Via MR, Yale Economics professor Steven Berry claims that the notion of college kids as “snowflakes” is a media myth. He bases it on his experience teaching one class at one university, but his Microeconomics class is no doubt perfectly representative of his institution and American higher ed in general. His class, he says, is “graded on a strict curve.” MR commenter “Anonymous” replied:
“I’m sure you do. But in Yale itself, the average GPA is estimated to be a 3.6. This isn’t unusual among elite colleges, at Harvard “The median grade in Harvard College is indeed an A-. The most frequently awarded grade in Harvard College is actually a straight A”
In Berry’s telling, he originally scheduled a midterm exam for for November 9, 2016. On election night, it suddenly occurred to him that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to schedule a midterm for the day after an election.
Economists like clever solutions, and I thought I had one. Every time I teach the class, I offer students in some personal difficulty the following “standard offer.” If they are unable to take the second midterm for personal reasons, I will transfer the weight of that exam entirely onto the upcoming final exam, which also covers the material on the midterm. In light of historic events and the poor timing of the exam, I made a quick decision to make a version of my standard offer to everyone, Trump’s late-night celebrants included. As it turns out, Harvard Professor Greg Mankiw, Republican economist and former adviser to President George W. Bush, made a similar offer to his introductory economics students.
No mention of this Yale Physics professor’s decision to make the midterm exam a “take home exam:”
Look, it’s fine to make fun of me. But my students aren’t snowflakes, they don’t melt at the mere thought of opposing ideas, do they? I looked out at the near-empty classroom. Shouldn’t the students be arriving by now?
The doors burst open and students who had been studying notes in the hallway outside flowed into the room. Almost all the students were there. Their heads bent over the exam, all math and graphs, with little jokes and tricks embedded in the questions. It was hard and most students took the full 75 minutes. No crying, no whining, no excuses. As the students flowed out, a few paused to talk. “Your offer meant so much to me,” one said.
We old folks have plenty to answer for. The next generation is going to have to be tough. Luckily, I was right: my students don’t melt.
How touching, the students were offered an opportunity to get out of an exam, “almost all of them” rejected the opportunity. You see, they were offered “coddling” and rejected it! The problem with the story is that it isn’t true. His true offer was very different from his portrayal in the Washington Post article:
“Almost all” of the students arrived to take the exam because they knew it couldn’t hurt their grade to do so. It could help some a lot, perhaps that’s the reason Berry got the heartfelt thank-yous. Whether or not they showed up for the exam, the students benefited from his action. They were “coddled.”
Are the students “special snowflakes?” Not the students at Yale. If they made it into Yale, they know how to handle stress. I don’t blame the students at any of these universities. Of course students are going to try to get out of taking exams. Any generation of students would. The problem is professors like Steven Berry who, even if they don’t personally agree with it, appease the SJW agenda. That he lied about what he did shows he’s probably somewhat embarrassed about it. He doesn’t want to be made fun of when he goes to the economics conference and finds himself alone with his fellow White Males. So he chooses the “compromise:” lying. You get a lot of that in an environment where people are effectively prohibited from criticizing an ideology that they do not believe in.