Classification treatise

June 28, 2002

Brothers and sisters, pernicious arguments have been circulating of late proposing the abolition of degree classification. The malevolent sects responsible for these perverse opinions must be refuted.

First, it is alleged that the time-honoured practice of confirming the children of good citizens as either first or second class is not consistent with the scripture on lifelong learning. Second, that classification confuses the distinction between percentages and categories, so encouraging a belief in the efficacy of numbers. Most foul of all are those who say the increase in those blessed among the upper second means that classification is no longer necessary as it does not represent the spirit of value added, but is rather a self-defeating raising of standards whereby eventually even the last shall come first.

How are we to fight such perverse arguments that threaten the very foundations of belief, that will destroy the frame of learning, and that will extinguish the arts and sciences and the professors with them? How are we to preserve the very mystery of our craft and priesthood against such levellers, ranters and coffee-house tricksters?

There is but one answer, and it is one you must embrace with zeal, even though it may entail hours of meetings pondering the invisible borders between classes. If you wish to preserve but a little of that sacred pride that brings you closest to the very mystery of things, I urge you to continue with that most devout secret ceremony of classification, separating wheat and chaff, sheep and goats, right hand and left.

Some there will be, I know, that think I exaggerate this new spirit of lollardism, but recall how we lost that other instrument of numerological inexactitude, the teaching quality assessment. And even now in the streets I hear voices raised against that most holy of blunt pentangles, our blessed research assessment exercise. That, however, shall not be. Sooner shall students turn up early for lectures than I will allow the spirit of learning for learning's sake to walk free or you to lose your priestly right to divine the difference between categories. Nay, sooner will I suffer for your sakes the inquisition of an undifferentiated Quality Assurance Agency subject review or bear the indignity of the untold riches of a vice-chancellor's salary rise before I will allow the demigog of transcripts to rule the earth.

Beware the foul fiend; the watchword was ever a b , with a touch of d .

Martinus Coylus
In the Time of Exams, Cardiff

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