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From the NYT opinion page:

Why Can’t Everyone Get A’s?
Excellence is not a zero sum game.

By Alfie Kohn
Mr. Kohn is the author of books on human behavior and education.

June 15, 2019

… Here’s a thought experiment. Suppose that next year virtually every student passed the tests. What would the reaction be from politicians, businesspeople, the media? Would these people shake their heads in admiration and say, “Damn, those teachers must be good!”?

Of course not. Such remarkable success would be cited as evidence that the tests were too easy. …

The inescapable, and deeply disturbing, implication is that “high standards” really means “standards that all students will never be able to meet.” If everyone did meet them, the standards would just be ratcheted up again — as high as necessary to ensure that some students failed.

The standards-and-accountability movement is not about leaving no child behind. To the contrary, it is an elaborate sorting device, intended to separate wheat from chaff. The fact that students of color, students from low-income families and students whose first language isn’t English are disproportionately defined as chaff makes the whole enterprise even more insidious.

For a different perspective, I met a guy once who went to Westminster, the London “public” (private) school that’s on the grounds of Westminster Abbey. According to him, it is Eton/Harrow, but for rich Londoners who actually love their children and don’t want to pack them off to boarding school at age 8 or so. (So 75% of the students are day students who live at home with their families.)

He said that at Westminster, you only had to score 70% on a test to get an A (or its local equivalent). This wasn’t grade inflation, however, it was that the tests were just extremely hard to remind young punks that they didn’t know it all and they still had a lot left to learn about the subject, even if they were A students.

Westminster’s methods seemed to pay off, at least during the Enlightenment, judging from these alumni:

John Dryden (1631–1700), poet and playwright[115]
John Locke (1632–1704), philosopher[116]
Sir Christopher Wren (1632–1723), architect and scientist, co-founder of the Royal Society[117]
Robert Hooke FRS (1635–1703), British scientist[118]
Henry Purcell (1659–1695), composer
Charles Wesley (1707–1788), Methodist preacher and writer of over 6,000 hymns[119]
Edward Gibbon FRS (1737–1794), historian[120]
Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), lawyer, eccentric and philosopher[121]

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  1. It’s almost as if a Normal Distribution isn’t normal. That damned Charles Murray and his Bell Curve strikes again!

    • LOL: Desiderius
    • Replies: @Anon
  2. Jack D says:

    Ergo, standards are insidious and we cannot have them any more in Wokamerica. Standards are a white man thing – it’s part of the tricknology they use to keep the brown people down. If, due to lack of standards, some not too bright cops shoot a few innocent white ladies or a few planes crash, that’s just part of the price that we have to pay for inclusion. We really have no choice in this matter.

    As others have mentioned, probably the only way around this (which is what the colleges now have defacto in their admission systems) is to have different standards for different races so that at least the remaining whites (and Asians) will be held to a high standard and so that we can at least distinguish the relatively more competent People of Color from the less competent ones. This is certainly wrong, but it is less wrong than just doing away with all standards.

    • Agree: GermanReader2
    • Replies: @Anonymous
  3. Life’s a bitch Alfie, and then you die. Get over it.

    • LOL: BB753
    • Replies: @pyrrhus
    , @Paul Jolliffe
  4. Hail says: • Website

    He’s not wrong, in the first 3.5 paragraphs quoted.

    And then comes that last 0.5 paragraph…


    Yes, there’s the ol’ m.o.:

    Step 1.) Insinuate that White-Christian culture/society/(genetics; usually heavily implied) are “insidious.” Step 2.) Build an elaborate argument around that insinuation. Step 3.) Continue Steps 1 and 2, until the political blackmail pays off.

    Step 4.) Hope this profitable scam is never exposed;
    In the event it is, go to
    Step 4b.) Emigrate, and start again.

    • Replies: @Forbes
  5. anon[338] • Disclaimer says:

    Alfie never stops bitching about grades, student awards, and testing. I first encountered him on the internet 25 years ago complaining about the paltry sums spent on gifted K-12 education.

    Bill in Glendale

  6. Jack D says:

    Of course he is positing a completely imaginary situation where the students just keep getting better and better so the Man just raises the standards on them, when the reality is that the quality of the average student keeps getting worse and worse as the student pool browns and so not only can’t the Man RAISE the standards in order to stop all the brown people from getting the A’s they would otherwise get if standards remained the same, he actually has to keep lowering them in order to keep the brothers from all flunking out. The imaginary world that Leftists inhabit, filled with Wakandan black geniuses, is the complete diametric opposite of the real world. First he posits an imaginary world unlike our own and then he constructs “racism” starting from this imaginary foundation and accuses real white people of it.

    • Agree: Johann Ricke
    • Replies: @Desiderius
  7. Tomalak says:

    Normally the words “Here’s a though experiment” precede words that are at least a tiny bit profound. I want my money back from the NYT.

  8. Anonymous[421] • Disclaimer says:

    So, that’s what grades(A, B, C, D, F) are for. To see who are smarter.

    And all this time I thought it was to teach us the alphabet.

    A’s for every student. And trophy for every athlete.

    Btw, how do readers of NYT react when they read stuff like this? Surely, many are elitists and take pride in having gone to good schools and having good jobs. And they want their kids to attend elite schools and have fancy jobs. They look down on the dummy ‘deplorables’ and look upon brown immigrants to do the dirty jobs. In other words, they totally see the value of grades and test scores. But just like most Christians wanted to be rich but appreciated sermons about the meek and humble, I guess NYT readers need some preaching too. They are elitists who want to feel as egalitarians.

    • Replies: @Father O'Hara
  9. Your so right Mr. Kohn, if I had simply received all A’s I could now be your cardiac surgeon.

    • LOL: Redneck farmer
  10. newrouter says:

    What’s it all about Alfie?

