A for effort?

Via Vox Populi:

Nearly two-thirds of the students surveyed said that if they explained to a professor that they were trying hard, that should be taken into account in their grade. Jason Greenwood, a senior kinesiology major at the University of Maryland echoed that view.

“I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,” Mr. Greenwood said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”

“If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?” he added. “If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher’s mind, then something is wrong.”

While we might want to acknowledge effort in some way, giving an A for effort implies that effort is as good as accomplishment. And of course, it isn't.

Where else do we see manifested the notion that effort is as good as accomplishment? Some expressions:

  • "It's the thought that counts."
  • "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game."
  • "Everyone's a winner."

Not to deny that there is at least some truth in the first two, but we say these things to console losers. We ought to be very suspicious of the things we say to console ourselves or other people. Some other manifestations of this notion:

  • Participation in political demonstrations. While demonstrations can sometimes accomplish things, I believe that for the most part participation in demonstrations is about visibly making an effort without regard for its effectiveness.
  • Recycling and other environmental-conscious activity. A lot of it does not withstand close scrutiny, and yet it persists, which suggests that it is primarily about making an effort.
  • Political discussion. Via Econlog, John Nash made the point:

    Then gradually I began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally influenced lines of thinking which had been characteristic of my orientation. This began, most recognizably, with the rejection of politically-oriented thinking as essentially a hopeless waste of intellectual effort.

    I think there's a lot of truth to that.

  • The Transportation Security Administration. This is a highly visible effort whose dubious effectiveness has not dented it.
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It depends what the school

It depends what the school is trying to measure. A grade is a measurement, not a moral reward people are entitled to. This whole debate assumes that grades are "deserved" or "un-derserved". There's no such thing, a grade is a grade is a grade. The same goes when people think of wages, "equal work = equal pay" for example also assumes entitlement.

If we think effort is important, then grade effort separately. Mixing effort and accomplishment in a single grade is stupid.

comparing seeds and fruit

Arthur B. uses "grade" as the outcome of a test and also as the reward assigned to the outcome. This doesn't logically follow. Equal pay for equal work is the equivalent to equal report card grade for equal test results. This describes earnings, not entitlement.

When testing snow tires it is immaterial how much effort the engine can waste spinning the wheels and going no place.

Worked Real Hard and Still Got A D

If some kid worked real hard and still got a D I think that might indicate he is even more incompetent than he imagines. Why should the grade show that he is average?

The Third World Experience vs The Universal Ideal

Its curious, if luxurious, the distinction. For us, in the third world, its real. So real that we have stood by and watched as entitlement has turned our once world class institutions into war zones. Blood on the malls of our universities.

I say entitlement, not like a lunatic conservative, but like someone for whom the concept is real. We watch every day, as entitlement, deeply engrained, and perhaps our fault, (God I hope not ) has taken over. Now, its not enough to provide free education, we have to approve the demise of standards, we do so at threat of violence, which is an every day event in this, our new democracy.

When you tell people that education is a solution, you had better make sure that you have the economic capacity to deliver, let alone the capacity to deal with the deeply held idea, that pitching up, going to class and just giving your best effort is enough to turn the tables.

Its not.

The measure of education is not that you tried, its that amongst all that tried you succeeded.

The smaller the success to attempt ratio, the better the education.

Effort > delusion

Think of the discipline is takes a child to give it his/her all in whatever he/she chooses. Knowing that he/she can't personally realize their potential if that "default" is not met.

THAT discipline is a very important mental faculty to have with a ton of implications for a successful future. Whether you're "better" than someone else or not.

In some ways, it is as good as accomplishment. In some ways it isn't.

Whether Johnny is good at basketball or not, that he tried, and he fought and he gave it his all, in instances like those, you're not consoling the loser, for he may have put in more blood sweat and tears than the "better" player, and that has its own merit.

Shall we reward the person with born abilities? The person that just floats on his success because of his talent? Hell yes we do.

Everyone is definitely not a winner. I agree there.

Now on to the potatoes:

Participation in political demonstrations. While demonstrations can sometimes accomplish things, I believe that for the most part participation in demonstrations is about visibly making an effort without regard for its effectiveness.

Maybe. However, I think you're understating the effectiveness. I think a larger social and psychological event is taking place, and whether ultimately the protesting works, MAY be a moot point.

Perhaps it's like going to a concert, a sports game. All these people crammed together with a common interest. It feels good. They're banding together. I would have to assume they think they're doing good, and hence they believe it, and hence it's true in some sense.

Recycling and other environmental-conscious activity. A lot of it does not withstand close scrutiny, and yet it persists, which suggests that it is primarily about making an effort.

Do they know it can't withstand close scrutiny? I would venture a guess: no.

So the issue may be lurking elsewhere. Trust in other people that have higher status for example.

Maybe the issue isn't "effort," maybe it's lack of curiosity and knowledge. Thinking for oneself. Researching their own truths etc.

By the way, I see a lot in common with Religion here. The effectiveness of protesting (or lack thereof) and the effectiveness of church (or lack thereof).

People aren't going to Heaven, which is one way to measure the effectiveness, but it works for them. Same with protesting. More is at stake than the question "did the protesting work?".

Heh but alas, I can already see holes, but the foundation is solid enough for the simple example.