My son Ben, who is a junior in high school, is taking a pre-calculus class at a San Diego community college a couple of nights a week.

After the first class, Ben told me that the professor explained quite dramatically that he would not accept any excuses for late assignments. To illustrate how serious he was about this edict, the professor recalled that one of his former students was a cancer patient who mistakenly received what nearly proved to be a fatal dose of chemotherapy.

Thankfully the woman recovered, but because of the near-death experience she missed a class and turning in an assignment. The student offered to show the professor the marks where doctors had put the paddles to electrically jolt her back to life, but he wouldn’t budge and refused to accept her late assignment.

Ben and I were both stunned by the professor’s extreme behavior, but I was reminded of the story when I read a story in The New York Times yesterday. The story suggests that many colleges students today feel entitled to top grades just for showing up and doing what’s required.

I think part of this attitude can be explained by the rampant grade inflation that’s entrenched in many of the nation’s high schools. Because good grades are so critical – especially for those who want to go to selective schools — teachers are hesitant to give out  “B’s,” much less “C’s.”

I think this coddling at the high school level  — and it certainly isn’t happening at every school — does  a real disservice to teenagers. They end up being stunned by how hard they have to work in college for “A’s.”

In reality, once students reach college their days of  4.0 grade point averages are gone. To prove my point, I’m sharing the average collegiate grade point averages from the latest almanac of The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Average College GPAs

  • A average:  16.9%
  • A’s & B’s:   12.6%
  • Mostly B’s:  26.7%
  • B’s & C’s:     15.9%
  • Mostly C’s:   18.7%
  • C’s & D’s or lower: 9.3%

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution.

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