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  11. The fact that students of color, students from low-income families and students whose first language isn’t English are disproportionately defined as chaff makes the whole enterprise even more insidious.

    Although he is not saying it’d be all right if white, rich, native English speakers were defined as chaff, he is saying it’d be less insidious. I’m beginning to think Mr. Sailer might have a point when claiming the Bolshevik ”Who? Whom?” mantra is not a complete stranger to some of those writers.

    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
  12. Anonymous[421] • Disclaimer says:
    @Jack D

    Ergo, standards are insidious and we cannot have them any more in Wokamerica.

    It would actually be nice if the guy’s ideas were implemented. What bothers me most is the elites pretending to be egalitarians. I would love to see the elites be forced to take their own medicine.

    It’d be great if NY schools gave A’s to all students. Force Ivies to take students with identical grades and test scores. See what happens to cities like NY.

    But it will never happen. These prog-types, especially Jews, just make a lot of nice-sounding egalitarian noises to cover up their profound elitism. They are total phonies.

  13. it is an elaborate sorting device, intended to separate wheat from chaff.

    Once upon a time, this would qualify as No Shit, Sherlock. That’s the whole point of grades. Now it is considered controversial to say this.

    • Replies: @ThreeCranes
  14. Anonymous[427] • Disclaimer says:

    The fact that students of color, students from low-income families and students whose first language isn’t English are disproportionately defined as chaff makes the whole enterprise even more insidious.

    But they are disproportionately chaff.

  15. The fact that students of color, students from low-income families and students whose first language isn’t English are disproportionately defined as chaff makes the whole enterprise even more insidious.


    …,national-level finals of the 2019 Mathcounts competition for middle-schoolers (grades 6 to 8) were held in Florida, May 11-14th. The full state team lists, 224 competitors, are here, by state. The top 56 of those 224 competitors are listed here.

    The friend who passed the results on to me observed that: “Judging by the names, it looks like about 4 of the top 56 competitors are not children of recent immigrants.”

    Indeed. I tally those 56 finalists as:

    42 Chinese & Korean (the one Vietnamese name is ethically Chinese)
    7 Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi
    4 Russian (Jewish?)
    3 Other


    No blacks, no Hispanics, and precious few Euro-Americans among those top 56 at 2019 National Mathcounts.

    What would Alfie Kohn say about that?

    • Replies: @Lockean Proviso
  16. Forbes says:

    Lake Wobegon has been replaced by Lake Wokamerica…

    • Replies: @anon
  17. Forbes says:

    The late Alfred Kahn made better arguments than Alfie Kohn…

    • Replies: @Neil Templeton
  18. The usual NYT approach is to say that the invisible hand of “systemic racism” somehow prevents Blacks and Hispanics (but not “model minority” Asians) from meeting objective standards of competence.

    But this article at least takes a fresh tack by (implicitly) admitting that certain groups will never stack up up relative to other groups, and using that as the premise to just reject the entire idea of ranking people by talent altogether.

    Relative performance tells us nothing of interest because all of them may be shamefully low — or impressively high — on whatever measure we’re using.

    In fairness, there could theoretically be a situation in which a particular population is so tightly bunched in their absolute ability that their relative differences would be so small as to be “essentially meaningless.”

    But of course the author makes zero effort to explain how or why this could be the case for real world grades and test scores. That’s because the differences in real world competence between the top and bottom 10% on these metrics is anything but “meaningless.” So, in the end, it’s just another NYT piece extolling woke ideology over reality.

    • Replies: @Anon
    , @Spangel
  19. @Jack D

    Age ends (a.k.a. apocalypses) are rife with Quixote’s.

  20. SFG says:

    A little OT, but look at this guy who got his Harvard acceptance rescinded after someone found racist comments he made:

    Yes, he was 16 years old. He was one of the few Parkland kids who took the pro-gun view, which I’m sure had nothing to do with it…

    • Replies: @L Woods
    , @Mr McKenna
    , @IHTG
  21. Should anyone be able to design and build bridges? Should anyone be able to maintain public water works? Should anyone be able to be a surgeon (or an anesthesiologist)?

    Should anyone be able to have a top-40 album? Or a long-term music career?

    When it really matters, we do want to prevent some people from engaging in some types of work. Idiots shouldn’t be building bridges, maintaining water works (Flint, MI?) or conducting surgery.

    The market operates (imperfectly) on setting tastes for music, but as more data points arise, it seems apparent that people who have long careers in popular music really are more talented than one-hit wonders.

    As an aside, my Alberta report card listed 80%+ as an ‘A’. But the tests really were harder, and this was when teachers didn’t care about their student’s self esteem.

    • Replies: @scrivener3
  22. megabar says:

    > To the contrary, it is an elaborate sorting device, intended to separate wheat from chaff.

    Yes. Except that this is not insidious. It is the only sane thing to do.

    In a healthy society, you try to match the most appropriate group of people to the set of tasks you need to accomplish. For very important tasks, you want the best group. For slightly less important tasks, the next rung, and so on.

    If 100 hypothetical students all learned to read at a certain level of competency, that does not mean you would be happy randomly assigning them to medical, engineering, or vocations schools.

    Even if we boosted the average IQ of the US 20 points, this still holds — I still want the _smartest_ of this very smart population to go into engineering, etc; even if any random student would do okay by today’s standards.

    Therefore, standards rightly vary in different places. If your population is less intelligent, you have to accept that you should have lower standards, and your doctors will be less competent. Because if you apply a universal worldwide “doctor” standard, you won’t have enough doctors.

  23. Ibound1 says:

    The standards would just be ratcheted up again — as high as necessary to ensure that some students failed.

    Is this guy kidding? Standards being ratcheted up??

    What universe does he inhabit?

