Walter Williams, professor of economics at George Mason University, argues in a controversial State Journal-Register piece this week that grade inflation has eroded the value of an undergraduate degree—to the point “that idiots could earn A’s and B’s” at highly prestigious schools (Harvard is one target):
Since the 1960s, academic achievement scores have plummeted, but student college grade point averages (GPA) have skyrocketed. . . . Today’s college students are generally dumber than their predecessors. An article in the Wall Street Journal (Jan. 30, 1997) reported that a “bachelor of Arts degree in 1997 may not be the equal of a graduation certificate from an academic high school in 1947.” The American Council on Education found that only 15 percent of universities require tests for general knowledge; only 17 percent for critical thinking; and only 19 percent for minimum competency.
Williams describes rampant grade inflation as “simply a euphemism for academic dishonesty. After all, it’s dishonesty when a professor assigns a grade the student did not earn.”
Some of the conclusions are admittedly inflammatory, but his arguments are compelling. Still, of the top schools cited in the article, liberal arts colleges are conspicuously absent. Does Williams have a point? Are academic standards at Wesleyan (and so-called peer institutions) an exception to the rule? Discuss in the comments.