Editorial: On P/D/F language classes
The justification for maintaining the letter-grading scheme for students initially fulfilling their language requirement is important and valid. Learning any foreign language is a difficult skill, and first-time language learners need to fully commit to this multifaceted challenge. The letter-grading scheme helps provide this incentive — students are generally more willing to work harder in courses where the grades matter more. Moreover, because introductory courses are typically small and discussion is emphasized, all students in the course benefit when their peers are investing themselves in the language. By contrast, if a student P/D/F-ed a language course and did not devote the necessary time, he or she would be adversely impacting the rest of the class.
However, with the current no-P/D/F policy, even students who have fulfilled the University language requirement, whether through bi/multilingualism, testing out or the completion of a 107/108 language course at Princeton, are unable to P/D/F intro-level language courses when taking a new language. These students have already acquired advanced language learning skills. Therefore, one of the no-P/D/F policy’s objectives is inapplicable to these students: They are already proficient in a foreign language and need not be incentivized to devote themselves to language mastery.
Moreover, this new policy would provide students the opportunity to invoke their intellectual curiosity and become better-rounded, multilingual individuals — a truly Princetonian perspective. The choice to take additional languages is just that: a choice. Only students who are motivated and curious enough to learn an additional language will take another language, due in no small part to how intro-level language classes meet every day. These select students are clearly willing enough to put in the time necessary to learn more languages successfully. Accordingly, they should be allowed to take intro-language courses without the stress of a GPA hit, especially since these courses often have extremely difficult curves.
Furthermore, the implementation of this new policy is not unfeasible with our current Registrar system. SCORE already identifies fulfilled distribution requirements, and departments are able to individually grant permission for students to join courses. The combination of these two built-in tools would enable the University and departments to easily determine which students have completed the language requirement and to allow these students to P/D/F the intro-level language courses.
In summary, the opportunity to P/D/F introductory language courses after fulfilling the University requirement would align Princeton’s interest in promoting intellectual growth with students’ incentives for exploring additional languages.
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