    Examine the work demanded from a public high school student 100 years ago, 50 years ago, 25 years ago and today. No one could possibly say our standards are being ratcheted up. His essay isn’t a “thought experiment”, it’s an LSD trip.

    • Agree: Mr McKenna
  24. Forbes says:

    Orwell’s aphorism: Who controls the present, controls the past; who controls the past controls the future.

    Otherwise, revise history/improvise with historical revisionism; make pubic policy arguments based on newly revised history.

  25. anon[254] • Disclaimer says:

    Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

    Lake Wokamerica, where all the women are strong, all the men are no good, and all the children are sent for sex reassignment surgery

    • Replies: @Anon
  26. BB753 says:

    Again, the trite excuse of “poverty”, which is meaningless. By my definition, a kid studying in a modern facility in a First World country is privileged by definition. Does he not have access to food, transportation, electricity, shelter,books, teeachers? Most of it, free. By my reckoning, he’s a lucky young bastard.
    The other familiar excuse, that not studying in one’s first language is a crippling disadvantage sounds ridiculous and inaccurate: just consider that, well until the late XVIII th century the language of higher education was Latin, an old learned language that was nobody’s mother tongue, throughout the Western World. Studying in a a foreign and fossilized language does not seem to have done any harm to Newton, Leibniz, Pascal, Descartes, etc. Also, kids learn languages very fast. The younger, the faster. Some foreign kids learn TOEFL level English in a semester.

  27. Shooting at the NBA victory parade in Toronto.
    Because of course there was.

    • Agree: ScarletNumber
  28. This crowd is right to be horrified people like this man wield influence to get published in the NYT and are determined to bend institutions across the US and the world to favor non-white non-English speaking children at the not-so-subtle expense of white English speakers.

    I do agree with one sentiment. Society should move away from scoring people overall and de-emphasize overall GPA and cumulative SAT/ACT scores and emphasize subject and skill specific tests and scores.

    It’s reasonable and useful and to say person A is a better architect or doctor or programmer or baseball player or gymnast or better at math or academic literature than person B, but to average these scores and say that person A is better than person B is less meaningful and useful.

    • Replies: @BigDickNick
    , @S. Anonyia
  29. Ragno says:

    ou’re right, it isn’t a “thought experiment”- it’s more of a modern woke wager :

    -hey, Alfie….bet you can’t dismantle white supremacy without once typing the word “white”

    ha!-you’re on!

    What’s it all about, Alfie? (Clicks, tricks and chicks with dicks.)

  30. L Woods says:

    I’m sure they’ll escalate to degree revocation for identified crime thinkers soon enough.

  31. @MEH 0910

    I can’t even begin to tell you how racist that is.

    • Replies: @MEH 0910
  32. Westminster School’s age 13+ scholarship test papers are at the link below. I took a peek at the history questions. They have high standards at that school.

    • Replies: @peterike
  33. Andy says:

    dead white male Gauss should be blamed for finding the world is ruled by a normal distribution instead of an uniform distribution

    • Replies: @Achmed E. Newman
  34. @SFG

    guy who got his Harvard acceptance rescinded after someone found racist comments he made

    Growth industry: Kids on the waiting list start doxxing admits.

    I’m not kidding. It’s Harvard kids we’re talking about here.

    • Replies: @Escher
    , @TheJester
  35. JimB says:

    In the US, 50% of high school students have straight-A averages. Only 25% are functionally literate. Public high school transcripts are mostly worthless. Which is why elite colleges have to look at other signals for talent and initiative.

    • Replies: @S. Anonyia
  36. @megabar

    In a healthy society, you try to match the most appropriate group of people to the set of tasks you need to accomplish.

    I can’t even begin to tell you how racist that is.

  37. Andy says:

    by the way this English tradition of sending your child since primary school to an all-male boarding school is seen as really bizarre in the rest of the world. No wonder a good fraction of England’s upper class males have been gay

    • Replies: @scrivener3
    , @Anon
    , @Graham
  38. peterike says:

    “Why Can’t Everyone Get A’s?”

    Because a lot of people are really stupid.

    Next question.

  39. @Forbes

    Alfred Kahn’s test scores were likely far superior to those of Alfie. Kahn and Bonbright set the gold standard in public utility regulation theory.

  40. peterike says:

    “Westminster School’s age 13+ scholarship test papers are at the link below. I took a peek at the history questions. They have high standards at that school.”

    The English questions aren’t that good, and several are clearly designed to uncover crime-thinkers. It’s a very…. insidious test.

    • Replies: @LondonBob
    , @Anonymous
  41. Anon[388] • Disclaimer says:
    @The Alarmist

    That damned Charles Murray and his Bell Curve strikes again!


    I drove by Charles Murray’s house in Burkittsville this weekend. He has a rainbow pride flag flying. Smh. What’s up with that??

    • Replies: @Anon
    , @stillCARealist
  42. Anon[202] • Disclaimer says:

    The problem is ancestors of blacks chose to breed for dumb, and whites chose to breed for smart. It’s that simple.

  43. @megabar

    If you’re going to demand an equal level of medical service for every live body on the planet, what are the realistic solutions?

    • Replies: @megabar
  44. Here’s what happened when my fellow GenXer and SEAL Chief Gallagher tried to impose some standards on the Millennials that seem to have passed through a turnstile on their way to his team:

  45. Anon[202] • Disclaimer says:

    It’s amazing the New York Times actually used to report news instead of obsessing solidly over racism and cultural issues.

  46. Everyone should get an A in every class. Except for the IDF entrance exam which absolutely needs to sort people into roles as effectively as possible. What are you, an anti-semite?

  47. @Massimo Heitor

    Very few people are smart in one area, but dumb in all others and there are very few available jobs for baseball players and gymnasts out there.

