Obviously, we should want our grades not to be infected by unwarranted biases and to reflect our students' academic performance and mastery. (Though you know how I feel about grades in general!) It's hard to argue with sentiments like these:
Just as we need to be aware, for instance, of overt preferential or prejudicial treatment, we need to be on the alert for all feelings, good and bad, not to purge them — I am not sure how to do this — but to acknowledge them and make sure we understand how they influence us. Teacher: where possible, heal thyself.
But I guess I found Major's own examples where he's tempted to bump up the grade of a likable student, or knock down the grade of a not so likable one, not terribly credible — or at least they don't speak to my experience. I just don't find too many students who routinely fail to attend class (or sleep when they do bother to attend!) that are nevertheless sterling academic performers, for instance. Most of 'likability' will show up or be accounted for indirectly in student grades. I admit I like students who show up, are prepared, ask questions when they don't understand, respect the material I'm teaching, etc. But those students will tend to do well on other performance metrics (and will score well in the area of attendance and participation). Similarly, I admit I dislike students who don't show up, are never prepared, seem willing to let the quarter pass by without seriously engaging the material, etc. But again, those will tend to do poorly on those other performance metrics.
There is one kind of example that troubles me slightly in this area: the eager beaver, let's call the student. This is a student (and they're almost always from introductory courses) who is very taken with philosophy, asks questions, visits during office hours, and so forth, but struggles with tasks such as essay writing and test taking. The eager beaver is often as knowledgeable about the material as other students, but has trouble displaying that knowledge via the assigned tasks. I often feel like I should be able to reward the eager beaver's enthusiasm, engagement, and effort with a slightly higher grade, but the numbers don't support the higher grade.
I've indicated some reasons to downplay Major's worries, but is Major right to be concerned here?