[Marxism] A Modest Proposal (Re: America No. 1?)

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Sat Mar 5 15:16:44 MST 2005

Mark Lause wrote:
> Getting rid of grades in a competitive and commercialized system is
> about like getting rid of wages because they're not fair.  Certainly,
> performance-based grading is not a level playing field, but it is the
> only place in the entire system with any kind of potential for social
> leveling.  Putting it on any other basis tilts everything entirely in
> favor of those with the money to keep investing in course credits, in
> effect buying a degree on the installment plan.

Given the title, "A Modest Proposal," this objection does not hold
because it takes the proposal as a piece of legislation rather than a
proposal to illuminate what is rather than to institute legislative
change. (Many students do think that Swift supports cannibalism.)

But taking it as a serious legislative proposal, the objection is still,
I think, incorrect.

What would happen if there in fact were no grade records? Let's take the
example that is always thrown up when "reducing standards" is at issue:
Would you want a neurosurgeon to operate on you if Med schools didn't
give grades?

What would happen is that each hospital would have to take direct and
continuing responsibility for the competence of each of the surgeons who
utilized its facilities. And it in turn would rigorously train and
continuously monitor the performance of the (non-degreed) surgeons
operating on its premises. Medical care would almost immediately
improve. If it didn't, there would be actual lynchings of hospital

Incidentally, over on lbo-talk there is now chatter about the other
famous cliche on the ignorance of u.s. students -- geography. (No one
has yet told the joke about God using war to teach americans geography.)
And of course americans are -- except (as in almost all other areas of
knowledge) when the practice they find themselves engaged in demands
that knowledge. In another year or so everyone involved in left 
(non-electoral) activity will know a good deal about Haitian geography.
What difference does it make, NOW, if they think Haiti is in Australia
and El Salvador is in the MidEast?

Thought is, after all, a moment of social practice, not an independent


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