    • Replies: @Massimo Heitor
  48. Anon[361] • Disclaimer says:

    at Westminster, you only had to score 70% on a test to get an A (or its local equivalent).

    I was subjected to an extreme version of this in a small honors math class that I was placed in at UCLA in my freshman year. At this point I couldn’t even tell you what fields of math we studied in the class, and there wasn’t a textbook, just mimeos.

    The tests were so hard that the high score could be 40 or less. Even then, the grade was mostly for effort, not correct answers, since maybe only half of your answers that received points were correct. The professor left huge amounts of white space on the test and you were expected to record your stream of consciousness thoughts as you tried to solve the problem. I would often get points for my rambling, bumbling efforts to figure out what the hell the problem was even asking.

    The final class grades were on a very generous curve, so the students didn’t care.

  49. Anon[361] • Disclaimer says:

    I drove by Charles Murray’s house in Burkittsville this weekend.

    Creepy. Unless you live on his block.

    • Replies: @Anon
  50. bgates says:

    Such remarkable success would be cited as evidence that the tests were too easy.

    Nonsense. It would be taken as proof of widespread cheating.

  51. don’t ivy league colleges already do this? grade inflation to the point where it’s hard to get below a C. the difficult part is getting into the university. once you’re in it’s hard to fail.

    the ironic thing about this discussion is that for the really smart guys, grades are irrelevant. real life is the test. can you do something important in your field? something that matters? nobody cares what your grades were.

    grades are actually for all the people below the really smart guys level. to sort them out. they’ll never be actual high achievers. so we need some artificial way to rank them. grades work for this.

    any person 1 or 2 steps lower in ability than the guys listed in Human Accomplishment doesn’t matter, so we need to make up some way to evaluate them. fabricating the concept of grades and degrees accomplishes this.

  52. Anon[361] • Disclaimer says:

    School standards usually involve a mysterious “grade level” standard. Whatever that is, student performance will obviously fall in a bell curve if tests really test anything accurately. So grade level is just some arbitrary point on the bell curve x-axis.

    Given that, what is the goal of education? You can move the “grade level” point. That’s all. But it seems like the goal of those who have not thought through things is more to raise the level of those who are below grade level without affecting where the students who meet or exceed grade level fall. This is impossible.

    I guess the unstated goal is really to see to it that black and Hispanic student results are evenly distributed among the white student results. But how in heck can you do that?

    • Replies: @Nicholas Stix
  53. @Anon

    Always loved tests with lots of ‘extra space’ either literally or figuratively. You could take the opportunity to amuse or amaze your prof with your miscellaneous ramblings on whatever topic. Teachers are bored after having graded several thousand tests in the past few years. Make ’em laugh, impress ’em, whatever, get an ‘A’. “You’re remarkably well-informed!” Hmm I guess I was privileged after all.

  54. jJay says:

    Everyone may not succeed, but at least in theory all of us could.

    Succeed at what? Alfie, for example, has an unusually high skill at arguing with himself. But this has no value to anyone but himself. At 14 I could masturbate 14 times in one day. Is there a Phillip Roth Memorial Award for this feat?

    Competing with others gives you feedback on what you are, and you are not, good at doing in relation to how well others do at the same task.

    I’m pretty good at math, for example. I am also OK with hands-on work (see above). But even with the best efforts of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I don’t write well.

    So I am a good technician. I am not denying the world or myself anything while I make a living doing what I’m naturally good at.

    Telling a kid “You can do anything you set your mind to” is evil advice. I’m gonna guess that most adults who say such nonsense don’t have kids or spend much time with them. The Wokes are gonna eventually but heads with teachers. While teachers are on their on their side now, for financial reasons, this cannot last.

  55. Apart from Dryden, Locke, Wren, Hooke, Purcell, Wesley, Gibbons, and Bentham… what has Westminster done for us lately?

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  56. Malcolm Y says:

    At one time I taught math, not advanced math, it ranged from algebra & trig to ordinary differential equations. I was expected to make my own tests and decide how to grade students on my own – I never took any classes in “education.”

    The way I looked at the problem was I could grade on a set scale 90%-100% A, 80-89B etc. or grade on “a curve.” The first option I figured would be fair if my tests fit an abstract student’s ability really closely e.g. 90-100 was really A student territory and not impossibly hard for a “true” A student etc. I didn’t think I had enough experience to do that. So I opted for the latter even though it made it kind of relative to the ability of the class as a whole. That is, if there were a class of really good students some of them might get C s unfairly(?) and in a class of mediocre students some might get A s unfairly(?).

    I also admit to doing some adjustments only based on my subjective assessments of students and tended to give higher grades.

  57. Whiskey says: • Website

    This is why we need a big, years long, industrial level War. Peace got us discrimination what Whites in favor of semi literate foreigners speaking little English.

    War demands competency. Particularly industrial wars. Heck even the Cold War demanded competency.

    Peace is over, if you want it. All we are saying, is give War a chance.

    • Replies: @Jack D
  58. “at Westminster, you only had to score 70% on a test to get an A (or its local equivalent).”

    I think this is the case throughout the UK, both high school and university. It’s something like 70-75 = American A; 60s = American B; 50s = Amerian C; etc.

    It does carry the implication that even the very best (75%), are still well short of a theoretical limit, but it is a kind of odd British compromise. Arguably, even a genius is so far below divine perfection, that if you want to reflect perfection on your grading scale, everyone would be down in the single digits, so the 75-point scale could still be viewed as hubristic. (This leaves aside the question of if the faculty are really competent to detect the above 75 level of genius.) On the other hand, if you want to provide articulation between different ability levels, they arbitrarily close off 25 points of what could have been a 100-point scale.

    Still, I haven’t heard that Britain is suffering the same absurd grade inflation that the US is, and their 30-point or so spread provides enough articulation, so maybe awkward British compromises work.

