False quantification to the nth degree

Tue, 14 Jun 1994 09:09:45 CDT

Here is a somewhat diffident defence of the GPA system attacked by M.
Salovesh. Though these are rationalizations, they also are true.
First, fractional means calculated from integer data do convey
information: a 3.49 means a student has almost surely gotten far more
A's than a student with a 3.01. Mike's complaint, though justified in a
"purist" sense maybe, would require either professors to assign decimal-
places sufficient to justify the mean, or transcript readers to study
histograms (and end up calculating--often misculaculating--their own
means). Second, the arbitrary lines sometimes do screen out students
with inappropriate aspirations. I recall a student with very little
reasoning ability who had his heart set on going to law school; a GPA
just under 3.0 seems to have kept him from a profession for which he
simply was not suited (and I am very slow to make such judgments about
students' professional prospects). Third, colleges and universities
usually have appeal procedures that make it very unlikely that tiny
GPA deficits, in themselves, will suffice to prevent a student's
continuation and ultimate graduation. --Bob Graber