A recent study showed that grade inflation has become rampant at American universities. What used to be C+ has now become an A-, as more than 3/4 of students in elite universities get grades of A or A-.
This grade inflation is a direct result of the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracies and their twin concept of intersectionality. DEI requires that groups – rather than individuals – be treated "equitably", and that preferred groups be advantaged in hiring, admissions and other benefits.
Jews and other disfavored minorities are thus discriminated against in grading. The only way individuals from disfavored groups can compete against favored groups is by achieving better grades. But if everyone gets the same A grades, the favored groups will get the job and admission benefits.
Grade inflation – which is more prevalent in the social sciences than in the hard sciences – also reflects the subjectivity and propagandistic nature of many of today's courses, in which all ideas are deemed equal (except conservative ones, which students are afraid to articulate, lest their A- collapse into a D or F.)
This is all part of the DEI attack on meritocracy. DEI demands that individuals be judged by the color of their skin and their identity rather than the content of their character — or their grades. Not that grades should always be determinative, but they are part of any fair meritocratic evaluation process.
Some schools have eliminated grades entirely in the name of equity. Others have achieved similar results by eliminating differences in grading: if everyone gets an A, no one gets an A. It's all part of "equity grading" instead of meritocracy grading.
Blind grading was introduced in many schools to eliminate bias. It worked for women who generally benefited from the blindfold, as they did from screened auditions by orchestras. But it did not work for some preferred minorities. So DEI now demands that schools begin with the goal of achieving equity grading by any means, including non-blind grading, grade inflation or grade abolition. Anything to undercut the equality of meritocratic blind grading that didn't achieve the goals of DEI.
Grading should be fair to all. It should eliminate cultural bias and other elements that subtly discriminate against certain groups. But the goal should be real equality based on hard work, ability and other relevant criteria, not a trophy for everyone who shows up. Indeed today, some students receive an A even if they do not show up!
The negative impact of equity grading is incalculable. It stifles learning, hard work and creativity. It fails to prepare students for the competitive world they will inevitably face after they finish being coddled by universities. It will destroy the competitive advantages American universities used to have.
Once some universities accept equity grading, others will be forced to follow, lest their students who are graded fairly suffer in comparison with students whose grades have been inflated by DEI. It is not as if students have gotten better. To the contrary, they have gotten worse. Only their grades have gotten better. That is a combination that assures failure of the educational mission of universities. But you would not know that because the failure is covered up by artificially elevated grades.
It is said that philosophy is often autobiography, and it is true that ideologies are influenced by experience. That is certainly true of this author. I am what I am because of tough, fair grading. I was admitted to Yale Law School from Brooklyn College by the skin of my teeth. Many of my classmates were the scions of wealth and privilege. A Jewish kid from Brooklyn had no chance of completing with them except by working harder and getting higher grades. Indeed, even after being first in my class, I was turned down by every Wall Street firm, but I was able to secure a Supreme Court clerkship and a Harvard appointment because I achieved a 3.7 average. Today that would put me smack in the middle of the class and without job prospects.
So grade inflation is not victim-free. It benefits some and hurts others. Among those it hurts the most are Jewish, Asian and other students from groups that are excluded by the "inclusion" criteria of DEI. This amounts to discrimination based on ethnicity and religion. In public universities, that is unconstitutional. In private universities, that is simply wrong and immoral.
Equity grading also hurts those within the groups included by DEI who would have achieved high grades without the benefit of grade inflation. It may benefit some in the short term, but in the long-term meritocracy is far better and much fairer to most students, than the artificial construct of group equity.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School, and the author most recently of War Against the Jews: How to End Hamas Barbarism. He is the Jack Roth Charitable Foundation Fellow at Gatestone Institute, and is also the host of "The Dershow" podcast.