  59. @Andy

    The English created most of the decent countries of the world

    • Replies: @Andy
    , @Reg Cæsar
    , @dfordoom
  60. @prime noticer

    “don’t ivy league colleges already do this? grade inflation to the point where it’s hard to get below a C. the difficult part is getting into the university. once you’re in it’s hard to fail.”

    Yes, some more than others COUGHharvardCOUGH.

  61. @Logical Meme

    Shane MacGowan of The Pogues studied at Westminister in 1972-73.

  62. @Half Canadian

    If you try to do anything, and you have a group of people to do it, you will soon discover, as Peterson says, that some fraction of the people, maybe 20 per cent, excel and most others are not very good, and a few are failures.

    How do we deal with this fact. Choose professional football teams by lottery? Doctors by lottery? Investment banners by lottery?

  63. @Andy

    Time for the Ministry of Truth to do some Gaussian Elimination.

  64. Andy says:

    yes, but even in those countries (I suppose you mean here the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) all male boarding schools didn’t took off

    • Replies: @sb
    , @Duke84
  65. @Massimo Heitor

    We don’t really score people overall without context. There are weighted and unweighted GPAs. There are different subjects in school (English, Math, Science, History, Music, PE etc) and different subsections of the SAT (verbal, math) and ACT (science, English, reading, math). Students can pad their high school GPAs by taking advanced courses in things they are good at. With the GRE, a lot of programs only require a certain score on the verbal or quantitative section rather than an overall threshold. If you’re not so hot in some areas there are plenty of chances to bring your test score/GPA up by shining in other areas. Most smart people have an area of relative weakness, but there are very few who only excel in one thing….

    • Replies: @Massimo Heitor
  66. @JimB

    Citation to 50 percent of students having A’s? I’m a teacher and where I work less than 10 percent have A averages. Not a great school either.

    There is grade inflation sure (mainly in terms of kids who should fail getting passed along with Ds/Cs, and kids who should have Ds/Cs getting Bs) but not that many get straight As.

    I do believe that only a quarter of high school grads are functionally literate, however.

  67. megabar says:
    @Neil Templeton

    > If you’re going to demand an equal level of medical service for every live body on the planet, what are the realistic solutions?

    Right. I’ll assume here that the goal is to provide first-world medical care to all humans, and that the newly covered people can’t produce as many talented doctors due to genetic differences.

    Then there are three possibilities:

    1. All medical care suffers, as existing medical providers will be stretched thin. In this world, you either have fewer high-quality medical providers per patient, or you lower standards to hire more providers to maintain the ratio. Either way, quality suffers.

    2. You maintain quality by transferring talented folks from other fields to cover the additional patient load. This, of course, means that those fields (law, engineering, business) will suffer.

    3. Technology improves enough to make medicine less dependent on human providers. In this scenario, the per-capita talent is less important than the absolute amount of top-tier talent which generates such technologies.

    As a concrete example of #3, imagine an AI system that can take in your medical history, vital signs, bloodwork, and imaging data, and come up with a diagnosis and treatment plan that’s as good as a good human doctor. Since you can churn these machines out, your medical care is no longer as strongly dependent on how many qualified doctors you can train, but rather how good the algorithms are, which are created by a much smaller group of very talented people.

    I’m not saying such a system will exist anytime soon. I’m merely saying that if it could be created, it will help preserve medical quality in the face of changing demographics.

    • Agree: jim jones
    • Replies: @El Dato
  68. Spangel says:

    Agree that in theory there could be a reason for giving everyone a grades but ironically enough, the schools whose student bodies might merit this approach are the hardest graders in America. Cal tech for example. Or swarthmore, long known as a hard grading school but also one of the hardest liberal arts colleges to get into in the first place.

    But if the authors idea is to hand out A grades to all who show basic competency, the poor and minority students he is concerned about tend not to be even demonstrating that. In most states, around half the black students don’t test at the basic standard level for their grade. Yes, these test scores have risen over the last two decades, but half of black students still don’t meet basic standards for their grade level, let alone proficiency. How can that be an A?

    On the other hand, nearly half of asian students in a typical state test at the proficient level, the competency level above basic. They are not the students who end up semi literate and in remedial courses at community college. They are the actual A students.

  69. @Anon

    Brings back fond memories of my thermodynamics for physicists course…by that time the intro classes had whittled the number of physics majors down to about 10 serious students from 50 freshman year. The first test I scored 11/40 and figured I was done and it was down to 9. The professor stood up and announced how disappointed he was with the class; but if you were wondering where you were on the curve, the average score was 11, the standard deviation was 0…

    • LOL: ic1000
    • Replies: @ScarletNumber
    , @anon
  70. AKAHorace says:

    Making 30 percent the passing grade and 70 percent what you need for an A can actually be a really good policy. You make the questions difficult and stretch peoples ability. You can also pick out the few really outstanding students this way.

    If you make 90 the grade for an A you end up punishing for failure rather than rewarding for success.

  71. The name Alfie Kohn is familiar to me from having read, some decades ago, his book “Punished by Rewards”, which says, among other things, that giving out Macdonald’s gift cards for academic performance does not foster true love of learning.
    Here is a discussion with the author:

  72. Dan Hayes says:

    At Harvard there was a neoconservative political science prof who issued students two grades: their official grade reflecting grade inflation and a private unofficial one of their actual course worth!

