TO THE EDITORS OF THE CRIMSON:-
THE question of a fair marking-system has not unfrequently been discussed here, but never with sufficient result to remove the present general dissatisfaction with several methods now in use. Inasmuch as there are nearly as many marking-systems as instructors at Harvard, it seems impossible in verum natura that even a majority of these systems should be entirely right and fair.
As the subject is somewhat complicated, I shall attempt merely to bring forward a single strong argument, which seems to me clearly to settle the question.
The basis of this argument is the variability of human brain-power. This makes the system of marking solely on two three-hour examinations very unfair. For it is certainly not right, since no instructor or student is exempt from this condition of our mental and nervous constitution, to judge of a man's year's work by three hours' work of a brain which, acted on by many causes, favorable or unfavorable, may be either extremely active or extremely inactive at a time selected at random, so far as the individual student's health is concerned. Why should several per cent of a year's mark be allowed to depend on a cup of green tea or a dyspeptic turn on a February or June morning?
This argument seems to me insuperable, and absolutely to condemn the marking-system above mentioned. The introduction of hour-examinations is an incomplete step toward justice. It is only by marking on recitations, also, that perfect justice is done us. This system of frequent marking eliminates variable elements, and I think it would also eliminate many of the inherent evils of the partial systems, while uniting their advantages. And if this or any other is the only really right system, it ought not to be left to individual discretion to choose any of several other methods, but there should be a more universal adoption of the right one.