Prof says he'll grade students on a curve, so they organize a boycott of the exams and all get As

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Or people can just do their damn work. Radical notion, I know.


That would have got everyone a U (for ungraded) at my school. Yes, it was possible to get a worse grade than an F.


True but I am wondering if this was a response the teacher was hoping for.


My engineering undergraduate classes were curved to a C+.
Get an average score, get a C+.
One standard deviation above the mean would get you a B+
Two or more standard deviations above the mean would get you an A+.

Curving from the top down isn’t a curve, it’s a tail.


This is one reason I don’t grade on a curve. I guess the students deserve credit for successfully gaming a flawed system though.



game theory


The Teacher wins on this one too, no finals to grade.


At my alma mater, it would have earned everyone an ‘Incomplete.’

If nothing else, I admire their solidarity.


And what does it gain them, though, in the long run, in terms of actually learning any valuable information in the class and being tested/ held accountable for that? I seriously flummoxed about the attitude towards “gaming the system” being the way to go. I mean, these are students as John Hopkins, a very elite school in the first place, and they’re gaming the system instead of trying to get the most out of the information the professor is trying to share with them? Do people really hate education so much that all they can do is find ways to get out of it, despite already being at the top of the heap in terms of their outcomes for jobs and whatnot?


As great as this “lesson” in this is, I don’t really think it’s that great. While the organization of labor/underclass lesson worked, in order to have it be effective, it required them to put all their faith in a single (benevolent?) authority.

For a true class (as in proletariat) revolt, they should seize the means of production! (insert detail about how that would done in a relevant metaphor for academia). Arise! You have nothing to lose but your chains!


Just to be clear, this happened in Fall, 2012.


I think that professors of Computer Science may be more tolerant of these kinds of exploits than some others might be, since it’s all based on logic and whatnot.

This reminds me of how, back in 2006 the author of Doonesbury had an online poll to determine which elite college one of the characters would attend. MIT ruthlessly hacked the vote (as did other schools, but MIT was best at it) and the author determined that it was perfectly fair and appropriate for them to win, as there were no rules against cheating.


I’m aware.

Also fully aware of this.

Agreed. This why I don’t curve grades and why I try to create exams that actually allow students to think critically about the semester’s material.

Instead of talking the professor about why they thought it was an unfair system? And do you think that was the reason why they staged the sit out, instead of gaming the system? Or why some people are applauding it? Like it or not, there is a sense in our society that gaming the system is not only okay, but that it’s encouraged, as opposed to pushing professors to create work that challenges students and increasing their knowledge of the subject matter.

I suspect that they might have learned something valuable from this situation, and if so, that’s good, and I won’t dispute that. But is this really testing their knowledge of the subject matter in a measurable way? I’m not so sure.

Did they learn about the subject matter of the course?


I think they’ve learned that the most valuable thing they can get out of the class is a good grade. (And that taking - or not taking - the tests doesn’t mean they learn any more.) They’re probably correct. (That attitude is also what got them that far.)


I guess it teaches them that gaming the system will get you ahead even if you’re grossly unqualified. So a valuable life lesson, really.


But this is exactly my problem. They are at JHU, one of the most elite colleges on the east coast, and it’s still all about the grades. Sheesh. We’re fucked, because anything anyone seems to care about any more is gaming the system, as if the pursuit of knowledge isn’t a worthwhile goal in itself. And yes, people can read books, etc, etc, but you know, having a place to go where you can do that with others, towards an end goal is an inherently social experience that can help put the pursuit of knowledge into that particular context, a social one.




EDIT - I misunderstood what kind of “curve” grading the prof was doing, as @aluchko points out below. I retract most of this post, but leaving it here for continuity of conversation…

Curve grading is pretty lazy and dishonest - if anyone failed to do the work they should have, the prof has to be included on the list.

Grading on a curve is gaming the system - a prof is called on to have a certain percentage of A’s, B’s, C’s, and D’s - so they just say up front that they will do so. If everyone in the class brilliantly masters the material, they’ll still fail the required 10% of the class. If everyone is lazy and half-asses everything, they’ll still grant the required 15% A’s.

A professor should have the gumption to stand up to administrators who demand a 10% fail rate regardless of the accomplishments of the students. Failing to do so is exactly the kind of intellectual dishonesty it is their job to reject.

The students called him on his BS, is pretty much what happened.