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The staff of Soc Sci 125, "The American Economy: Conflict and Power," is planning to ask the Committee on Educational Policy for a public hearing on the removal of the course's grading requirement and the general role of grades at Harvard.
The staff has drafted a petition which it hopes to submit to the CEP after it has discussed the statement with the students in the course.
In the petition, which characterizes the present grading system as "abhorrent" and "inimical to learning," the sectionmen state that they plan to use the open forum as a means of expressing reasons for the total elimination of grades at Harvard.
Arthur MacEwan, instructor in Economics and head of Soc Sci 125, said yesterday that he planned to submit the petition to the students in the course next Tuesday. He indicated that his discussions with students have convinced him that they support the petition's arguments.
The petition charges that:
* grades create an authoritarian relationship between teachers and students by promoting conformity and acquiescence among students and mediocrity among teachers,
* grades serve as "an undesirable reward structure" which serves "to socialize students into the work force,"
* grades perpetuate the status quo in social inquiry by encouraging students to research subjects which are most likely to assure "a short-term payoff."
In place of grades, which they concede fulfill a need for information within the university, the statement advocates other "mechanisms which would promote rather than hinder learning."
However, it does not specify any method although it does reject the summary letter grade as inadequate.
"Learning should take place for desirable social ends and for the intricate enjoyment of learning," the staff argues. But instead, grades act as an "incentive system" in which high marks become the motivational force and replace "the direct satisfaction from the process of learning or the resulting knowledge as the final objective of many students."
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