Redistributing Grades

You see some pretty interesting reactions and responses from our intellectual superiors when asked to redistribute their 4.0’s to less deserving students.

YouTube Preview Image

Hat Tip: Matthew Archbold

41 Responses to Redistributing Grades

  • Ladies and Gentlemen… I present the future of America. * shudder *

  • Hmmm, they are not too willing to share yet they fail to see the comparison. Troubling…

  • Grades are like money in that you have to work hard to get them. Other than that, the analogy breaks down. People who have poor grades aren’t prevented from eating. The need for money as opposed to the need for grades is dramatically different.

    Moreover, at some point money actually becomes excessive, particularly for those trying to live a life of gospel poverty. It’s hard to think of a reason that grades are excessive.

    So the students are right; this is a very poor analogy.

  • How hard does Paris Hilton work for her money again?

  • Other than that, the analogy breaks down.

    The analogy is good because these kids don’t have any money yet, so they are all for redistributing it. What they do have is good grades, so “keep your greedy mitts off it” is their attitude.

  • Though good grades frequently move you along to better schools thus to better long-term earnings. Giving up part of your grade to another (who is often only slightly less adept academically than the one getting a 4.0) can help even the financial field in the long-term. Thus acting in part like redistribution but from a non-financial basis.

    It also reflects in part the affirmative action programs of the 70’s and 80’s where students of lower abilities were admitted to better schools in this interest. (Though it was often justified on the basis of “diversity.”)

    Don’t see why the analogy completely fails though, as noted and as is true for all analogies, it is not perfect.

  • “The analogy is good because these kids don’t have any money yet, so they are all for redistributing it. What they do have is good grades, so “keep your greedy mitts off it” is their attitude.”

    Bingo.

    “People who have poor grades aren’t prevented from eating.”

    Neither are people without money. See food stamps.

    Having gotten rather good grades throughout my academic career, I would note that I have had to work far harder for the money that I have earned since I graduated from law school, than I ever did for the grades I earned in the past.

    A good follow up would be to ask A students in favor of wealth redistribution, after they have graduated, if they would be willing to have positions they qualify for due to their grades given to students with poorer marks. (Congrats on landing that prestigious clerkship with Justice Blank. How about, in the name of equity, changing positions with that newly hired Public Defender who snoozed through Constitutional Law?)

  • “It also reflects in part the affirmative action programs of the 70?s and 80?s where students of lower abilities were admitted to better schools in this interest. (Though it was often justified on the basis of “diversity.”)”

    Phillip, just so you know, this is still going on. Certainly it’s a big part of the law school admissions process. If I were an underrepresented minority (URM), then I’d be in at Harvard Law or at the very least Columbia with my LSAT/GPA. Thousands of students this year will be displaced from their schools of choice by people who worked/studied less in the interest of “diversity.” Luckily, I worked hard enough to be admitted to the school of my choice with enough cushion so my Euro heritage didn’t hold me back.

    My curmudgeonly/Aristotelian talking point on the matter is this: supposing diversity is a good thing in a law school setting. Well, what sort of diversity? A law school is an intellectual setting. Therefore, intellectual diversity is the sort of diversity that is a conceivable good in a law school. Ergo, affirmative action for conservatives. :)

  • “Well, what sort of diversity?”

    If an institution is looking for diversity it does little good to forcus only on sex and skin pigmentation while the vast majority of the people admitted hold approximately the same political-cultural-religious views.

  • Yes, that’s precisely my point.

  • I recall Francis that when I was in law school, 79-82, some of my colleagues telling me that I was the first conservative they had ever known. Some said that in a friendly manner and some in a less than friendly manner!

    (Of course my class also voted me most likely to sentence someone to death for illegal parking!)

  • The students can claim that a lot of wealth is unearned (e.g., inherited). Of course, IQ is inherited too but you still need to work to make use of it. So this got me thinking… what if instead of an estate tax, estates are automatically placed in a trust and paid out as a dollar-for-dollar match to the heir’s own earnings? That more closely resembles the effect of genetic intelligence.

  • Why don’t we just have a national sales tax and get rid of income taxes. Then the government won’t keep records on what everyone earns and use it to divide everyone up by classes to pit against each other. It is really no one’s business how much anyone else makes or how they distribute that money to their heirs. We all have different talents and opportunities that lead to higher incomes. Is this fair? Of course not. It’s not fair that some people are attractive, good dancers, or charming while others are ugly clumsy clods. But that’s the way the world is. As Christians we should encourage everyone to give to the less fortunate among us willingly and not try to forcibly create equality where it doesn’t exist.

