To Grade or Not to Grade, That is the Problem
- Whatís your GPA (Grade Point Average)?
- Have you taken this course before? What did you get?
In his essay The Farce Called "Grading", Arthur E. Lean questions the use of asking these kinds of questions.
Grades have become part of our lives as students. People need a grading system and "seem to assume it to be
necessary and intrinsic to the process of formal education"(Lean 131). He refers to the grade as "a symbol
purporting to express a measurement of academic achievement-an evaluation of the quality and quantity of
learning"(Lean 132). There are two main arguments Lean has suggested. First, there is an inconsistency from the
graders. Second, he sees the grading system as being unfair and even harmful for studentsí attitudes toward
education. He points out that grading system should be eliminated. To backup the fact that many people are
challenging the necessity of the grading system, Lean provides two examples:
"A sustained effort should be made to throw out false inducements to learning. In one way or another most of these
refer to our obsession with gradesÖ. As a system for evaluating attainment of broad educational aims, it remains a
failure. Few teachers have any systematic idea of how to grade fairly. Grading is also the chief villain behind the
scandal of college cheating," said Louis T. Benezet (Lean 130).
"I have long ago reached the conclusion that the marking system itself is damaging in its impact on the education of
our children and youth, and that it should go the way of the hickory stick and dunce caps. It should be abandoned at
all levels of education," said Ernest O. Melby (Lean 130).
I agree with Lean to some extent that there are some inconsistencies from the graders and perhaps some unfairness
occurred to many students. On the other hand, I am not sure that the system is totally harmful for studentsí attitudes
toward education. Also, given the fact that the grading system is a very useful instrument for both motivating and
measuring studentsí academic abilities, the system is still essential to be kept.
There is an inconsistency between markers for grading term papers or open questions that I agree with Lean. On his
example of several teachers marking the same paper, "invariably the assigned grades on the same theme ranged all
the way from A (excellent) to E (failure)" (Lean 132). Although many professors might say that point of view would
not be graded while they try not to be biasing, there is no guarantee that a professor would not give a lower mark to
a paper because s/he may disagree with some parts of the essay. As a former English class student in grade 12, I
notice that my teacher tended to be prejudicing on non-native English writersí papers. The reason I said that was
because there is a big grade difference if our papers were marked by another who had not met the writers before. A
professional marker who was hired by the English department graded one of our term papers every term. Generally,
the non-native English writers received significantly higher marks than th!
ey do when our class teacher is marking. The average differential marks for non-native English are about ten
percent. As for native English writer, the differential marks are not very much.
It is true that the grading system can hardly be absolutely fair. Actually, "most teachers try to be fair and accurate in
their estimate" (Lean 133). One teacher who grades a work accurately doesnít suggest that the other teachers would
do the same. However Lean claims that "all the time they know--at least, those who are honest with themselves
know-that they are attempting the impossible. No self-respecting teacher ever rests peacefully the night after turning
in a set of grades, for he knows that the "system" has made a charlatan of him and he goes to bed and hating himself
for it" (Lean 133). I donít agree with the way Lean is questioning the teachers since their role is to act as a "judge"
on studentís work. There is a difference between being unfair and conforming with the system. A teacher who gives
the best suitable grade to