Policing the Grade

We have the second part of our interview with Dr. Kinshuk this week, where he explains his views on technology and evaluation in the context of learning. One line that really stood out to me is that evaluation should not be policing.

That struck a chord with me because, if you think about how education traditionally works, our current grading system really does serve as a form of policing. If you do not attain the appropriate grades, you are prevented from getting the degree or credential or what have you. Yet having the grades is not necessarily an indication of knowledge. You might know the material extremely well, but suck at tests. You might have the shallowest understanding of the material, but with a little luck and perhaps an all-night study session, you retain just enough to get the passing grade, even though everything is forgotten the next day. And then there are the external factors that affect a person’s grade, as S.D. Livingston points out this week in Primal Numbers, how a person’s looks, grooming, or personality may affect their grade regardless of the quality of work that they do.

This, in a round-about way, brings me back to the idea from last week, that life is fair. If it seems I’ve been on this a while, it’s because I’m currently reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, in preparation for entering the Rand Institute’s yearly scholarship contest. Personally, I have strong objections to most of what I’ve heard about Objectivism, but I’ve never fully read the works, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, which bring most people into the cult of Rand. So far, my reading has revealed that she seems to have a desperate want for life to be “fair”, where those who work prosper with their own self-interest ensuring that things go well, while those who don’t quietly starve and go away. I tend to think Marie Antoinette gave us a good lesson in how neither of those premises are true in reality. Alan Greenspan, former federal reserve Chair in the US is a Rand devotee, and when applying this prescription to the market eventually gave us the financial crisis in 2007-2008, later saying “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder’s equity?myself especially?are in a state of shocked disbelief.”

Honestly, I’m not sure why. As a species and as individuals, humans are notoriously poor at long-term, broad scope vision. So it should come as little surprise when people pursuing their personal, short-term interests will happily do so even if it puts their long-term plans at risk, or is not a positive action if looked at in a broad scope. But, still, as I say this, I know I’ll be writing an essay that praises Rand’s ideas, because, after all, it’s unlikely the Rand Institute will provide scholarship funding for an essay that doesn’t. Doing something for my own self-interest regardless of whether it helps or hinders society in general is very Objectivist, after all. Rand would likely be proud.

But beyond my own rantings, this week, be sure to check out the Maghreb Voices and Travelling Student articles for a look at life “on the ground” in some far off places, plus we have our selection of reviews advice, and entertainment to keep you busy! Enjoy the read!