The problem is this flies in the face of the American(perhaps human, but moreso in America) impulse to continuously compare ourselves to others. Everyone just wants to know how they stack up.I think this is the main point. People like hierarchies and exclusive clubs (even if they only get to gawk from the outside). That's why we're capitalists. Everyone wants the chance to be the best/ richest, even if it means they could end up at the bottom instead. I think it's just human nature, for better or worse.
See my response to the same post. I think the primary reason people like heirarchies, and the primary reason we (and pretty much everone else today) are capitalists, is because such systems generally work much better than other systems. When people and institutions are rewarded according to their abilities and efforts, people tend to work much harder, and tend to perform much better. Good and services in general are consequently much better in market economies vs. state-run, egalitarian economies, and most people tend to enjoy a higher standard of living.
(A system where people are rewarded according to their efforts, of course, is also arguably even more "fair" than one where everyone receieves the same benefits, regardless of how hard they work, and how much they contribute.)
As noted, there is an equal and countervailing human instinct to resent inequality, and to strike out at those who outperform/outearn the majority. (No one likes to feel like someone else is theoretically somehow "better" than them, of course.) Given that about half the people are usually in the bottom half of any social structure, these resentments often play a powerful role in different social systems, and they have led to some truly horrible systems over the last century where anyone who wasn't "average" was punished or executed, where there was little incentive to exert oneself, and where life was generally not only extremely mediocore, but often fairly miserable.
Most people today wouldn't want a system completely devoid of social services and some wealth redistribution for those who have difficulty excelling, for whatever reason (and no market system is 100% fair, either) but it's probably important to be aware of the positive (and negative) implications of all relevant human instincts.
Amanda, I agree that grades in school make people work harder, but I don't think it makes them learn more/deeper. I think most people, when faced with a test, work to learn how to "beat the test", especially in the case of standardized testing. Tests become a way of measuring how people perform on tests. not always/exclusively, of course.
here's my thought experiment: what if every LSAT was taken 'blind', i.e. the test takers did not know the format of the test beforehand. you would know there was a focus on reading comprehension/ logic/ etc., but you wouldn't be able to study the format like you are with the LSAT. that way, taking multiple practice tests would be less beneficial in learning the way the test is structured. there would be problems with this way (people would complain certain people are better at certain formats), but I think it would be even more equalizing than the present manner. what do you think?
I think this last idea is an interesting one. However, I don't believe it would be "equalizing" in the sense you mean. If the test were more secretive, then the people with more natural ability would do better, and those without that inherent aptitude would do worse. In other words, you would eliminate the element of effort
that, in my opinion, makes the test a more meritocratic measure of law school aptitude than a pure "abillity" test. Those who won the genetic lottery with regard to those aptitudes would be more rewarded, while those with a greater work ethic would no longer have the same chance to further develop those skills through diligence. (Given that this diligence is also very important in law school, it might also make the test a weaker predictor of law school success.)
Of course, those who believe that expensive test-prep courses are vital in LSAT prep would probably support this on the grounds of economic fairness, and they would certainly have an argument. However, to me, the personal time and effort expended in LSAT prep is far more important than the amount of outside help received, so this (in my opinion at least), would at best only partly mitigate the negative effects.
In terms of whether grades make people lear better/deeper, I really don't know. If people are working/studying harder, won't they generally learn more? If there were no grades in law school, would people really be willing to spend as much time in the library? If there was no bar exam, would people bother to learn anything until they were actually at the firm? I think some people might study for no other reason than the joy of learning, but I'm not sure they'd be in the majority, and it would be difficult for employers to identify such students without grades.
But all interesting ideas, definitely.