    • Replies: @Nicholas Stix
  73. sb says:

    I note that the American writer Paul Theroux’s two sons went to Westminster

    George Orwell when he was near the end mused about what he would do if he were to survive. . He planned to live in London with his (new ) wife and send his (adopted ) son to Westminster

  74. sb says:

    My observation is that all male private schools -which usually have at least a minority of boarders – (ie they have a historic boarding culture ) produce a disproportionate number of society’s movers and shakers

    But I grant that there are a number of explanations for this

  75. Thinker says:

    What an idiot. So he’s trying to justify Harvard giving everyone an “A”, just for having made the cut. As per Daniel Golden, only 5% of our elite college admits are genuine eggheads, the remaining 95% all got in through some sort of “hook” – ethnic quotas, recruited athletes, legacies, scion of rich donor/ celebrity/politician, musicians etc. So why not give everyone an A so they can all become engineers, mathematicians, scientists, architects, get into med school, law school, grad school of every stripe.

    Alfie Kohn, the (((leftist))) lunacy that never ends. Just keeps going until they drag us all over the cliff.

  76. @SimpleSong

    the average score was 11, the standard deviation was 0

    So everyone got an 11/40?

    • Replies: @SimpleSong
  77. sb says:

    This topic does nothing for me but I do wonder why no one puts the case for giving a grade as a percentile .
    This is done in Australia with the highest grade being 99.90 meaning that this person is in the top 0.1 % of people under consideration

  78. @Anon

    Somebody once profferred a solution which involved whacking the smart kids over the head with a ball peen hammer.

  79. Anon[388] • Disclaimer says:

    Creepy. Unless you live on his block.

    Lol, I used to. FYI, he lives on a heavily-trafficked street that has a couple thousand vehicles (and a few hundred farm vehicles/tractors/18-wheelers) drive over it each day.

    Oh, and I was heading over to Boonsboro. Do you know a better route?

    • Replies: @Anon
  80. Escher says:
    @Mr McKenna

    They’ll probably start hiring professionals to dig up dirt on their rivals. Mr. Steele (of Clinton campaign notoriety) has a good career path ahead of him.

  81. @Anonymous

    The jews want the successful goyim to achieve equality,while they float above.

  82. @ScarletNumber

    Everyone got the handful of relatively easy questions correct, and zero points on everything else.

    Prof was frankly not very good, as a distribution like that indicates a poorly designed test.

  83. @scrivener3

    The English created most of the decent countries of the world

    Yes, when they left England.

    • LOL: jim jones
  84. Why Can’t Everyone Get A’s?

    Whiskey would have omitted the apostrophe and doubled a letter.

  85. Dan Hayes says:
    @Nicholas Stix


    YES. (And many thanks.)

  86. Duke84 says:

    There used to be quite a few but they’re almost all co-ed now.

    • Replies: @LondonBob
  87. deMerito says:

    Inside the state’s system for inflating Regents scores

    Mayor Bill de Blasio’s educrats aren’t alone in trying to mask school failure: Turns out the state actually has a formal system for inflating Regents scores to make kids’ performance look better than it is.

    We’re not talking about just a few points to get a kid over the top. No, students who score just 26 out of 86 points (30 percent) come away with a 65 on the Algebra I test. Graders tack on extra points to produce a minimum passing score.

    Algebra II students also need just 30 percent to reach the minimum, the State Education Department website shows. English Language Arts, 55 percent.

    In fact, Regents scores in every subject are “adjusted” so that all students, except those at the very bottom, pass with at least a Level 3 on the state’s five-level scale, indicating they have “partially met” standards for subject knowledge. A full 70 percent, in effect, are guaranteed to pass.

  88. Anonymous[294] • Disclaimer says:

    A moral lesson I intuited at age seven or so, when I pondered in my mind ‘why the Hell would anyone ‘choose’ to be a garbage-man rather than a design engineer?’

  89. I must have blinked. When did the NYT lower the age requirement for staff writers to 9? School is so hard! I deserve an A too!

    • Replies: @El Dato
  90. Anon[391] • Disclaimer says:

    Well, that’s OK, then.

    But, wait, Burkittsville? My parents lived in Frederick for 10 or 15 years. Near the anthrax lab. You mean I could have been visiting Charles Murray during visits?

    • Replies: @Anon
  91. Anon[391] • Disclaimer says:

    Charles Murray wrote a good, short book on his prescription for education, “Real Education,” centered around four assertions. Its online for free somewhere.

    “Ability varies.”
    “Half of the children are below average.”
    “Too many people are going to college.”
    “America’s future depends on how we educate the academically gifted.”

    Number 1 and 2 negate Woebegone.

    He thinks only 10 or 20 percent of the population (or high school graduates?) should be in college, with the rest vocational. And some of the education budget should go to the smart, not just to the slow kids.

    It’s a good plan, except it would implode when hardly any black kids qualified for college, as would inevitably happen. (This is also the Achilles heel of Brian Caplan’s book.)

    To prove his assertion about too many kids in college, he excerpts from a bunch of college level textbooks. You read the excerpts, and yeah, no way can holistic admittees read and understand hundreds of pages of material like that for every class.

  92. @adreadline

    Alfie Kohn may know his Who, Whom, but he will never have Pinkerian Jewish Science Hair like Westminster alumnus and chemist Martyn Poliakoff, whose brother Stephen’s work our host is probably more familiar with.

  93. Anon[388] • Disclaimer says:

    But, wait, Burkittsville? My parents lived in Frederick for 10 or 15 years. Near the anthrax lab. You mean I could have been visiting Charles Murray during visits?

    Near the anthrax lab? That is where the late Dr. Bruce Ivins, who they suspected of mailing the anthrax, lived. You could’ve talked with him about politics and gotten the same answers as Murray. Ivins wrote a lot of letters to the Frederick News Post.

    August 24, 2006

    By blood and faith, Jews are God’s chosen, and have no need for “dialogue” with any gentile. End of “dialogue.”