  • America’s gravest problem is moral not pecuniary.

    The chaste, the honest, the hard-working, the sober wage-earner or “A” student is not the bad guy.

    Tearing down the virtuous does not build up the vicious.

    Once upon a time, the family was the base of society. Now, its base hordes of envious, hateful dependents viciously clawing at each other when they aren’t assailing the virtuous.

    End the Class War!

  • “It’s not fair that some people are attractive, good dancers, or charming while others are ugly clumsy clods.”

    And its not easy being so attractive and charming! :)

  • MZ,
    About as hard as my old college roommate who knocked out straight A’s without ever cracking a book.
    No analogy is perfect, and nor are most corrolations. But the analogy here is pretty good, precisely because the corrolations between between work and grades as well as work and income are pretty good.
    This is not to say that other factors are unimportant. Natural talent as well as demographic luck are extremely important. But if you want poorer outcomes generally, weaken the link between work and those outcomes.

  • A book published about 10 years ago, “The Millionaire Next Door,” examined wealth in the US and found the overwhelming majority of millionaires were and are self-made small businessmen and women who live quite modestly in terms of their financial worth. The book also made the point that the old saying “Shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves in 3 generations” is still operative. There’s a distinct pattern here: the founder of the family fortune might be content, and indeed might feel more comfortable, living in a run-of-the-mill house in a non-ritzy neighborhood and driving a used car – but normally, he wants his offspring to have all the advantages he didn’t have – fancy private schools, piano lessons, summer camp etc. However, the further one gets away from the source of wealth, the greater the temptation to take it for granted and fritter it away. By the third generation, it is frequently gone.

    Of course, the massive fortunes of people like the Rockefellers belong in their own category and last much longer than the fortunes of Joe Schomo who owns 4 or 5 successful auto body repair shops in Des Moines. Still the book points out that wealth in the US is far more complex than just “the rich get richer.” In reality, some rich get richer, some go from poor or middle class to rich and some sink from the ranks of the rich or middle class into poverty. It’s not a constant.

    I read an article in the WSJ a while back about young unemployed college grads, mostly with humanities degrees, using food stamps to buy gourmet food at Whole Foods – organic rabbit, imported cheese, etc. None of them had any sense of shame or embarrassment about using food stamps and none of them appeared to consider or care that working people who can’t afford WH imported cheese themselves were the ones paying for their meals. No, they were entitled to the best and heck it was Magic Money from Uncle Sugar anyway. I have the feeling that those kids are on the escalator headed down.

  • The reason the analogy is close to perfect is the response of the students, not because a GPA is exactly like money or wealth. In some ways their grades are more earned than wealth, and so bringing up an inheritor of wealth like Paris Hilton probably reinforces the point being made. Better still to bring up the late Sen. Ted Kennedy who had inherited his wealth and was all for redistributive measures which mostly affect income earners.

  • Donna V.,

    The Millionaire Next Door, excellent book.

    It’s amazing that just living simply and within your means reflects the Christian virtue of prudence.

    Then comes along a self-hating American who wants to destroy this by “redistributing” the wealth.

    This video is a perfect analogy of what’s wrong with most progressive/liberal thinking.

  • The Millionaire Next Door was interested in Prodigious Accumulators of Wealth. They found people making hundreds of thousands per year who became millionaires to not be particularly exceptional. PAWs were exceptional.

    As for grades and income, you are dealing with Zero Sum Game theory. If one rejects ZSG for both groups, then the analogy is more palatable. The lack of resonance occurs because people do not believe grades are a ZSG but believe income and wealth are. Perhaps they are wrong in that belief, but this analogy will hardly convince them of it. Like many things on the Internet, it is a backstroking gesture.

  • The Church teaches the principle of the Universal Destination of Goods, and that the right to private property is not absolute.

    Jesus teaches that the rich are in danger of worshiping mammon rather than the Father, and that the path to heaven for the rich is the path of renunciation and generosity.

  • Here’s an excellent piece on the universal destination of goods and private property rights.

  • I liked this quote from the article you posted Pauli, “A fair wage for the work done is therefore “the concrete path by which most men arrive at those goods destined for common use” (LE 19).” Couldn’t agree more. I’ve often thought that the Catholic doctrine of a ‘just-wage’ is the solution to much of our society’s problems.

