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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Greta Calls Law School Grading a "Fraud" -- She Gave "Almost Everybody" A's at Georgetown

Fox's Greta Van Susteren (J.D. & LL.M., Georgetown), who has taught several classes at Georgetown, goes off on a four-minute riff on law school grading, calling it a "fraud":

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2008/09/greta-calls-law.html

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Comments

It sounds like Greta Van Susteren's grading was a fraud -- not that law school grading in general is a fraud. Those of us who teach for a living, as well as adjuncts who take their teaching responsibilities more seriously than Ms. Van Susteren (and, apparently, her colleagues -- one of whom admits that the only check on his desire to give "A"s to almost all of his students at American was poor class participation, while the other suggests that cheating is the only legitimate reason for not awarding high grades), know how to write and grade exams that can differentiate students' performance for the purpose of assigning grades. She also admits to routinely ignoring suggested or mandatory curves. I agree with her that grades -- particularly grades at a top 15 law school like Georgetown -- are overemphasized. I find amusing her notion that giving Georgetown law students less than an "A" might "ruin their lives."

Posted by: Keith Rowley | Sep 23, 2008 10:08:16 AM

Sounds like Greta Van Susteren has a soft heart in that grades are "to" important. Grades shouldn't be based on such things but points earned. I.E. show up (no different then being at work regularly), Class participation (no different than a group or team effort at an employer), workmanship (quality of work), and of course the biggy - what do you know.

Posted by: Bruce | Sep 23, 2008 10:38:17 AM

She's the one that is a fraud. She obviously has no ethics and her license to practice should be pulled.
She doesn't need it now that she has sold out to FOX anyway. She makes a laughing stock of higher education and she makes it harder on educators who hold students to standards before getting an A.
She's a loser of the first magnitude.

Posted by: Loretta | Sep 23, 2008 1:04:19 PM

show up (no different then being at work regularly), Class participation (no different than a group or team effort at an employer)

The main difference is that at work they pay me, as a student I pay you.
Class is the professors job. It isn't the students.

By the time I got to law school, I was very good at learning on my own. And, in law school, there are a ton of extra materials to help you learn (flashcards, outlines, restatements, horn books, etc.). I often found that skipping class and going to the library was a better use of my time.
Needless to say, this angered me. But I needed the piece of paper to sit for the Bar.

I remember the exact moment I realized that my Torts professor was so far behind the syllabus that we would never catch-up and I would never truly know what I was expected to read for that particular class. I left at the break and spent the rest of the semester studying in the library. I got an A.
I did that for most of my classes. I got As or Bs.

I (or my real employer) paid for the class. If I want to waste (not show up) what I paid for, that is my business. It isn't hurting the class (presentations, role playing & seminars aside). The professor is there to help me learn the material (and impersonally evaluate how well I learned it). If I want to ignore that tutoring and learn it on my own, that is my choice.
If my real employer expects me to go on a business trip and it conflicts with your class, I shouldn't have to suffer because I choose putting bread on my table as opposed to stroking your ego by being an adoring fan.
I also expect the professor to conduct an objective evaluation without their bruised ego getting in the way (boo-hoo, this student doesn't like me enough to show up, I'll dock their grade). That is why law school exams use student numbers, not names.

And don't give me that "class participation" crap. Most of the class, especially those that like to talk, are idiots. Attention whores dominate the class participation.
In Contracts, the professor never said anyone was wrong. She taught a whole semester on "Promissory Estoppal" and then gave a test on standard Contracts. So, if you attended class and tracked participation, you were filled with wrong ideas, and focused on the wrong things. I wised up to what was going on, taught myself, and got an A or a B (I forget).
The worst was the guy (student) that proudly explained supply & demand in the the 2/3L business class. If you haven't cottoned on to that fundamental piece of business by grad school, I don't need to hear from you. I honestly thought of walking down to the front row and bludgeoning him with my textbook.

As a student, I am not your employee. I am your client. I am one of ~30 clients in the class and I shouldn't act too demanding, but I am not your employee.

Bruce, you are aware that via your comment you just told your students, your adult grad school students, to "go F' themselves"?

Posted by: EvilDave | Sep 23, 2008 9:29:39 PM

Greta Van Susteren is spot on. Professors ought to consider the fact that splitting hairs should not be the cause of an A versus a B (or a B versus a C, etc.). If student performance is extremely close, students who perform very well all deserve A's. The misplaced use of the "curve" is especially pronounced in smaller classes. Indeed, I've been in a class small enough that a statistician would object to using a curve on such a small sample size. (Of course, there are few professors and students in law schools who know enough about statistics to notice that.) And professors who ignore the fact that grades affect student lives ought try to put themselves in the place of students who are competing in job markets that get more competitive every year.

Posted by: A GULC student | Sep 24, 2008 11:02:12 AM

As a law student, I'd like my professors to grade fairly. If I work hard, I want to get a better grade than someone who doesn't show up to class or do any work. However, some professors are just ridiculously unfair in their approach to grading. For example, one of my professors refused to give an A to anyone because, and I quote, "nobody is perfect." Now, that's unreasonable, and it does affect students' future ability to repay the loans they are taking out to pay the professor. In that case, I'd prefer Ms. Van Susteren's method.

Posted by: law student | Sep 24, 2008 5:20:12 PM

This makes me sick - I would have loved to have some professors who give everybody As since I show up and work hard - instead I'm stuck with average grades and zero job prospects in a crappy economy...nice.

Posted by: IU3L | Sep 25, 2008 8:26:26 AM

Apparently I should have gone to another law school and not the hardest working law school in the country. (http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2007/10/princeton-rev-2.html) Life would have been a breeze if the curve was set at an "A." If you're gonna have a curve it better mean something. If lots of students perform equally well then give 'em all a B+. If you would rather give them all an A because they're all so special and smart, or because the class is small, then be honest about it and ditch the curve.

I may not have liked the grades I got in some classes, and perhaps my GPA would have been higher without a curve, but at least I knew where I stood relative to the rest of my class. There was a certain fairness to that which I appreciated.

Posted by: Former Law Student | Sep 25, 2008 9:07:25 AM