We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
The grades I just issued in my post-calculus, differential equations course – a sophomore math offering taken mostly by engineering students—followed the usual bell-shaped curve, roughly 10% A’s, 20% B’s, 40% C’s, 20% D’s and 10% F’s. The complaints came more from the D students than from the Fs.
Well, there is no reason to believe that a Gaussian Distribution is appropriate at this level, so the prof's initial premise is wrong. Far up the curve, where this class and these folks certainly are, there should be more B's than A's, more C's than B's, more D's than C's and more F's than D's.
Only partly kidding. The students did do something to even get into the school/program/class are thus are not a random sample. Still...
Assistant Village Idiot
I agree - why is Gaussian assumed to be the correct target distribution? I've always believed there was a bare minimum of demonstrated knowledge required; below that minimum you fail. Case-by-case decisions needed for D's and F's, not a curve. DiffEQ is a tricky subject for many, and it's entirely believable that this sophomore class would yield many failures. For me the light went on when I left the Boyce and DiPrima class textbook and found a book that was easier to understand. Decades later I still use that approach when learning anything new - find the easy introduction to get oriented, then get as complex as needed.
I remember struggling through DiffyQ. But I was a math major. The engineering majors had different sections. It was hard slogging and I was proud of the solid B I earned. And I learned a lot. The came Diff EQ II. Wow!! I eventually earned a B, but that course convinced me to move into the symbolic logic/set theory path and away from the applied stuff.
As far as I can recall [it was a long time ago] the was no cure as such, just points to be earned toward a known grade. No extra credit, either. I doubt there were an grades of F unless someone quit attending. Mostly B and C.
A "D" in diff. equations is a strong suggestion that you're enrolled in the wrong major. A refusal to repeat the course is a stronger sign. Best to cut your losses and choose a field that's more within your abilities. Engineering isn't for everyone.
To use the Gaussian Distribution or not to use the Gaussian Distribution is not the question. Nor is it really about how many students may be pursuing a field of endeavor they are not prepared for.
The point of the article is about how many students expect to succeed, even when they fail. Americans have been trained to expect passing grades. They see it as a right.
Where and how did this become the norm? Oh, maybe by observing how quota systems work? Maybe by experiencing the virtue of privileges extended on the basis of skin tone and gender? Why should grades matter if everything else is distributed according to the rank you hold in the disadvantaged/abused/victimized/entitled/minority sweepstakes?
Agreed - by far, that was the point of the article (which I read AFTER getting sidetracked by the Gaussian distribution in the Maggie's Farm snippet). I think the cause may be in part what you wrote, and also in part the "everybody wins" mindset.
Agree also. Mine was a tangential (though I think worthwhile) point. I do favor a "at least reach the minimum necessary" approach. An experienced professor knows what you will need to move to the next step. There may be more folks who reach that threshold one year than another. Those should pass. If all make it, fine, if none, also fine. Though, as a practical matter, a few years in a row that look unbalanced might suggest a reevaluation. As for the student, the point should be that the standard should be reached.