What an A+ Means at Harvard College

grading (300x288)People have lamented grade inflation for a while now. And Harvard College has come under particular scrutiny as many professors have complained about lax grading standards there. In light of that controversy, journalist Nathaniel Stein produced a fabulously satirical set of grading standards to be used at Harvard. You’ll have to read the entire post to get the complete standard, but here is how he describes the criteria to be used in awarding an A+.

The A+ grade is used only in very rare instances for the recognition of truly exceptional achievement.

For example: A term paper receiving the A+ is virtually indistinguishable from the work of a professional, both in its choice of paper stock and its font. The student’s command of the topic is expert, or at the very least intermediate, or beginner. Nearly every single word in the paper is spelled correctly; those that are not can be reasoned out phonetically within minutes. Content from Wikipedia is integrated with precision. The paper contains few, if any, death threats.

A few things can disqualify an otherwise worthy paper from this exceptional honor: 1) Plagiarism, unless committed with extraordinary reluctance. 2) The paper has been doused in blood or another liquid, unless dousing was requested by the instructor. 3) The paper was submitted late (with reasonable leeway — but certainly by no more than one or two years).

An overall course grade of A+ is reserved for those students who have not only demonstrated outstanding achievement in coursework but have also asked very nicely.

Finally, the A+ grade is awarded to all collages, dioramas and other art projects.

I’m strongly inclined to agree that if a paper includes more than just a few death threats, 2 or 3 at the most, it definitely should not receive an A+. And if the death threats aren’t at least somewhat creative, I may bump it all the way down to an A-.

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