Sunday, March 11, 2012

Don't major in science if you're dumb...

Interesting article titled 5 Hardest and Easiest College Majors by GPA's.  Here it is, in a nutshell:

5 Lowest Grade Point Averages
  1. Chemistry 2.78 GPA
  2. Math 2.90 GPA
  3. Economics 2.95 GPA
  4. Psychology 2.98 GPA
  5. Biology 3.02 GPA
5 Highest Grade Point Averages
  1. Education 3.36 GPA
  2. Language 3.34 GPA
  3. English 3.33 GPA
  4. Music 3.30 GPA
  5. Religion 3.22 GPA
I'm certainly not surprised that Education is the easiest.  I've seen positively stupid people major in education and do well (yes, they're teaching your kids).  I am a bit surprised I didn't see Physics and/or Engineering on the lowest GPA list.

The study was done by Kevin Rask, an economics professor at Wake Forest University (see the article for more details).  The "solution" proposed by education consultant Lynn O'Shaughnessy, the author of the article?

"It seems to me that the best way to produce more scientists and engineers might be to get the professors in those fields to lighten up on their grades. Do the students, who are brave enough to wrestle with organic chemistry and multivariable calculus, need to be crushed at exam time?"

That sound you heard was me hitting my head against the wall.  That's all we need.  The civil engineer who designs the bridge you drive over to be graded on a curve for his or her differential equations class so as not to harm their GPA.  I bet Lynn was an education major with ideas like that.


  1. This was definitely the case at my college. Science majors had GPAs about 1 point lower than humanities majors. I majored in both science (Earth Science) and language (Arabic), and my Arabic GPA was higher. While my language classes were challenging, they were definitely easier to ace than my science and math classes. However, I think it's important to keep things in perspective. The scientist and engineer graduates from my college had no problem finding jobs or getting into grad school, despite the lower GPAs. Finishing the major requirements was important, not receiving perfect grades in every class. I even obtained a C in one of my math classes.... and still managed to be accepted to MIT for grad school. I think science and math students should take *pride* in their courses being more difficult. That makes the degrees really worth something if you can stick it out!

  2. I had a C average my last two years of college getting my geology degree. A bad student? Maybe, but I scored 80th percentile on the GRE in geology. My profs challenged me, and graded accordingly. Your point about bridge engineers is excellent. If students can't handle these courses, they can't handle hard choices in the real world either. I couldn't believe her supposed "solution".

    1. Garry - I worked my ass off to graduate with honors. I was heavily involved in the Earth Science Department and frequently gave up my weekends to help out (still managed to keep a great social life). I don't mean to toot my horn about myself (my academic record is not perfect), but I think that I did a pretty damn good job. What pisses me off is that I have been denied to certain graduate schools solely because of my GRE scores. Nowadays, the GRE does not have a geology specialized section (wish there was). I feel that colleges are mostly concerned about numbers and have forgotten about the quality and experiences of the student. What concerns me about the example in the post is that there are students with lower GPA's and fabulous GRE scores getting into college and later dropping out wasting everyone's time and money. I agree that the GRE can help weed out good and bad students, but I think it's extremely flawed.

  3. I've had many friends graduate with education degrees. The workload they had was tremendous, but they persevered. If I had children I would want them to have those friends as teachers. I am shocked, however, that I know several people who were dumb as shit (doing drugs, partying, beings fools-at an excessive level), and still managed to graduate and get a job teaching. The saddest part is that they continue to be fools (even on facebook with students as friends).

  4. Lighten up on the grades?! What?!
    I'll posit a different idea, higher GPAs are in fields that allow for greater subjectivity in grading.
    There are rules that govern math and the sciences which limit a teacher's grading flexibility; music and languages/writing are almost entirely subjective.

  5. I find you made fantastic the moment when you picked out this topic of the article. Do you generally make your blog entries alone or maybe you have a partner or a helper?

  6. I believe that grade deflation is the reason behind the sea of low grades in STEM subjects. For instance, when a class is doing great, science professors have the tendency to purposely make future graded assignments harder. They are purposely weeding out even when students have shown that they have a firm grasp of the content. A lot of people blame other departments for grade inflation, but I see it as arrogance in part of science folks. Instead, why not blame the unfair practice of grade deflation in STEM areas.