Oh, so been there...times 2
Just see my entry on the bathroom remodel if you don't believe me....
"9 Chickweed Lane"
I know I don't have a better alternative, but if I could, I would definitely abolish the grading system we currently use. Who am I to say whether someone is an A, B, C, etc. student? I can tell you if someone consistently gets answers wrong, or cannot express him/herself in a coherent manner, but letter grades themselves are rather meaningless. I feel even more strongly about it in terms of literature classes. I don't necessarily care that my students read the assignment--yes, it does make participation in class better if they have--but part of my job is also to help teach them how to read literature. I model in class, and they can illustrate their knowledge on the pop quizzes I give, but it isn't necessarily that important if they know exactly when Thoreau wrote Walden. Especially if it is information they can easily find.
Yet what alternatives are there? If I don't assign a letter grade, which ultimately can determine what graduate schools/jobs/professional programs students get into, will they voluntarily attend my class, just because it's "good for them?" And if there isn't a letter grade attached, even if attendance is mandatory, will they actually do the work? Ultimately, the only things that end up being important in most classes these days are those things that will be on the exams or other graded assignments.