Yale’s New Old Thinking

As promised, here’s the post about Yale B. School’s recent decision to institute forced curve grading.

To start out, I have to say that I’m typically not an “everyone can win” type of person. As I’ve said before, there is plenty of merit in the lessons that can be learned from losing. In this case, however, I believe the framework of there being “winners” and “losers” is baseless and ignorant.

It is my belief that Yale is wrong in their decision for a number of reasons. Now to outline a few…

Firstly, this is a gross misuse of statistics. Just because if given a significant enough sample size, most of the time students’ scores fall on a Bell Curve, doesn’t mean that the concept should be forced to be applied to classes that are not large enough to be statistically significant.

It’s like saying that if your first born is a girl then your next will be a boy. Sure, roughly half the population is female and the other half male, but in a sample size that small, statistics are of no consequence to the individual.

Second point, which I think is the most important, is that knowledge is not limited and/or a finite resource. That is to say that if you learn something, there is nothing preventing me from learning the last thing. It doesn’t even make it more difficult!

So everyone in a class could, conceivably, do very well or very poorly en mass. In a forced curve system, however, this isn’t reflected because all grades are assigned relative to one another. This can make grades misleading, as they are not reflective of actual understanding of the subject, but how well an individual understood compared to his or her classmates.

I think this decision just follows along an older post of mine: That schools don’t treat MBAs as earned degrees rooted in knowledge. They are seen as titles bought and competed for, which I think is absolutely wrong.

MBA grads, or any grads for that matter, should be respected for what they learn. Not forced into arbitrary competitions. Especially in this day and age, everything that I read about is trying to encourage teamwork and supporting one another in business, not fostering inner-office competition. Either those on the ground who are saying this are wrong, or the post-secondary world really is that out of touch.

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