Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Why Have Grades In Medical School - Part I

In what is sure to become a running theme on this site, I will attempt to eschew the grading system that currently infects medical school institutions around the country. People are encouraged to offer their opinions so that I might better understand this entire issue.

First off, why have grades when students are in a post-grad institution? If someone could please provide me a valid reason, I would greatly appreciate it. To me, Pass/Fail is perfect for many reasons, including less pressure, less backstabbing, increased learning, etc. For each friend I have at an institution whereby there is an A,B,C/Honors,High Pass, Pass/Great, Average, Sucky system, I can provide countless anecdotes of 'missing library books', 'lack of student comraderie', etc. On the flip side though, I do not see this AS MUCH with students attending systems where Pass/Fail is the grade given in the grade book.

Now, could part of this be the culture of said institution? Of course. We'd be stupid not to consider that. However, when one does so one finds that many highly regarded institutions do not stratify their students. Maybe they know something 'lower' regarded schools do not. I am not trying to bash schools not listed in the top 25 medical schools, brought to us by the unbiased editors of USN&WR (until this thing gets going, and readers begin to understand my style, I will leave /sarcasm notation where applicable), merely pointing out some inconsistencies.

Having never been graded in only a pass/fail fashion, I agree it is rather difficult for me to praise it. However, having been under the stratification system for over 20 years, I am fully capable of crapping on that system. I can personally attest to it providing all of the downsides noted above, with no apparent upsides. Some might say, "the system encourages people to work harder". To that I say, if you are letting in students to medical school that still need a motherly figure standing over them screaming "DO YOUR HOMEWORK!! LEARN THOSE ARTERIES!!", then you might want to reconsider your admission policies. Part of becoming a doctor, and a responsible adult, is taking it upon yourself to study, read, plan, etc.

What about the "it's unfair for someone who puts forth 20% effort to gain the same credit as someone who puts forth 90% effort" response? Well, this is equally stupid in my mind. Think back to what your high school grades meant -- nothing. For a few seconds they were important while colleges read your application, but we all know SAT/ACT scores were the most important thing we did. Think back to what you college grades meant -- nothing. For post-grad work it's all about entrance exams (LSAT, GMAT, MCAT, DAT). So in essence, the grades you received served no purpose, except to stratify students, produce conflict, increase stress, etc. In those classes that were pass/fail, or provided no grade whatsover (participation meant passing), there was less conflict and less stress. Should we not be providing this sort of environment for higher learning?

To be continued....