Torch Voices: Group Work Bad for the Buck

I commend Kelsey Schnell for his article, “Group Work Bad for the Buck,” and now comment specifically on the role of the academy. Schnell challenges the accepted expectation that “passing marks” are more important than the “quality of the education,” or whether or not a student is actually challenged by a course. The cost of the education however is not the most important issue IMHO. Personally, I have (for 10 or so years) refused to buckle to the implicit/explicit pressure to make things easier for the student. The university education (especially in disciplines with detailed and involved methodologies) needs to be very rigorous, and it demands an active involvement of the student to develop some reasonable level of understanding. Simply put, if the student does not put in the required level of effort for the particular subject, their assigned grade should reflect same, resulting in a grade of C- or below. An assigned grade of B or above indicates a fairly good competence (or at least it should). Due to statistical reasons, the poor state of  secondary education, and differences in student preparation/aptitude/effort; for any class with 10-15 or more students, if all the grades are A and B, then IMHO the students have been essentially cheated in that course. Students should be challenged at a higher level so that maybe only 20 percent are assigned A, and 30-40 percent assigned B. The remaining students complete a bell-shaped curve with C or D grades. If the academy becomes content with every student getting A or B, then we are doing the students and the whole damn country a disservice. We need push every single student we encounter as far as reasonably possible and maintain high expectations. Many students will rise to the occasion, learn something, and eventually even be able to think about things – compliments of the academy.

Dr. J.F. Nystrom
Assistant Professor
Applied Mathematics
Computer Science
Ferris State University