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Diploma Issue

May 26, 1991

Although the focus of the article, "City Schools Reject Colleges' Idea to Award Diplomas on Basis of GED" (May 22) was on using the GED as the basis for awarding a high school diploma, the true argument was against awarding the diploma on the basis of testing, as opposed to accumulating credits in the classroom.

(School board President) Shirley Weber is clearly against the idea, stating her worry about "watering down" the diplomas earned by students paying their dues in the classroom. There are several points to be made against this point of view.

First, the idea of awarding credentials on the sole basis of examination is ancient. The great medieval universities, such as Bologna and Paris, followed this practice. No matter what you did (or didn't do) in class, the degree was awarded only upon successful completion of the exams. The University of London--along with most other universities in the United Kingdom--continues this practice.

Secondly, this concept is in full force in the United States today. At least three state universities--the State University of New York, Thomas Edison State College (New Jersey), the Charter Oak College (Connecticut)--will award their bachelor's degrees solely for passing their (and others') examinations. I know; I've done it.

Finally, logic must prevail. Classes can (or should) only be passed by completing examinations and other types of assessments successfully, regardless of the amount of time spent in class. Why, then, shouldn't students who have not attended the classes, but can pass the exams, also receive credit? What difference does it make where, or how, these students learned the material? Credit for time spent, presumably with good behavior, is what we award members of our prison system, not achievers in our educational system.

Ms. Weber decries the students with "watered-down 3.2 grade-point averages, who cannot function at the collegiate level because they didn't learn anything in high school, despite their lofty grades. That scenario seems to me to seriously demean the value of the high school diploma, much more so than its awarding by examination.

Let's give those who've learned from the "school of hard knocks" an opportunity to earn a legitimate high school diploma.

RICHARD C. DOUGLAS, Assistant Professor of Aerospace Studies, San Diego State University

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