A and a B shouldn't be whether you spent that extra hour memorizing unnecessary details.

That said, YCC's proposal is s terrible idea:

1. Intro science classes are simply too bad. If they are for non-majors, they tend to be frustratingly stupid. If they are pre-major courses, they tend to be too technical and require far more work (read: pointless memorization) than actually does any non-majors any good. (Which is not to say that they're intellectually demanding or difficult. Science people, understand the difference.)

2. The kind of people who are so concerned about their grades that they are not willing to take classes they find interesting (a strange breed of which I have heard much and seen nothing) are not likely to invest enough time in a CR/D class to make it worth it. If we are concerned about intellectual integrity and the quality of this education, this mentality should be fought, not accommodated.

#22 By The Contrarian 12:21p.m. on March 25, 2010

Back in the day of the much-maligned "Gentleman's C", it was not uncommon for someone with a grade of say, 92 in a French course to get a C. With a real curve, I do wonder how well the Science Whiz-Kids would fare.

#23 By Yale 08 1:56p.m. on March 25, 2010

@19 -- right on, grading standards across departments and certainly across disciplines are wildly inconsistent at present

#24 By YC07 2:13a.m. on March 26, 2010

Two can play the "I know many people who did this" game. Let's get real here, you can BS your way through a history or English class. I've seen my friends do it over and over again. I was a science major and got somewhat proficient in the "art" of BS myself. On a few occasions, I semi-BS'ed my way on history papers and got A & A- the way I cannot BS a science test and pull off an A or A-. You simply can't do that for math/science classes, even the introductory ones. I'd love to see someone BS their way to an A in Math 120, but all i had seen was a ton of suffering.

Surely, you are right that there are math/science majors who can't write a coherent paragraph, but you can be damned sure that these "science nerds" earned their A and A-, from the intro classes up to the advanced ones. The same can't be said for quite a bit of group I & II kids.

#25 By A Bankrupt, Sadistic System 3:52p.m. on March 26, 2010

Does anyone who gets a divorce ever say "I FAILED marriage?" Or does anyone who gets cancer ever say "I FAILED health"?

Why do we mindlessly accept this artificial construct called "Fail" which exists only in academia and does untold damage the the psyches of millions of children all over the world? It is almost sadistic.

It should be replaced with NC for "No Credit".

Even "bankruptcy" isn't a "fail". Quite the opposite these days with Chapter Nine.

There is no failure in the "real world", (except perhaps "failure to thrive") so let's abandon "Fail" as a descriptor in the artificial world of academia.

The Anti-Yale

No comments: