According to Professor Mark Bauerlein [The New York Times, May 10, 2015], in 1960, only 15% of college student grades were in the A range. That number has currently increased to about 43%, making the A, a most common grade today. This significant statistic got me thinking. Does that mean if I went to college today, would I have had more A’s? Or, does it mean that today’s professors simply hand out more A’s? Are we smarter today or are the professors too lenient?
Looking at other variables regarding individuals we have more statistics. For instance, on the negative side: 1. Emotionally, we have more suicide completions; more drug use; more alcohol abuse; more sleep deprivation; more depression and more prescription medication treating emotional problems. This data suggests that likely more emotional or mental health issues exist today than in 1960. 2. The physical health issues in this country are more pronounced today than in 1960. We have more obesity; heart conditions; diabetes, etc. than 1960. There is greater emphasis today on technological games, sporting events and other diversionary opportunities to deal with anxiety, insignificance and powerlessness. 3. It takes more years for today’s students to complete college; today’s students have incurred more tremendous college debt; and more of today’s college students are still living at home than in 1960. 4. Compared with other countries, today’s students are further and further behind on standardized math and science scores.
On the other hand, the athletes of today are certainly stronger, faster and more talented than in 1960. Certainly, in professional sports, superstars like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, and Charles Woodson in football, come to mind; Stephan Curry, Lebron James, Anthony Davis and James Harden in basketball; and Madison Bumgardner , Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera in baseball would certainly have no difficulty playing their sport In 1960. On the non- professional level, Tom Johnson a three-time winner In the Western States 100 mile one day endurance run broke the course record in 1991. Johnson’s winning record time in 1991 was under 16 hours. If he ran in 2014, that winning time would have placed him 8th.
It seems to me that we have progressed physically, especially in sports, but not emotionally since 1960. Of course, today’s college students, according to The American Freshman Survey said in 1967 that 86% of them wanted to develop a more meaningful philosophy of life. However, that 86% has plummeted to 45% and has been replaced by making money. Has the idea of making money, increased the motivation for receiving an A in college? Has the idea that developing a meaningful philosophy of life is no longer as important and that has resulted in receiving more A’s in college?
Perhaps if we had compared CT’s, MRI’ s, PET’s, SPECT’s, EEG’s QEEGs, ERP’s and MEG’s to evaluate the structure and functioning of the left and right side of our brain in the 1960s and some 50 years later, we might have more clues as to the cerebral dominance of brain functioning. If we only had the computer sophistication back then we might be able to settle this question. However, it’s my guess that college grading has changed over the last 50 years. After all, many of today’s helicopter parents tell their kids how wonderful and special they are. Just because a parent tells the kids that they love them and overindulge them does not necessarily result in greater cerebral dominance.