    A little thought experiment on the minimum-wage: you raise it to say, $20/hr. Millions of jobs are lost. That, to me, is a very interesting fact. Millions of jobs exist which are . . . economically useless . . . in that they do not make enough money to support families. Perhaps the problem with a minimum-wage is not the wage itself, but the work itself. If work cannot produce enough profit to live a decent human life (the very definition of a just-wage), then there is something suspect with that kind of work.

    In other words, if McDonald’s could not survive paying its employees a just-wage, then there is something fundamentally wrong with McDonald’s. Yes, human beings are probably not meant to make change and fry potatoes all day long. Human beings are not machines.

    The ‘correction’ our economy needs may very well require the loss of tens of millions of jobs. Perhaps these tens of millions can be given work that means something: say, intensive non-industrial farming. Just sayin’ . . .

  • Minimum wage jobs are not economically useless. Many people holding them are high-school kids who live at home and do not need to support a family. They are transitional, or they are part-time jobs which old people like who have SS checks coming in. Raising minimum wage jobs hurts these groups most. People who are trying to raise families just need to get better jobs, that’s all. Many groups—public and private—exist to help these people obtain the proper training.

    Perhaps we should lower the working age rather than raise the minimum wage.

  • say, intensive non-industrial farming. Just sayin’ . . .

    Intensive non-industrial farming does not generally result in income greater than $20/hr. People who do make more than $40k/yr farming generally do so by using industrial methods, working far more than 40hrs per week, or employing a number of very low wage workers during work intensive parts of the year.

  • “People who do make more than $40k/yr farming generally do so by using industrial methods, working far more than 40hrs per week, or employing a number of very low wage workers during work intensive parts of the year.”

    You need a lot of land in Central Illinois to make farming pay: at least 600 to a 1000 acres depending upon the fertility of the land. Those farmers farming less than that usually have a regular job in town and farm on the side.

  • Well… what if you own the farm? Then you can make some real money. Wait—that’s business ownership and requires individual initiative and risk! Never mind….

  • If you own the farm, and you use farming methods which a lot of “sustainable agriculture” folks consider “industrial”, you can indeed do really well. If you use “sustainable” techniques, but are able to round out your labor force by taking on low wage workers part of the year, (or more commonly by taking on a bunch of free “interns” who are learning about sustainable agriculture techniques and feeling close to nature) you can sometimes make that work as well. Though even so you might end up putting in so many hours that it wouldn’t work out to more than $20/hr if you were really rigorous with your labor accounting.

    At root, I think the problem here is that many of these “back to the earth” ideas of how just wages and good work would look actually involve a proposal that everyone be much poorer than is now the case — but people don’t understand that when they don’t understand that wages value are, among other things, only worth their ability to buy the products of others’ labor. So, for instance, you can talk about raising the minimum wage to $20/hr, eliminating all the jobs that don’t “make sense” in that world, and then having those people go back to the land, but in reality it wouldn’t work out remotely that way.

  • I agree with everything you said, DarwinCatholic. It’s extremely obvious, and that’s why the main reason I engage people on this topic is for amusement value. Which reminds me, I am paid $0.00/hour to comment on this blog. How am I going to feed a family of 7 on that??

  • “those people go back to the land”

    Almost all “back to the land” movements have been brought about by urban ideologues who are completely clueless about rural life and farming as a means of making a living. The misery brought about by such idiocy is a wonder to behold.

  • Maybe part of the reason I feel so critical of this tendency is that I do share a certain romanticization of farming — but it’s a romanticization laced with a tragic sense, such as Victor Davis Hanson gets across in Fields Without Dreams. I think there is something worth admiring about it all, but it’s important to be clear that while farming may be more “real” in some senses, that’s mostly because that life harder, poorer and more capricious than “wage slavery”. At a civilizational level, you really have to see that fact that very few people are engaged in food growing as being a sign of progress, not loss of touch.

  • “Maybe part of the reason I feel so critical of this tendency is that I do share a certain romanticization of farming”

    Any inklings I had in that way were cured by my first day baling hay as a teenager. Much of farm work is still very arduous, and people who do it regularly often are on the lookout for an easier way to earn a living. Fields Without Dreams is a great study of the black comedy that trying to earn a living from farming often is.

