The Path to Public Service at SEAS
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While ending the annual bout between six hundred weary students and Finer's analysis of the German bureaucracy, the April Hour Examination in Government 1 renews the instructors' difficult task of adjusting grades to the Lowell Distribution Curve. Adopted years ago after a scientific study of Freshman marks, the Curve has long served as the God which all Yardling markers must reverence. Although the high calibre of Government One bluebooks now soars above the scientifically established limits, section men are warned not to violate the Gospel according to Lowell. But changing conditions must make too rigid adherence to a static standard as futile as Darius whipping the turbulent waters of the Hellespoint.
The scholastic pulse has been quickened by the raising of admission standards. Far more discrimination now enters into decisions of the Committee than in the halcyon days of the early twenties. The President's scholarship program has also infused better blood into the student body. Although only recently dropped into the Harvard pond, the small group of Conant scholars already spreads its influence in widening rings.
Failure to grant section men latitude under such kinetic conditions will bring great injustice. Insistence on torturing marks to square with the established percentages puts instructors under the unstated compulsion of keeping men outside the pale of a passing mark. The Government One staff should be allowed complete freedom in marking for the next year. During this moratorium they could observe whether the quality of work continues to improve. If the present tide ebbs, the level of marks would automatically equate with the curve. But if the improvement should prove permanent Professor Holcombe could then consider changing the course standards to preserve the indubitable advantage of having a scientific curve of distribution. But any arbitrary attempt attempt to dam the tide of rising marks now will rightly loose a flood of complaints on the Professor's head.
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