Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Keep the test, get rid of the grades

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Keep the Test, Get Rid of the Grades

Anyone who hates studying for an exam would agree with Paul Goodman and his essay, “A Proposal to Abolish Grading.” Goodman spent many years teaching at different universities and he graded many students on academic success. Goodman tries to prove that there must be a different way to pass or fail students without having to grade or test them. With different ideas in mind, Goodman makes good points and presents good ideas on how to abolish grading, and increase education. Goodman goes about his argument in a very effective manor, and does a satisfactory job at explaining his points.

Goodman begins with a couple of examples and some feelings from other professors, and also from students and arrives at the conclusion that there must be another way to pass or fail a student. He has no quotes, or statistics, but he was a professor for many years, and has given many grades and exams. The article to abolish grading was taken from a larger article called, “Compulsory Miseducation and the Community of Scholars.” This article was published in 166 so the audience that Goodman was writing to is worried about education today and the future, and ways to improve it. Goodman is only making a proposal to do away with the five letter grades you can receive, A, B, C, D, and F, and he is formulating a way to just pass or fail a student based on the knowledge he or she gained in the class.

Goodman starts by making a point about lazy students. This is one of his best points, and he lays it out to where anyone who has ever had to prepare for an exam can understand it. The point Goodman is making is that a student does not want to learn what he or she does not have to therefore the student is only going to take notes on what is needed for the exam. He does a very good job at explaining this by saying, “If one can establish in the student the belief that one is testing not to grade…but for his own advantage, the student should normally seek his own level, rather then trying to get by” (Goodman 17). Though every student may not admit it, we are all guilty of asking the question, or hoping that another student will ask, “Is that going to be on the test?” Goodman then goes on to explain why this would bother the teacher, and show that the student is only learning what is needed for the exam. I feel that he does not go into enough detail about this subject and he should explain more in depth about why this causes students to lose knowledge.

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However, he does leave a couple of major things out. He has only ridiculed the way students are graded; he forms no ideas about ways to help. Goodman states, “Why should Harvard professors do the testing for corporations and graduate schools” (Goodman 16)? He then goes on to say that this kind of testing is “ludicrous.” His point here is to show that it is not necessary for a college to grade a student when a business is going to do the same. Goodman makes the statement that there are many good kinds of test, and good reasons for testing. Some examples he uses are medical, law, and architecture testing. These types of test are important to see if a person or persons are eligible to perform duties in these types of fields. However when it comes to university students, sometimes the students learn slower, or cannot catch on, so they are weeded out by the test. “If the aim is to discover weakness, what is the point of down-grading and punishing it” (Goodman 17)? Students look at a test as a way to show what students do not know, and Goodman has a good way of explaining this point. This is when students begin to compete, cheat, plagiarize and fake what they do not know. Every student may not be guilty, but it is possible, and it is an option. He uses other professor’s agreements here, which makes it an obvious fact. Although it is a fair ridicule, it hurts his argument when he doesn’t try to fix the grading policy.

Goodman talks about competition a lot in his essay, but has no sources to back up his statements. I think if he would have used other essays or other professor’s opinions in his essay it would have sounded much more convincing. His point is that some students compete for a better grade then another student in a particular class. Once again he brings it back to the point about testing only discovering weakness in students. Webster defines the word grade as a ranking. Goodman fails to explain this, but I think he is meaning that if two students are competing for a grade, and one student receives higher, then it is downgrading on the opposite student, making him feel lower ranked so to speak.

Goodman begins to stray away from his thesis a couple of times. He begins to explain the Harvard admissions test, and how it affects student’s all-around Harvard performance. He then goes into detail about where grading came from. He goes into the medieval universities and compares their grading to the grading in this time period. I do not feel either of these subjects were important enough information to be included in the essay with the topic and thesis he chose. Goodman should have left both of these topics out, and written more supportive facts about his subject of choice. In a short essay like his Goodman should not have strayed from his topic so much as to write useless facts when he was trying to make the audience agree with every point.

Goodman shows some good reason as to why students should not have to be graded on academic success all of the time. Although quotes and sources would have been useful, they are not mandatory with the layout of Goodman’s essay. He uses example after example in trying to support his conclusion, and although he may stray at various times he gets his point across.

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