University of Alabama historian David Beito is in the news again. Last we heard of him he was fighting a lonely, valiant battle to get the American Historical Association to denounce campus speech codes. His latest target is the epidemic of grade inflation, but he’s using a novel approach. From his position as Chair of Alabama’s Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, he’s making an argument that the Left will find difficult to challenge--that grade inflation hurts African-Americans disproportionately.
"Especially on a campus with relatively few black students, when you’re handing out A’s like candy, grades are devalued and we have no way to measure merit. Minorities are hardest hit when they can’t be rewarded on merit."
He is joined in his effort by Charles Nuckolls, Alabama professor of anthropology, who calls grade inflation "a form of theft," since it undermines the value of a grade earned by hard work. Their proposed solution--not particularly original, but praiseworthy nonetheless--is for college transcripts to include, along with the grade for each class, the grade distribution in that class.
That Beito and Nuckolls are to be applauded for this goes without saying. However, I’m skeptical about their prospects for success, up against a student body and a university administration that both benefit from high student grades. What would really help is if employers would come forward and demand an end to grade inflation. If they would point out that transcripts today are virtually useless in identifying talented job candidates, this might have some effect. Educators might sober up by being reminded that the more that grades become unreliable indicators of student performance, the more graduate schools and employers will fall back on standardized test scores in making hiring decisions.