Education: Downgrading No-Grade

"An academic bubonic plague," says Acting Dean Harry Yamaguchi of Indiana University's graduate school. New York University Philosophy Professor Robert Gurland is less vehement. "A viable option," he says. To Boston University's Associate Dean Ernest H. Blaustein, "it was a noble experiment that just didn't work." Those three opinions summarize the growing controversy that now marks a once popular academic innovation: the replacement of traditional letter or numerical grades with simple "pass" or "fail" marking systems.

Pass/fail emerged in the late 1960s, washed in by the tide of student protest against "the System."...

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