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Grades and the end of the quarter

You knew it was coming. It comes every quarter. But predictability doesn’t make it any easier. Every time we approach grades, I often end up asking myself existential questions. Why? What’s it all for? What do grades mean anyway? The wherefore hits home when one considers that although we classical educators philosophically oppose scienticism and modern education, many of us still use grading systems born in a time when science was univocally redefining what it meant to know anything.

Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges, Tacitus once implied (Annals). Perhaps the principle can be applied to schools as well, even to student evaluation; in the worst schools are the most complicated grading systems? Perhaps there is a great deal more wisdom in simpler models, such as the method of Firsts, Seconds, and Thirds that Oxford still uses.

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