John Staddon uses a Martin Center column to ponder the role of grades.

The reality of human difference—difference in every aspect from height, weight, and beauty to intelligence and industriousness—has become a huge problem for America. Many people simply can’t accept it. A big problem with grades is that they make these differences impossible to ignore. Hence, pressure to make them taboo.

There are other reasons for the flight from grades. The New York Times quotes a Wellesley college official who says that pass/fail is to be adopted so as to “support one another without being required to make judgments.” Apparently, Wellesley professors find it painful to make judgments about their students’ performance? Judgment is tough for the judge (all that grading) and sometimes vexes the judged. Thus, the feelings of both teachers and students will be protected if grades are abolished. (One wonders, why not replace the teacher with a textbook for information and a puppy for encouragement?)

Feelings not only matter but are paramount. Teachers now take it as part of their mission to enhance pupils’ self-esteem, which is regarded as desirable in itself rather than as a natural result of achievement. The hegemony of feelings goes well beyond education.

The Supreme Court, for example, just decided that if a man feels like a woman (the correct phrase is “identifies as”) he/she must be treated like one, no matter what his/her biological equipment—at least as far as employment is concerned. (And vice versa. When will the first female ? male trans lifeguard insist on going topless and be (illegally) fired?)

It is easy to make fun of patently nonsensical beliefs, but they can have very damaging consequences. There is a school of psychology called behaviorism which has had an enduring effect on the scientific bit of psychology, and that is its insistence on data that are accessible to a third party. …

… Educators have left this kind of objectivity far behind.