    Bruce Ivins

  94. TheJester says:
    @Mr McKenna

    In my 70+ years, I’ve brushed by many and once found myself the appreciative object of a professor’s decision to give everyone “A”s. For example, I (like many of my classmates) flunked the final on the process for normalizing a database. We were surprised that we all received “A”s in the course in spite of that.

    One I especially liked was the decision in Washington, D.C., a few years ago to give everyone “A”s under the assumption that blacks, unlike whites, do not do well in school due to low self-esteem. If you give all black youth “A”s, then that will raise their self-esteem … and they will take school more seriously and study harder.

    This was, of course, an abject failure. The reason why is obvious to everyone not living the drug-fueled fantasies common to the age.

    My favorite: The US military used to have what were called “gentlemen’s” courses. This was usually announced on the first day of class. A key feature of “gentleman’s” courses was that the instructor would stomp his foot when making a key point that would later appear on a test. You didn’t study; you took class notes on the key points you knew beforehand would be tested.

    I still remember with amusement the loud “bang” that shook the auditorium after the instructor announced it was a “gentleman’s” course. It was the sound of students slamming shut their one-and-one-half inch thick textbooks … never to open them again.

    Maybe there is something to the self-esteem argument. Knowing we would pass the course with little effort did raise our self-esteem. It meant we could spend more time in the bar after class studying the “ins-and-outs” of professional comradery with classmates.

  95. El Dato says:

    For more important for the Incel Age:

    Why Can’t Everyone Get Ass?

    • Replies: @stillCARealist
  96. El Dato says:
    @Captain Tripps

    “How to create a little SJW in your parenting time”

  97. @ScarletNumber

    Yeah, um, what’s wrong with separating the wheat from the chaff? Didn’t that used to be considered a good thing? You know, the uh, necessary prerequisite to baking a loaf of edible bread, the so-called “staff of life”.

  98. IHTG says:

    Check out Kyle Kashuv’s background to learn why the alt-right might be a little leery of playing this story up

  99. LondonBob says:

    Very few people sent their children to boarding school, really a relic of the British Empire when parents would be living abroad. My boarding school went co educational at 13 from 16 a few years ago. Of course the English speaking world is dotted with such institutions, just ask Tucker Carlson or George Bush.

    I wanted to go to Westminster, I was even prepared to be a weekly boarder, but my parents insisted on sending me off to the other side of Reading to the same school my brother went to, I still resent them for it today.

  100. LondonBob says:

    Doubt it, private schools are bastions of conservatism and probably explain why the upper classes are more right wing in Britain than most other countries. Those questions look like they are designed to uncover nuanced and original thought.

    Westminster is up with St Paul’s and Winchester as the toughest schools academically. I was in my prep school’s scholarship class, not sure anyone won a scholarship to those schools.

  101. LondonBob says:

    Of course in Maths exams you can get one hundred percent and thus ensure you get a full spread to judge ability. Multiple choice exams make sense from that perspective, also removes any subjective marking.

  102. This guy, Alfie whatshisname, isn’t coming clean with us.

    As an educator he knows, having been taught, that there are two types of exams. One is a competency exam and the other the usual normal-distribution exam. They serve two different purposes.

    The purpose of a competency exam is to ensure that everyone masters the core material, can do the right thing. So, for example, when testing students on whether they can handle (formerly valuable) dark-room photo developing skills, a teacher is trained to design a test which every one passes. They may not pass on their first try, but they repeat it until they do and then they are allowed access to the lab etc. This insures that no one blows up the chemistry lab or welding lab by e.g. turning up the pressure in an acetylene hose above 15psi.

    Then there’s the other kind with which we are all familiar and about which we are all speaking.

    In other words, there already exist tests in which every student receives an “A”, a passing score, a universal “good enough” rating.

    But these two types of tests serve different purposes and Alf knows this.

  103. anon[295] • Disclaimer says:

    You should have asked him what the mode, median, max, and min scores were, just to see the expression on his face.

  104. Anon[277] • Disclaimer says:

    Oddly enough, when I was a TA a hundred years ago, on my first day, I asked the prof, as he was explaining the grading curve, “What would happen if everyone got A’s?” He was a stats guy slumming as a Intro to Phil. teacher, and he gave a complicated explanation that amounted to “I’d know you or they were cheating.” Who knew I was ahead of the progressive curve!?

  105. Anon[277] • Disclaimer says:

    Actually, that’s how they avoided being COMPLETELY judaized. Kinda like Athens, Rome and Florence.

  106. Graham says:

    Try some facts. This web site lists co-ed, boys-only, and girls-only boarding schools in the UK:

    There are far more co-ed schools.

    • Replies: @Andy
  107. pyrrhus says:
    @Jim Bob Lassiter

    Someone named Alfie will never get over his hatred of the smart kids who made him feel second rate…

  108. pyrrhus says:
    @Nicholas Stix

    In the old days of the ’60s, when I was there, those two grades were the same for most professors, so Harvey was just carrying on the tradition…The Prof who taught the required and difficult Chaucer course for English majors routinely failed a number of students every year.

  109. @Calvin Hobbes

    That the POCs were discouraged from fulfilling their innate mathematical genius because they didn’t get As.

  110. No mention of another famous OW, Kim Philby?

  111. @Jim Bob Lassiter

    Oh, come on, JBL, give the guy a break: his whole life people have been asking him “What’s it all about, Alfie?”

    If you or I had been named “Alfie”, we might be writing drivel, too!

  112. Anon[214] • Disclaimer says:

    The first and largest mistake of anyone entertaining this NYT article is to have read one word beyond the name “Kohn” in the byline.

    Once you read that name, you know the article to follow will be able to be accurately summarized as:

    “an attempt to undermine a cornerstone of society using fallacious / illogical pseudo-argument that is protected from significant critique by the publishing paper”.

