A letter from a reader about Grade deflation, Army-style

March 23 , 2007

During World War II I learned navigation from Pan American Airways, which flew from Dinner Key, Florida, and was under contract with the Air Corps. Pan Am would not allow anyone to have a passing grade as a navigator with an average below 80. The Army, on the other hand was not allowed to flunk anyone, unless his average was below 70 percent. Easy: A Pan Am numerical grade of 80 was made equal to an Army grade of 70. The ratio of Army to Pan Am is then 70/80, or 0.875. Thus, the same Pan Am 80 X .875 = 70. If the same ratio were used it would be impossible to get an Army A, since even 100 on a Pan Am test would result in an Army score below 90 (100 X 0.875 = 87.5). Our whole class would get no A grades. We worked our butts off for the Pan Am 80, and let someone else figure our Army score and the percentage of A’s.

Haworth, N.J.

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