Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lazy Academics

Hamermesh has a post out on Freakonomics saying that he's paying the price of other professors' laziness at his own institution. My colleagues and I at VMI are paying the price for the laziness of professors at other institutions. VMI credibly fights grade inflation; many schools don't. It affects teaching evaluations.

Student in my class: Why are tests here at VMI so hard?
Me: What do you mean?
Student: My friend at (an institution about an hour north of VMI) took (a class in the business school) and her tests were 25 easy multiple choice questions and that's it. They get an easy A while we have to work for B's and C'sWhy is that?
Me: There are probably two reasons: First, there is a lot of grade inflation at other schools, which is very closely tied to whether professors get tenure. Second, the teachers there probably lazy - the cheapest way to get better teaching evaluations is to make the course easy and thus give higher grades.
Student: I wish VMI did that, too.
Me: No, you don't. In fact, you came to VMI knowing that it was a tougher place, and you made that choice anyway. If you want easy A's there are plenty of schools where you can get easy A's. Why didn't you go there instead?
Other Student: Because I don't want to get a shitty job.

There you go. Even students nearing final exams can get why grade inflation is bad, you just have to work them through the logic. Too bad incentives are so skewed the other direction.

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