Alfie Kohn’s The Dangerous Myth of Grade Inflation is a lengthy essay illustrating his position on the counter argument to the recent trend of claims in the academic world, the rise of grade inflation. Kohn takes a firm stance on the absurdity of the idea of grade inflation possibilities, that in fact “it is hard to substantiate even the simple claim that grades have been rising” (62). Kohn makes an intelligent, well-developed argument as shown by his length in content, essay format, and appeal of ethos.
Although the essay did take quite a bit of time for me to read, I believe the length of Kohn’s essay helped to strengthen his argument. Kohn used plenty of citations of statistical research in the first half of his essay to show facts and figures before he explained his own theory, such as, the analysis of the reports completed by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Harvard University (63). This tactic was very strategic, because it gave the reader a chance to read the content that is typically more dense before he or she could process the meat of his essay. He then continues to go through the claims of his opposers, “the assumptions that seem to underline the grave warnings about grade inflation”, and how he believes the claims can be defeated (65). The format of Kohn’s essay exercises the appeal of ethos by spending a few pages on the background of the topic before he addresses his own opinions, establishing his credibility to the reader.
My personal response is focused on the major weakness I found in the piece. This weakness came to mind while I was analyzing a sub-point off of Kohn’s use of ethos in his essay, his use of language. I found his use of language to be intimidating, which made it unclear if I (a freshman in college) was a part of his intended audience. With large, complex sentences like “A focus on grades creates, or at least perpetuates, and extrinsic orientation that is likely to undermine the love of learning we are presumably seeking to promote”, I felt a sense of distance from Kohn’s ideas because I had to look up the definitions of the words he used so casually. This use of wordy language made it hard for the reading to flow, due to the constant need to re-read the passages. I was constantly pausing to try and understand what I just read, and found that I took a lot of breaks and got distracted. I believe I could have developed a stronger opinion on the topic if I could understand what he was talking about in all point of his essay. Kohn’s sophisticated essay is a strong argument on the myths of grade inflation intended for an audience as intelligent as he is.