    Stopping at Kohn allows you to skip all of it without missing the message. Congratulations. You’ve taken five minutes of your life back from the evil ones. Have a cup of coffee, take a deuce, etc.

    Don’t be concerned. The tactic will be repeated next week, and the one after that, and so you will have the chance to make the decision over and over again. My prediction is that you will find yourself enjoying ever-more free time.

    • Agree: peterike
  113. Coemgen says:

    That reminds me of my experience in my undistinguished college’s math for math majors classes. A significant part of our grades were dependent on coughing up theorems and lemmas then setting the problem up from there. Actual solutions were black-swans…

  114. @Anon

    His wife is a Quaker. They’re total libs.

    What does smh mean?

    • Replies: @Jim Don Bob
  115. @El Dato

    You think the radicals aren’t contemplating this question as well? They firmly believe in sexual privilege and that society should do whatever to even out the sexual playing field. Everybody deserves a sex life, and they deserve to have sex with the people of their choice.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  116. dfordoom says: • Website

    The English created most of the decent countries of the world

    Possibly because their own country was, and is, such a miserable shithole.

  117. El Dato says:

    Plus you need price controls of whatever the medical profession is. Standard pricing across the board.

  118. Anonymous[397] • Disclaimer says:

    No way. There are some radical things on the progressive wish list, but leveling the sexual market to improve the position of incel and lower SMV heterosexual males is most certainly not one of them.

  119. Jack D says:

    Easy for you to say, old boomer. You’re not the one gonna be doing the dying (you hope). No one in his right mind should wish for war.

  120. Andy says:

    of course, but the upper class used to send their children to these boarding schools.

  121. @S. Anonyia

    Most smart people have an area of relative weakness, but there are very few who only excel in one thing….

    No. Most adults only excel in one or two careers. An expert lawyer usually isn’t an expert doctor. Kids frequently excel in one hobby. Some kids are amazingly good at playing guitar. Others are good at programming or art or sports.

    The general K-12 structure makes all kids take the same basic classes with limited choice. And yes, some kids tend to do well at all classes and others do not.

  122. @BigDickNick

    Very few people are smart in one area, but dumb in all others and there are very few available jobs for baseball players and gymnasts out there.

    Most adults specialize and get very good in just one area. Lots of amazing lawyers don’t have any ability to be a doctor at all and vice versa.

    With kids, look at hobbies. Some kids play guitar all day, and are amazing guitar players, but they aren’t good at sports or chess or math. K-12 lets kids make a few elective choices, but pushes against allowing kids to specialize too much. That could change. If you let the math nerds take lots of extra math classes and have kids who don’t like math just not take much math at all, you’d see a lot more specialization.

  123. @prime noticer

    don’t ivy league colleges already do this? grade inflation to the point where it’s hard to get below a C. the difficult part is getting into the university. once you’re in it’s hard to fail.

    Some do, some don’t. Harvard basically rarely hands out anything below an A-. Yale does the same, though it doesn’t really want to, apparently, because if it doesn’t, it’s undergrads will be outcompted in the job market by Harvard grads.

    Brown doesn’t hand out grades at all, just satisfactory/unsatisfactory ratings.

    Princeton went through a process of grade deflation a few years ago. Cornell inflated grades only somewhat, in the humanities. STEM courses are graded to a B median.

    I don’t know about Columbia, Penn or Dartmouth, though I understand the latter is no longer as demanding a school as it used to be.

  124. “the standards would just be ratcheted up again”

    That would be a breath of fresh air – if the standards were ratcheted up, rather than down, which is more usual.

    However, John Taylor Gatto has also weighed in on this, which makes it at least worth considering:

    “If you believe nothing can be done for the dumb but kindness, because it’s biology (the bell-curve model); if you believe the capitalist oppressors have ruined the dumb because they are bad people (the neo-Marxist model); if you believe dumbness reflects depraved moral fiber (the Calvinist model); or that it’s nature’s way of providing someone to clean your toilet (the pragmatic elitist model)… if you believe any of the various explanations given for the position of the dumb in the social order we have, then you will be forced to concur that a vast bureaucracy is indeed necessary to address the dumb. Otherwise they would murder us in our beds.

    The shocking possibility that dumb people don’t exist in sufficient numbers to warrant the careers devoted to tending to them will seem incredible to you. Yet that is my proposition: Mass dumbness first had to be imagined; it isn’t real.

    Once the dumb are wished into existence, they serve valuable functions: as a danger to themselves and others they have to be watched, classified, disciplined, trained, medicated, sterilized, ghettoized, cajoled, coerced, jailed. To idealists they represent a challenge, reprobates to be made socially useful. Either way you want it, hundreds of millions of perpetual children require paid attention from millions of adult custodians. An ignorant horde to be schooled one way or another.”

    Is a child who does not read by age 9 dumb? Gatto again:

    “David learns to read at age four; Rachel, at age nine: In normal development, when both are 13, you can’t tell which one learned first – the 5-year spread means nothing at all [confirmed by homeschoolers]. But in school I label Rachel “learning disabled” and slow David down a bit, too. For a paycheck, I adjust David to depend on me to tell him when to go and stop. He won’t outgrow that dependency. I identify Rachel as discount merchandise, “special education” fodder. She’ll be locked in her place forever…. If you hear of a job where I don’t have to hurt kids to make a living, let me know. Come fall I’ll be looking for work.”
    — John Taylor Gatto, “I Quit, I Think.”

  125. Anonymous[144] • Disclaimer says:

    Latin 2017 section C certainly seems biased against Trump.
    It has a text to be translated into latin, starting like this:
    Once upon a time a man, named Trump, desired to rule. Although he was not a senator, he shouted so boldly that the citizens began to listen.
    To aid the translation there is a vocabulary below the text including this entry:
    Trump – Elephantus, -i (m.)

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