One of the radio shows I listen to at work featured the following video and praised it as smart and clever, if not genius:
The message is, of course, that the things you earn in life are yours and no one should be forced to give those things up against their will to assist people who didn’t work as hard as you did, and ended up with less. As the end of the video states, this is a thinly-veiled commentary on the “immorality” of Socialism.
Except it’s really, really stupid.
I am not a socialist, I am not communist, I am not even liberal; I just cannot stand poorly thought-out analogies by people so cocky about their “message” that they haven’t even stopped to think through what they’re talking about. Nothing in this video makes sense when you really take the time to lay out why a GPA is absolutely nothing like money and therefore presenting the crazy, unfair idea of redistributing higher GPA’s to failing students is not the same as presenting the idea of redistributing mass wealth to people dying of starvation.
Many students signed the petition because (I think) GPA redistribution sounds logical and compassionate at face value to someone who has left-leaning viewpoints. But I’m not going to call them out for being gullible–it’s hard to catch all the holes in something like this when you’re on the spot and on camera. Some people tried to point out how idiotic this idea is, but just like trying to catch all the logistical holes in three seconds, it’s hard to really be able to pick it apart in all its ludicrousness in the same amount of time. So I’ll take the time here.
Please take note and remember: I’m not here to advocate socialism or the redistribution of wealth as good ideas (I really don’t think they are); I’m here to demonstrate that you cannot walk around a campus talking about redistributing GPA scores and think you’re making some irrefutable argument about anything other than your own lack of analytical thinking.
1. No one inherits a GPA. Yes, I get that not every rich person inherited their wealth, and more than a few people born rich became poor through their own bad choices somehow, but that’s not the point. MANY people DID inherit wealth, and even those who were born into some money that went on to be successful and gain even more wealth were able to do so because of the wealth they had to begin with. No one gets a good GPA because their great-great grandfather carried a 4.0 a hundred years ago. Some can afford to not have to work which gives them more time for study, sure–but I defy you to to find me statistics that show that kids who can’t afford to not work through college get lower GPA’s on average.
2. GPA’s are not a resource or commodity. It’s simply a numerical system created to easily demonstrate a student’s academic status. Money, on the other hand, is limited. And if you’re like some of the commentors on that YouTube video that want to say, “If wealth isn’t infinite, then how come the Fed can keep creating currency?”, come here so I can slap you (it’s stuff like that which has kept me, a notorious flame warrior in comment sections, from ever getting into it on YouTube). The fact that wealth and money are finite is the very reason it’s bad that the Fed keeps printing more money! They’re not creating more wealth–they’re devaluing what we already have! The point here is that the reason some students have GPA’s so low that they can’t graduate is NOT because all the GPA points were taken by those with 4.0’s. They have low GPA’s because, for one reason or another, they didn’t make good grades.
3. A student with a 4.0 redistributing their points to other students does a lot more damage to that one student, and a lot less good for those other students, than a billionaire giving away a fraction of their wealth. AGAIN–I’m not advocating the redistribution of wealth, but (discussions about the dangers of coming into sudden wealth aside) if everyone’s favorite go-to rich guy Bill Gates took $762.5 million (12.5% of his net worth) and distributed that evenly to five poor people, Gates would have far less damage, and those five people far more impact, than if a student with a 4.0 took 0.5 points and gave 0.1 points to five different students. There’s technically no cap on total wealth possible, but obviously GPA has a cap at 4.0 (or maybe 5.0 if you go somewhere weird). You might want to hit back at me with something like, “But the video isn’t actually about redistributing GPA, but is instead about how ridiculous it is to insist that wealth be taken from those who have and given to those who don’t.” Except the analogy cannot hold up because, even in just this one regard, GPA and wealth are such different animals that you can’t logically say that doing A, which some people think is good, is essentially the same as B, which is obviously unfair. A and B are not comparable.
4. Every student earns their own GPA, for themselves. When I worked for McDonald’s, despite all of the long hours, the late nights, the frustrating customers, and the disgusting food and building, I was not doing much for myself. Every dollar I put into the til, I got a fraction of a penny of that dollar. The vast, vast majority of it went to the guy that owned the local franchise and the McDonald’s executives. And I’m not even saying they shouldn’t have; they put in a lot more time, a lot more effort, and a lot more risk into that business than I did–but the other side of that coin is that they never would have earned a cent without people like me keeping the restaurant running and bringing in income. Now compare that to grades in college. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a college student who puts in hours and hours of study time, working on papers, pulling all-nighters, and never missing classes, so that the majority of their GPA points go to make the “top 10% of students” have even better transcripts. GPA is essentially a lone venture, where as your wealth depends on other people as well as yourself.
5. To expand on all of these–if you’re able to actually be accepted into a college and you put in the work and the hours necessary or even more-so, it is VERY hard to flunk out. Almost impossible. But if you go out into the world and work hard for a company or put in a hundred hours a week into your own business, you can still fail, and actually, statistically, failing is pretty likely. This is, I think, where this whole “Redistributing wealth is like redistributing GPA’s” thing falls apart the most. It makes that horribly flawed assumption that people who are poor are poor because they didn’t try hard enough. That could not be farther from the truth. The makers of this video and the holders of this perspective want to push this idea that financial success is directly correlated to the amount of effort put in (like a GPA), but that leaves out things like the social class, family wealth, education level, geographic location, and even the year one was born (yes, I’ve read Outliers). All college students who are extremely dedicated and work the hardest get the highest GPA’s. In the world of money and wealth, the vast majority of workers who are the most dedicated and work the hardest most often maintain a comfortable middle class status.
I’m convinced that when the students behind this video were told by the people who spoke up that the GPA redistribution plan was dumb, they thought they were hitting their point home. What they didn’t realize is that the part they were saying was stupid wasn’t the idea of redistribution, but the idea of comparing GPA to wealth. I find it unfortunate that despite the gaping holes in their little “experiment,” they’re going to be patting themselves on the backs for years to come. I think that’s what upsets me the most–I tend to be a bit more conservative overall, and come from a conservative family and background. So when I see people that I, by default, consider my “brethren” (regardless of how distant the relation), I get upset because they’re poorly representing a perspective that I otherwise think has merit. Probably. I’ll get into what I think the serious difference between the hard-working wealthy people in this world and the actual “1%” is, some other time.