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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Grade-less Transcript

Elite colleges are planning to stop taking grades into account altogether in the admission process and instead rely on “a list of competencies . . . most of which can be described charitably as character traits or accurately as self-actualization gibberish“.

For instance, instead of reporting a student’s competence in math or English, the new grade-less transcript will show how well he can “exhibit moral courage in confronting unjust situations.” Of course, the definitions of moral courage and unjust situations are highly subjective, but that’s the whole point. There is no better way to bar the hoi polloi from elite colleges than to set as the price of admission the mastery by students, parents and teachers of a social-justicey jargon of the leisure classes. 

It doesn’t really matter how prepared a student is to take college-level courses. All that matters is that she comes from an environment that has mastered the new pseudo-egalitarian language of exclusion.

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19 thoughts on “Grade-less Transcript

  1. el on said:

    I rarely have an emotional reaction to news pieces, but this is simply disgusting. While reading the article, I discovered such policies were successfully used to limit the number of Jews and others, so my instincts were right.

    I am not a social person and being barred from universities because of not showing sufficient “leadership” or “understanding of emerging ethical issues” seems unjust. Also, performing “leadership” and “ethical decision-making” (as I would do) is hypocritical (and therefore a little soul-killing) in a way that honestly working for good grades is not.

    And telling “then don’t go to top private high schools” is no solution –

    “the consortium hopes that public schools will eventually adopt the model and that in the meantime perhaps faculty and administrators at consortium member schools can evaluate portfolios for public-school students.”

    What are universities for? I think they are for developing intellectual excellence for future scientists and workers outside academia. Why are the supposed leadership and ethical qualities emphasized? I mean, if you asked those people directly about the role of academia, what would they answer?

    Fortunately, in Israel we have bagrut (high school) exams and psychometric tests to apply to universities and colleges, and nobody thinks of such insanity.

    Also, you wrote “Elite colleges are planning to stop taking grades into account altogether,” so I thought colleges offered this thing. Only after reading the article I understood elite high schools offer this and want to force all colleges to stop considering grades. Have I understood it wrong?

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    • Hey, I’m with you on being an extremely unsociable teen and young adult who ended up being a pretty great academic. This would exclude or make things very hard for all studious but not smarmy and gabby students.

      Also, imagine teaching a class composed according to this principle. Vastly disparate knowledge of the subject but drone-like similarity in personality types. All the morally courageous and ethical leadership types. God have mercy.

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  2. Depressing, but not surprising. US higher education has been moving in this direction for a long time.

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  3. Only one thing I can say after reading this–WTF?!

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  4. Jonathan Mayhew on said:

    I’ve seen calls for tenure decisions to be made along similar outcomes, like demonstration of commitment to diversity. It is troubling, because if you protest, then that in itself seems to put you at odds with diversity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is so Soviet it’s scary.

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      • Jonathan Mayhew on said:

        Glad to hear you say it. I wouldn’t make that judgment but you were in the Soviet system.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “This is so Soviet it’s scary”

        Soviet would be an improvement, this reminds me more of the cultural revolution in China than anything else (of course not in the same universe in terms of degree, but the same kind of ‘ideology uber alles approach).
        But I’m not far from expecting to see tenured professors carted around in dunce hats and being forced to denounce themselves.

        Liked by 1 person

    • That’s already the case. Most tenure cases can be argued either way, depending on what you want to do. What most want to do is get someone who will float along with whatever the current is. Aren’t secret messages sent from above to your P&T meetings? “Please remember that collegiality matters.” “Please remember that this person’s spouse is an important supporter of the administration.”

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  5. Some economics and epidemiology departments act exactly like that, but this is not official.

    At least, in your case, they are less hypocritical.

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    • When I said two years ago that the new economy doesn’t look for a collection of skills but for a collection of quirks , nobody here believed me.

      What i didn’t fully anticipate was that the quirks would be so rigidly scripted.

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      • I’m not interested by quirks, so I exclude myself.

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      • el on said:

        \ the new economy doesn’t look for a collection of skills but for a collection of quirks

        I still do not see how most today’s jobs require people with quirks instead of skills.

        Or why most jobs of tomorrow would need that.

        The only explanation I have is heightened competition for jobs is leading to attempts to keep the “others” in not top schools away from higher education and any future possibility of employment.

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        • My sister still hasn’t been able to find a receptionist for a very cushy position with a million of perks.

          My stylist has finally given up looking for a receptionist altogether.

          And these are jobs that require zero qualifications. So yeah, heightened competition.

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          • On the subject of heightened competition, today there’s a discussion on various academic blogs and FB about how great it will be when UBI comes and one can quit the job and just sit there. These are mostly tenured people between 40 and 50. Imagine the kind of folks whom they outcompeted for a job. What drive, what work ethic. The winners of this competition dream about living on public charity. Harsh life.

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  6. There are several trends converging here.

    The move from a meritocracy to something approaching a feudal structure, reserving university positions for the children of the elite, regardless of competency.
    The willingness of others to become sheep, to sacrifice ambition and even life expectancy for immediate comfort. We have a cadre of consumers who are risk-averse to an absurd level.
    Related to the loss of ambition is a lack of sense of purpose. That’s part of what makes fighting religious extremists so difficult: the opponents have no focus around which to coalesce.

    Liked by 1 person

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