I go to a state university. So they can get away with it on the basis of being the cheapest.These experiences echo my own. The expectations, workload and overall difficulty of classes vary wildly from faculty to faculty. I also took introductory anthropology in my last year of university; I found it interesting, it was a nice break from the much more stressful engineering classes I was taking, and in the end I came away with a B+ after spending probably no more than a few hours over the course of the entire semester reading or studying. If I had the luxury of more free time I'm quite confident I could have easily gotten an A.
I think grades are inflated in certain disciplines, particularly ones that produce a great number of grad students. One of my classmate's girlfriends was majoring in religious studies while he and I studied mechanical engineering. We were happy to get a B or better; she was disappointed if she got anything less than an A and devastated if she had a B+ or worse. Her class's collective GPA was around 3.8; I didn't know anyone in any engineering discipline who had a GPA above 3.7 (A-).
Where her studies and ours differed most was the way in which it was graded. She wrote essays almost exclusively. We wrote reports and solved (math/physics) problems. Her grading was at the mercy of the professor's interpretation of her writing. Our grading was based on our scientific and mathematical methodology. Southern Kross explains it better:
On the other hand I found the classes I took which used the latter type of grading were noticeably easier, grade-wise. 'A's were handed out like candy on Halloween. These were (in my experience) mostly social sciences and arts courses. A 'B' in a philosophy or sociology course was much, much easier to obtain than in, say, calculus, chemistry, physics or a latter-year engineering course.
Does this mean a sociology class was in and of itself inherently easier? To a certain extent I think so. I found my classes in sociology and anthropology took up much less of my time and I still had (in my opinion) half-decent grades (I can't remember now, but I think I got Bs in both). To get a B in, oh... "Acoustic, Optics and Radiation", "Differential Equations" or "Kinematics and Dynamics of Machines and Mechanisms" was a significantly more time consuming and stressful experience.
At a higher level I imagine many of these social science disciplines become quite a lot more difficult and time-consuming (especially the sheer amount of reading and writing required!).
The difference is, going back to the example of my colleague's girlfriend, she needed a 3.8 GPA or better to get a sniff at grad school. I knew guys who went into grad school to study mechanical engineering whose GPAs were no better than 3.2 or 3.3. The difference between an A and a B+ was enormous for her, whereas the difference between a B+ and an A for me was "I'm pleasantly satisfied" and "HOLY CRAP I GOT AN A?!?! SUCK IT, BITCHES!!"
So, are grades being inflated? Yes, in certain disciplines, but the perception of what constitutes a 'good' grade and a 'bad' grade is following the same path.
People spend tens of thousands of dollars on a post-secondary education. Institutions that develop a reputation for being stingy with 'good' grades will soon find themselves sparsely populated because their graduates won't be able to do anything with their degrees.
It really annoys me when I hear about grade inflation going on in Ivy Leagues and then they have the nerve to say that A's there are "better" than A's a state college. MY A's are hard-earned, bitches.
I should've just gotten myself into debt and attended Georgetown.