Marxist professor Richard Wolff argued this week that schools should abandon traditional grading systems because they are part of “meritocracy” which in turn is a basis of capitalism.
New School Professor Richard Wolff argued in a column this week that the traditional grading used in schools throughout the world should be abandoned over its alleged relationship to capitalism.
Wolff claims that he has “suffered the imposition” of the grading system since the beginning of his education. Now, as a professor, Wolff views the grading system as an inadequate means of evaluating student progress.
Moreover, Wolff argues that assigning grades to students emboldens American values such as the role of “meritocracy” and self-reliance.
Grading is not only a mechanism designed to save money spent on “education.” Grades also function as a major foundation and support for the meritocracy. The merit ideology functions as a crucial defense mechanism for capitalism given its failures. The U.S. idea of meritocracy asserts that one can quantitatively rank individuals’ qualitative capacities. Each individual’s work skills, production capabilities, contributions to output — as well as their intelligence, discipline, social skills, and much more — can be ranked. This framework holds that there are some individuals who best or most possess such qualities; some who possess the worst or least of them; and many who occupy positions between those two quantitative extremes.
Wolff’s biggest problem with the traditional grading system is the way it creates winners and losers. According to Wolff, the traditional grading system and capitalism both insist on narrow interpretations of “failure,” offering little room for those with unique skills to thrive.
How, then, has capitalism survived? Its persistence can best be explained in terms of ideology. The system produces and disseminates interpretations of its failures that blame these problems not on capitalism itself, but on other altogether different “causes.” Institutions have developed mechanisms to anchor such interpretations widely and deeply in the popular consciousness.
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