Imagine a professor for a college course grades on a traditional bell curve. Students fall into that pretty standard distribution based on the merit of their work, which is a function of effort, natural ability, efficient use of time, attentiveness, etc. One day early in the semester students did some reflection on what grade they anticipated getting in the class. The students who decided they were most likely to get C’s, D’s, and F’s decided to band together with a very small minority of the B students who were worried that they may not actually be "B students." They went to the professor and told her that, in exchange for minimal effort and attendance, these students would like B-‘s in the class. This should appeal to the professor, they said, because it gets rid of much of the evaluation work necessary for the professor and she doesn’t have to worry about students arguing about grades, competition between students, etc. However, the kicker is that all students in the class would have to receive a B- in the name of fairness, even if they didn’t want to take part in the agreement. A simple majority vote would decide the fate of the whole student population; students who wanted to be judged based on their own merits (A students, B students, and students who actually saw the value in a meritocracy) would not have that option. Also, the students argued, if you don’t allow us to hold this vote, we’re going to the dean to lobby for this being a standard policy, so you won’t have a choice anyway. The teacher, at the instruction of the dean, finally relented. Students showed up to class, did the bare minimum required, and left as early as possible. The quality of work obviously declined, as there was no clear incentive to put in the time necessary to master the content. Hard work, with no clear incentives, is almost always shunned for another activity or delayed until a vague “later” time. What did the A and B students do? Some of them kept working hard because of a moral obligation to themselves; more dropped down to the minimum amount of work required because…well, why not? It wasn't going to affect their grade anyway. Still others transferred out of the class because they did not want to be associated with the kind of slothful apathy permeating that particular college course. They wanted to succeed or fail based on their own merit, not receive a grade negotiated and forced upon them by their peers without their best interests at heart. Some of those individuals may have clearly overestimated their ability and received a D or C in the class. However, it would have been a grade they’d earned instead of being gifted. Did this agreement “help” the average person in the class? Well, in a traditional bell curve, the average grade would be a C. The “average” grade in this situation is a B-. However, this sacrifice of a merit-based system for the “common good” of all pushed out the very people you’d most want in that course and brought the quality of actual work being done down significantly. You tell me if it helped the average student grow personally and intellectually. __________________________________ If you were one of the bolded students, how would you feel? If you were that teacher, who wanted to maximize the growth of her students for their sake and hers, how would you feel?