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U.S. Grading System should be challenged

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/25/2011 Category: Education
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,581 times Debate No: 16140
Debate Rounds (3)
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Votes (2)




Attention: This argument does not attack all classrooms, but does attack those classrooms that insist on multiple choice tests and assignments with defined answers.
Students learn and think in different ways. Some students are better at certain things than other students. Students should therefore all not be graded on the same scale. Grading has become more of a competition between students. A child can put so much effort into studying for a test and then end up getting a terrible grade. The grading system has simplified teachers' work in the classroom. A set key of answers defines the student's success. Teachers give a test and only base the student's grade off of the answer key they have in front of them. But do we ever think about the amount of effort the student may have put into studying for that test? Their effort should come before the quality.
There is an effort-based grading scale at Benedict College of South Carolina. For freshman, they are graded 60% effort and 40% knowledge. According to the college, they believe that students can get more feedback from the professors that would allow him/her the ability to improve in a certain area. Students seem to be more willing to retain information that they aren't cramming down at the last minute, but material that expresses their effort. It makes no sense that I can fake my way through a class the whole semester by never understanding the material but passing all the exams. Our system has become too dependent on quantity and less on the quality of a student's work. Reading, writing, or math may never be a student's forte, but a willingness to try their hardest is what should truly count.
Students should also be graded on their social and emotional learning. SEL skills include self-awareness, working in teams, decision making. These are both things that will propel a student forward in his/her success. If we show students that we are paying attention to these sorts of qualities, they are more prone to develop these skills.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "character is higher than intellect." We are teaching our students material that they may never be able to apply on the job. The skills and traits we instill in them would be much more beneficial from a long-term perspective. It seems pathetic to think that we are evaluating our students by letter grades and not a better system that allows them to apply their work ethic in the next class.


It's been almost a year since I last debated on this site, and I thank Pro for providing an interesting subject that encouraged my return.

Pro proposes that U.S. Grading System should be challenged. While Pro does not succinctly state his criticism and alternative, throughout his argument he argues for an alternative system of grading that addresses what he perceives as deficiencies in the current system. Pro also does not specify whether he refers to elementary, secondary, or higher learning grading systems, but since his only example is a post-secondary institution, we will take the resolution to refer to that system.

As Con, I will argue primarily that the disadvantages to system that Pro identifies are either nonexistent or beneficial, but also that Pro's alternative system would not address all of the problems he describes and offer an alternative plan.
If you agree that Pro's disadvantages are actually nonexistent or beneficial, it negates the affirmative and you may vote con. If you believe the disadvantages are real, then Con's plan will solve them better, and you may vote con for that reason.

I will first organize Pro's arguments.

Pro argues that the disadvantages to the current system are:
1.Grading is a competition between students.
2.Quality is valued more than effort.
3.Social and emotional learning are undervalued.
4.Material presented is not optimized for the workplace.

Pro argues for an alternative system where:

1."effort should come before the quality"
2."Students should also be graded on their social and emotional learning."

I will start with the disadvantages debate:

1.The only time grading is commonly used as competition between students is in circumstances where that competition is beneficial. A competition is "a contest for some prize, honor, or advantage." (1) The only circumstance where students are actually in a contest for grades is when norm referenced grading (curved grading) is used to assign grades based on what percentile of the class a student falls in. According to the U.S. Department of Education, "Highly competitive and oversubscribed programs of study, such as law and medicine, or related preparatory programs may use norm-referenced grading to reduce the class size that is allowed to enter or continue such programs."(2) When competitive grading takes place, it is thus beneficial as it is necessary to limit the over-subscription to certain programs and ensures the quality of professions such as law and medicine where high quality is important.

2-4.Quality should be valued more than effort and social/emotional personal development. Trying hard may be an admirable moral quality and emotional development may be a worthy goal, but as Pro notes, preparation for the workforce is the focus of post-secondary education. In the workforce, results matter. As the Six Sigma program, a popular management system in corporate America, puts it, "Six Sigma Training places a clear focus on getting bottom line results … Bottom line impact gets the attention of top management for their language is money." (3) If students don't have the quality to contribute to the bottom line because their education focused instead on their effort and emotional well-being, the student has been poorly served. To the extent that social development is beneficial in the workplace, that development is the purpose of networking and social groups. Given all this, Pro's unsupported claim that material is not currently optimized for the workplace seems to fly in the face of all previous argumentation that social, emotional, and effort based grading should be valued higher than results based grading.

Having shown that, where they exist, Pro's criticisms of the current system are actually advantages, we move to the counterplan debate.

If you accept that the current system has a competitive grading system, a focus on quality over effort, an undervaluation of emotional/social well-being, a lack of focus on the workplace, and that all these things are bad, then Pro's plan does not solve for those problems.

Pro suggests a plan that grades effort over quality with additional grades based on their social and emotional learning.

Nothing in Pro's plan solves for competition, as grades based on effort and one kind of learning can be just as competitive as grades based on quality and another kind of learning. Nothing in Pro's plan solves for integration with the workplace.

Thus, as Con, I propose a system with no grades at all, where students complete coursework approved by and/or designed by professionals in the appropriate field. Emotional learning therapy sessions and social retreats will complete the curriculum. In all cases, as long as the instructor feels that the student tried his or her best, the student will pass the class. Con's plan is superior to Pro's as it solves each of the perceived disadvantages and Pro's does not.

In conclusion, vote con either because all of Pro's disadvantages are nonexistent or advantages or because if those disadvantages are real, Con's plan solves the problem better.

Debate Round No. 1


jacoope2 forfeited this round.


Pro forfeited.

Extend all arguments.
Debate Round No. 2


jacoope2 forfeited this round.


Pro forfeited.

Extend all arguments.

I'm a little disappointed Pro chose to copy/paste my arguments from this debate into his other debate with the same topic instead of sticking with this one, but I wish him the best of luck on future debates.
Debate Round No. 3
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2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Zarroette 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: ff
Vote Placed by quarterexchange 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: forfeit