Better than average

Grade inflation is one of those provocative conversation starters like Social Security, Chris Christie and re-gifting, where no consensus of what should be done about them has been established; but it may finally be leaving its questionable friends forever.

Yes, you heard right: All your better-than-average self-beliefs are at last valid. Thanks to the all-too-real 60-year grade inflation campaign, college students everywhere have finally defeated descriptive statistics and helicopter parents. The “C average” is dead. Long live the “very good” B categorical. Next, world hunger.

At some point in the past few decades, the C, the once ubiquitous 2.0, became the worst thing one could bring home to one’s parents, barring perhaps lice and prom dates. The F could be explained around, it could be dropped, as there was always an extraneous reason. Not so for the C. It insinuated average—listed it, too—and that alone was enough to garner the stigma.

Now, in colleges across the nation and even here at Lawrence, the average is slightly higher than a B, and for good reason. Nobody wants to be called average. It sucks and it’s boring. I want to be unique and, I mean, who doesn’t? Looking at the rise of average high school and college GPAs, we—whomever this really is, you decide—succeeded on that account.

I know what you’re going to say. This happened because we’re the Y or ‘me generation.’ We were given soccer trophies for going 2-9 all season and ribbons for 82nd place in a race because, really, isn’t everyone a winner? Then the internet came along with YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to facilitate further self-exceptionalism. Of course universities, teachers and parents all then pandered to us, eager to avoid the spoiled kids.

Unfortunately, we’re not a bunch of superstar narcissists. It turns out that people across all age groups think they’re better than average. In social psychology, this phenomenon is so common and well known that they call it “illusionary superiority.” Furthermore, according to researchers, like Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy, and The Washington Post, grade inflation has been working hard since World War II.

In order to shed some light on this whole grade inflation thing, I called a couple people and asked the tough questions to back up my point about how great grade inflation has been for defeating the C menace. To avoid any biases I purposefully avoided Lawrence staff. So, naturally, the first person I called was Professor Beth Senne-Duff PhD., alias Mom. To my horror, she confirmed that grade inflation has happened and is a problem. This was troubling information, so I pressed on and asked her what her grades were like and if she had ever gotten the average-branding C: “I dunno. I was top 10 percent. I don’t remember. I don’t care. Yes. I got C’s in college.”

But what about how great it is now that we have B as the average? “I think a lot of people need to accept that it’s okay to be average. I think in grade school that we need to-” At this point I stopped listening. She made no sense. C means average. We’re no longer average. Problem solved.

My mother was one datum point. I needed backup. I called up another person from a previous generation: Professor Hugh Crawford, no relation. It turns out he’d gotten a couple C’s, too, and was happy to get B’s in some of his most difficult college classes. Clearly, we’ve solved that now with grade inflation. We are happy. But did he agree? No, he thought it was a problem. “I think the expectations of students of an A or B is a problem and that there’s a lot of pressure to get into graduate sch-” Whatever. He didn’t get it, either.

Looking through past Lawrentians, this is an issue that came up in the 2000s, and the solution to grade inflation was obvious then. If the problem is that schools that inflate grades grant more advantages to their students, Lawrence just needs to get in on this grade inflation race. We can call it Race To The 4.0. With current trends of grade inflation, it’s not like we’re not going to hit that, anyway. Might as well do it first.

Still, these phone calls troubled me and I got to thinking that maybe C is supposed to just mean the average between F and A. The point between 0.0 and 4.0. But if that’s true, what does all this inflation mean? Are we being coddled? Are we getting smarter? Damn. It’s supposed to mean that we’re better.