In Response to: About-Face on Grading?

After reading the recent “Report from the Ad Hoc Committee to Review Policies Regarding Assessment and Grading,” I was most saddened to read that a “common theme was that the grading policy harms the spirit of collaboration,” illustrated by this passage:

“I have experience[d] multiple negative effects from the grading policy. Because of grade deflation it has been extremely hard to find any kind of collaborative environment in any department and class I have taken at Princeton. Often even good friends of mine would refuse to explain simple concepts that I might have not understood in class for fear that I would do better than them. I have also heard from others about students actively sabotaging other students’ grades by giving them the wrong notes or telling them wrong information. Classes here often feel like shark tanks. If I had known about this, I very probably would have not attended Princeton despite it being a wonderful university otherwise.”

Such a shame! One of the nicest memories of my Class of 1975 days was seeing how quickly my classmates and I sloughed off our high school attitudes of competing over each one-hundredth-of-a-grade-point as we dived into a world of sharing the knowledge and concepts we came to learn, simply for the beauty of learning and applying new ideas and passions. And all this in an environment with only about 30 percent of grades being A’s.

Stewart A. Levin ’75
Menlo Park, Colo.