Dartmouth Thinks Forgetting Stuff Doesn’t Matter As Long As You Originally Learned It At Dartmouth

Dartmouth University has announced it will no longer give credit for A.P. classes. The decision stems from the fact that 90% of incoming students who did well on the A.P. psychology exam reportedly failed when given a chance to take the final for the school’s introductory psychology course.

The strange thing about the school’s reaction is there is absolutely nothing strange about this test performance. Over half of the A.P. Psychology exam consists of multiple choice questions that essentially necessitate memorizing facts. It stands to reason that when you test students on those facts months later without any kind of preparation they won’t remember very many of them. If every non-psych major who took Psych 101 had to retake the final the following year, I wouldn’t be shocked if only 10% of the students passed.

What’s troubling is that there’s a “shots fired” quality to the school’s decision. By rejecting the A.P., Dartmouth is signaling that elite institutions should have a monopoly on granting credits and credentials. In that sense it’s the opposite of the UC system’s decision to let students get credit for taking a Udacity course. Instead of saying that what other people do is good enough for them, Dartmouth is saying that work from other places doesn’t have enough merit, and that you must hand your money to Dartmouth if want to acquire a given credential.

The decision might be defensible if the school was making a concerted effort to put more emphasis on information retention and cumulative knowledge, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The school isn’t requiring seniors to re-pass all the exams they took their freshman year. Dartmouth simply decided to take one isolated case of freshmen failing to re-pass an exam they took in high school and use it to remove an entire means of credit accumulation. At a time when forces are pushing higher education to become more open and interconnected, Dartmouth has decided to sever ties and seal itself in.


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