Most people take grades and grading for granted – part of the inevitability of school and learning and education generally. But why? Where did it all begin? What gave rise to such a way of thinking about learning?
Meet William Farish. Anxious to increase his income by taking more students and not inclined to want to get to know them as indviduals – he invents a grading system adopted from the factories of the industrial revolution:
William Farish was a tutor at Cambridge University in England in 1792, and, other than his single contribution to the subsequent devastation of generations of schoolchildren, is otherwise undistinguished and unknown by most people.
Getting to know his students, one may suppose, was too much trouble for Farish. It meant work, interacting and participating daily with each child. It meant paying attention to their needs, to their understanding, to their styles of learning. It meant there was a limit on the number of students he could thus get to know, and therefore a limit on how much money he could earn.
So Farish came up with a method of teaching which would allow him to process more students in a shorter period of time. He invented grades. (The grading system had originated earlier in the factories, as a way of determining if the shoes, for example, made on the assembly line were “up to grade.” It was used as a benchmark to determine if the workers should be paid, and if the shoes could be sold.)…more…