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As I continue to look through applications to graduate programs, I keep running into the general degradation (that’s the right word) of the whole grading system. It’s not just that there’s grade inflation. There’s also the grading of the ungradeable.

When I went to school in South Africa, all that mattered for admissions to college was your grade — not your personal qualities, not your sporting abilities, not how much good you’d done to the world. (Of course, sad to say, your color mattered, but that’s another story.)

Here, all sorts of things besides your grades matter, and why not I suppose? But then don’t grade things that don’t matter.

What sort of information is conveyed by an A in “Introduction to Tennis”? I didn’t make this one up.

And in that case what sort of information would be conveyed by a C in “Introduction to Tennis”? (No C’s given, I’m sure.) Could you take it Pass/Fail, and if so could you fail?

It’s great to learn tennis. It may indicate something of significance that you played on the university squash or chess team. Maybe some sort of sports should be compulsory at college – mens sana in corpore etc – but why the letter?

I once knew a student who tried to get in to Intro to Tennis, and the course was full, so he audited it.

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