Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Experiment in Socialism

An economics professor at Texas Tech said he had never failed a single student before but had, once, failed an entire class. The class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism."

All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A. After the first test the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. But, as the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided that since they could not make an A, they studied less. The second Test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around the average was an F.

The scores never increased as bickering, blame, name calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for anyone else. All failed to their great surprise and the professor told them that socialism would ultimately fail because the harder people try to succeed the greater their reward but when a government takes all the reward away; no one will try or succeed.

H/T Shelly


arabic58 said...

Mid term test results, What V Fortran programming class(# 2350), 1978;

Top Score...54 on 100 point test.
2nd highest Score...53.

30 tests scores of zero "0".

signed, member, Texas Tech University class of 1982.

keith said...

Do you have a source for this? It's great and I'd love to post it on my Facebook.

arabic58 said...

Texas Tech University

Find the name of the "economics professor at Texas Tech". Last Name. Then get a year, lets say 1995. Then find the class number. Freshman classes are 1000. Junior level are 3000 number. ECOM would be a Junior level class of ECOM 3xxx. This is most likely in the Business Administration College, BA Students and MBA students.

Of course a short answer to your question would be to just go to the horses' mouth as we use to say at Tech;

Dr. James J. Hoffman
Associate Dean for MBA Programs and Executive Education

Rawls College of Business
Texas Tech University
Box 42102
Lubbock, Texas 79409-2102

I am sure he would like to get a letter from some nut asking how hard core TECH is about economics.

sharilee said...

I just talked with Jim Hoffman at Texas Tech. This story did not come from him. He says he's never taught an economics course. His focus is management.

This is a great story. It would be nice to find out where it really came from.

Ken said...

The story bears all the hallmarks of an urban legend. Don't you think someone, somewhere would have noticed if an ENTIRE class was failed? And how many Texas Tech students even understand what socialism IS, much less advocate it. Looks like you folks got taken hook, line, and sinker by some rightwing trickster.

Emily said...

I think this experiment is a great way to prove a point, but I would hate to get a failing grade because of others. I would grudgingly study twice as hard to try to bring the class average up, but I would hate every second since I hate taking care of others' work. I believe that everyone should pull their own weight, and the grade you earn is the grade you get. This definitely sounds like something I would do as a teacher though. =]

Anonymous said...

Socialism does work, but only if the people truly apply themselves. It was clear that too many students in this class did not have the drive to do well.

Anonymous said...

Now let´s look at why this experiment is flawed, shall we? I´ll sum it up the problem in the first two points and suggest a better experiment in the third:

1) The point of the classroom experiment is an attempt to address inequality of achievement (i.e. test scores). This is not the point of socialism, which is intended to address quality of life (or lack thereof). Progressive taxation, used in every country with even the most modest welfare state, guarantees that even if the rich are taxed more, there is no disincentive to achievement.

2) In the classroom experiment, everyone is given the exact same grade. No socialist or even communist country, however, gives everyone the exact same income; in the thriving Scandinavian social democracies, for example, welfare recipients are given enough to survive, and there is a wealthy upper class that is not made to surrender so much of their wealth that their lifestyles are dragged down to the level of everyone else. In short, no socialist society dictates absolute material equality, as this experiment does with grades.

3) A more appropriate experiment would be to establish a "grade tax" on the highest achievers that would allow failing students to scrape the lowest possible passing grade, and to have the professor verbally berate or similarly punish the students who failed in front of the rest of the class. This would better simulate both the percentage of income given up in tax to afford a welfare state and the punitive aspects of poverty.

(Making the suffering visible, of course, is key. If it´s invisible, the students making higher grades get to live in the same psychological bubble as American suburbanites who rarely see what poverty does to people. This is also why city dwellers tend to be more liberal, and why the corporate news media provides hardly any coverage of poverty issues.)

Anonymous said...

^ Or, instead of berating the failing students - spitting on them and calling them scum. Maybe provide a tutor? That way they can catch up and get an acceptable grade. If the worst performers are able to get even 50% then the average of the class/society will be a reasonable C to B.

Also, in this scenario either of averaging grades or taxing grades, an A can't be the maximum limit. Think of an A as a luxurious income, like $100,000. Very comfortable. Our society has millionaires, billionaires, and banks and corporations sitting on trillions, with dozens of trillions of dollars offshore.

You start to average it out that way with ALL potential wealth/grades to the class, the failings of a few and even average performance of many can be made up for with the vast surplus of As, even if it's only twice the As as there are students. The students starting with As can keep their extra As and sleep better knowing they've allowed people WHO MAY HAVE ACTUALLY STUDIED AND TRIED VERY HARD AND FAILED to get by with a C, the minimum required to count towards a major or transfer credit.

Also, one more thing about the experiment. The grades on average goes down to an F. So what? There's no more wealth? anywhere? Seems weird. When money goes places, it gets spent and goes other places - that is until it hits the bank account of the very wealthy.