Letter: The merits of grade inflation

I’m making a case against having grades that are entirely truthful in a student’s transcript. It -- grade inflation -- is fibbing, and as we all know, fibbing isn’t an entirely bad thing.

Employers don’t like to see really bad grades on a transcript.

As Lewis Black’s character in Accepted -- a fictitious university principal -- said, the point of going to university is to get a job. Sure, “ultimately, grades are supposed to be educational. They tell you what you’re good at, what you’re not, what you need to work on and how far you have to go,” according to Dartmouth College student Brian Solomon in 2011. But that education should not impede one from getting a job or moving onto the next stage of one’s adulthood.

Harvard seems to have grade inflation -- its median grade is an A-. Grade inflation is allegedly rampant in the Ivy League, home to the most selective universities in the world. But these are schools that we look to for academic leadership. Why not follow their practice of giving out higher grades than students sometimes deserve?

No one makes blatant mistakes that would land them an F in adulthood. A philosophy professor, who was Ivy League educated, once alerted me to a mistake that I made, which I corrected, that could’ve given me a F on a paper, instead of giving me the F without warning. A professor should rarely give C’s and never an F.

Looking to the practicality of Ivy League professors, educators should be mindful of how their grades impede progress in a student’s academic program. Saying “I don’t care” or “it’s the student’s problem” is irresponsible, regressive (to the mannerisms of an elementary schoolteacher) or even vindictive.

In law school at UBC, I received the second-highest grade in one of my classes’ midterm -- an 89 -- showing that academically I belong with the best in the class. Yet I failed my Real Property class in not one but two exams. These were essay questions where an F could easily be upped to a C or higher at the discretion of the professor.

I left UBC after the first year -- I couldn’t continue taking courses in law school without passing all of my required classes, of which Real Property was one. I was accepted to Columbia University to study premedical sciences, and I moved to New York City.

Grade inflation was alive and well there. I received a few C’s, which were all magically converted to B’s by presumably my advisor, who was a linguist with three Columbia degrees. But the question is, if a triple-Columbia degreed academic isn’t above changing his advisee’s grades to more academically and socially acceptable ones, then why couldn’t my UBC Law professor give me a C so that I would have been herded along with the others to 2L and wouldn’t have wasted $10,000 in law school tuition?

The professor’s probable retort that I didn’t learn the material well enough isn’t a good reason anymore, looking at our counterparts at Harvard and in the Ivy League. Grade inflation in elite academic institutions is the norm and giving no grades lower than a passing grade is expected, even at UBC.