The idea of a pass/fail requirement is too optimistic


Tommy Lunn

What if you could take a class that would end up on your transcript as either a “pass,” conventionally an A through a D, or a “fail,” an F?  It sounds like a great idea to make all Jefferson students take a class under this scheme; taking a hard class without a blow to your GPA should allow for much more academic exploration.

A collaboration between the Student Government Association and Jefferson’s administration, a Google Form survey was posted in the class of 2014 Facebook group on Nov. 5.  This of course incited discussion in the comments thread.

This year’s seniors voiced their opinions, ranging from praise to scorn.  Many students said that it would let them explore new classes, but others said that it would spark laziness and should not be required.

Overall, there is little to suggest that this is going to end in a positive change for Jefferson’s curriculum.

The pass/fail proposal would present many issues.  While it would be designed to allow students to take notoriously difficult classes such as Differential Equations, the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.

Perhaps more students would be convinced to take traditionally harder classes.  However, this would mean that the classes likely hurt are those such as humanities electives.  If people who are in classes such as drama or film study could take AP physics without penalty, many likely would make that transition.

A large number of Jefferson students will eventually pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) paths.  However, the humanities and arts classes offered at Jefferson give students a well-rounded education as well as a break from a STEM-heavy course load.

And as far as the classes that students might take as pass/fail are concerned, they might end up being taken much less seriously.  If a student is going to receive the same final grade for a 95 percent that he or she would for a 65 percent, where is the incentive to try?

No, grades are not everything and they should not be.  Effort, on the other hand, should be taken very seriously.  As students accumulate work and stress, they naturally try to relieve themselves of the problems.  These pass/fail classes would end up being the victims, skipped over in favor of classes that have an actual letter grade.

On the same page, the system can easily be abused.  If someone gets a notoriously difficult history or physics teacher and has the ability to take the class pass/fail, they would not be part of the change’s goal of trying to allow for more difficult classes.  Students who take classes such as Advanced Mathematical Techniques and Theatre Arts want to be in those classes and will most likely try.  Mandatory classes, however, do not warrant this amount of attention from some of the students.

Requiring a pass/fail class would probably not behoove Jefferson students.  Colleges already know which classes are the hardest.  As such, the move would end up encouraging laziness and not end up being an improvement to Jefferson’s curriculum.