  • Not being a farmer myself, I can’t say much beyond that I trust in the message of farmers Wendell Berry and Joel Salatin–that civilization must be and can be founded upon agriculture. This doesn’t mean everyone is a farmer, but it means many more farmers than we now have, farming in a way that is both profitable and sustainable. If you haven’t read either Berry or Salatin, I highly encourage you to check them out at the library.

    I’ve spent a lot of my work doing manual labor–some of it easy, some of it quite hard. I had a ranger buddy of mine who would always complain before putting on our 100-pound rucksacks, getting ready for a night-jump, followed by a hard march, followed by an assault. I always reminded him, “Yeah, but dude, we’ll feel awesome when it’s over.” And that’s always how it is with hard work that engages both body and mind. Too often, what passes for ‘work’ in our society engages neither!

  • Berry is vaguely on the to-read list for one of these days, but I’ve read a fair amount about what Salatin does on Polyface Farms.

    As far as developing sustainable techniques, I think he’s been pretty brilliant — but I think one has to be very clear when reading about what he’s doing that it’s not a model for how all agriculture could work unless one was willing to settle for a much poorer society. His food costs 2-4x what comparable “industrial” food would cost, and that’s despite the fact that he has a lot of work done by interns/apprentices who work for nothing but room, board and $100/month.

    Not to mention that not many people combine his abilities as farmer, inventor, and marketer which make an operation like his possible — and are willing to forgo the significantly higher wages they could make if they took those skills elsewhere.

    There’s a lot to admire in Salatin’s philosophy on interacting with nature, but his lifestyle is not a route to “just wages” for the many, as if most things were made through that kind of farming (and the analogous craftsman approaches to making various goods) even the “just wages” proposed would go much less far than now. If a $4 hamburger which is premised on $9/hr labor seems unjust — we don’t necessarily find ourselves better off when the hamburger costs $15 and wages are $20/hr.

  • Nine dollars an hour is not an unjust wage for a high-school kid. If you have to support a family, you have no business flipping burgers.

  • Darwin, I think you’re right to point out that an agrarian lifestyle would be “poorer” in terms of material goods. We would not have so many computers or automobiles or even books. But there would be a lot more work for people to do, and lot more food for those workers to eat. What do we really need beyond room and board and friendship and community?

    Wendell Berry is published in Communio quite often (a very good and orthodox Catholic journal!). A recent essay of his is “Inverting the Economic Order”, where he writes “From an economic point of view, a society in which every school child “needs” a computer, and every sixteen-year-old “needs” an automobile, and every eighteen-year-old “needs” to go to college is already delusional and is well on its way to being broke.”

  • “This doesn’t mean everyone is a farmer, but it means many more farmers than we now have”

    Actually we have too many farmers as indicated by the fact that many of them cannot make a primary living farming. The only way for more people to make a living farming would be for food prices to skyrocket, something which is bad for society in a whole host of ways. Farming of course has not been the bedrock of this country’s economy or society for well over a century. In regard to society that might be a bad thing, but in regard to the economy I think that has been a very good thing if one of the purposes of an economy is to lift the general prosperity.

  • I think you’re right to point out that an agrarian lifestyle would be “poorer” in terms of material goods. We would not have so many computers or automobiles or even books. But there would be a lot more work for people to do, and lot more food for those workers to eat. What do we really need beyond room and board and friendship and community?

    It sounds like we’re in agreement that far, then. I guess what I’m less clear on, in that case, is: Why the necessity of raising wages to some arbitrary “just” level and eliminating a bunch of jobs based on that? If room and board and friendship and community is all that’s needed, people would works at McDonald’s and Barnes and Noble, be satisfied with the $8-9/hr wages, and live simply together in groups just like they could on sustainable farms. (Or they could ditch urban life for farms, if they prefer harder manual work and no air conditioning.)

    I guess I’m unclear how justice is served by having people be forced out of current employment patterns (obviously, if they want to all go work on sustainable farms, that would be fine too) if we’re okay with the idea of people being as poor or poorer than now.

  • Darwin, can I just pay you a compliment: it is nice to be able to disagree with you without worrying about it getting personal! Thanks!

    I’m not really proposing a huge minimum-wage increase, but was just fascinated by the thought experiment. I don’t really know what the solution is.

Follow TAC by Clicking on the Buttons Below
Bookmark and Share
Subscribe by eMail

Enter your email:

Recent Comments
Archives
Our Visitors. . .
Our Subscribers. . .