The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Think back to your days at college or university. You studied hard and tried to get good grades. Why?

Well, probably because the grades you earned at university provided an indication of your ability to master a variety of topics that might be useful as you entered the real world. Your grades provided insight into your work ethic, and as a consequence, gave potential employers insight into your ability to do productive work for them. Although it’s not politically correct, in most cases grades correlate with intelligence, and intelligence correlates reasonably well with success in many employment spheres.

But that creates a problem. Since college (or high school) graduates with good grades have broader opportunities than graduates with poor grades, they also have an unfair advantage. After all, all other things being equal (even though they never are), most employers would opt for a person with a 3.8 GPA over a 1.7 GPA.

Here’s a thought experiment: In the interest of fairness, why not ask those who have 3.8 GPAs to share a percentage of their grade point with those students who have lower grade point averages. Redistribute the grade “wealth” as it were.

After all, does anyone really need a 3.8 GPA? Why not establish a “grade tax” administered by the university for the upper 10 percent of all students and ask them to share, say, 10% of GPA with those who are less fortunate. After all, those with 1.7 GPA would get the redistributed grade points, see their GPA rise above 2.0, and as a consequence have better opportunities going forward.

If you asked college students if the top 5 percent of wage earners should be taxed more heavily so that the less fortunate could benefit, I suspect that the vast majority would agree. But would those same college students agree to redistribute grade points?

Informal polling indicates that the vast majority would be against the idea, but many respondents argue that it’s not fair to compare earnings with grade points. They might say that putting in the hours required to achieve a high GPA is somehow different than putting in the hours required to earn a good income. But how is it different? And why is a special added tax on high earnings really any different than a special added “tax” on high GPA holders? After all, it’s all about fairness, isn’t it?