We all stress ourselves out to memorize the formulas. We all have had that cram night before the final. We all BS homework at the last second so as not to “get a zero”. We all use Spark Notes. We all discuss answers post-test.
The extent we go to thinking and stressing over grades is honestly insane, but in the world we live in, it makes sense. Get the A, get into the brand name college, get the job, live in a gingerbread house with angels as children. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Of course, that’s not how it really works, but getting good grades certainly does give people advantages for getting into college, which is obviously a factor in our future.
I understand that in the world we live in, grades can make or break one’s life; I’m not going to dispute that. But I’m going to make an even bigger point. I’m here to say that the world we live in shouldn’t put stress on grades. Actually, I think grades are harmful.
Okay I know what your thinking now is “he is going to go on a rant about how grades are immoral and hurt kids feelings”. Well, to be honest, I think that has legitimacy, but I hope you’ll find the points I make a little deeper than that.
Grades have always been a big part of my life, as I’m sure they are yours, if you are a student. I prided myself on the 100s I would get on spelling tests, or the As I may have gotten in middle school and high school. Yes, when I got my first 79 it made me very upset. Yes, when I got a B in 8th grade math it killed me. And honestly, every kid who gets stressed over grades has every right to be stressed. College admissions, the need to compete with your classmates, and all the other attitudes our schools hammer into us scare the hell out of us. And you know what, the grades I’m getting now are fine, but it’s still scary that I don’t have Ivy League quality grades. In addition to the stress caused by grades, there are many problems that I believe having grades causes regarding education.
Plain and simple, I think grades simplify, complicate, and take away from the beautiful process that is learning. Does that sound like a bit of a contradiction? Let me explain. Grades put a number on education. If two people both get an A in social studies who would know that one person used to struggle? Who would know that the other person found some great insight into history? Who would know what they learned? And again, if a person got an F in math, let’s say, who would ever know if he really did understand the concepts he was taught? Maybe the kid really does think like a mathematician and just doesn’t like how math is taught in his class. The point is that learning is such complicated process which is merely hindered by grades.
Now, I also said that grades complicate learning. Grades put into education so many things that just shouldn’t be considered part of the learning process. Why should I have been thinking about college admissions in 5th grade? Why should teachers be forced to give a lower grade to a kid struggling in their class yet whom they can tell has intelligence? Why should parents feel their child is a failure because of tests and grades?
Grades and rote learning really go hand in hand. Memorizing, regurgitating the facts, and forgetting it the day after the test. I know a common argument I hear is that grades motivate people to work hard. And yes that is true. But when working hard means BSing homework at midnight or the period before, I think that causes more harm than good. Or when working hard means memorizing and regurgitating at the expense of having fun and enjoying one’s day, I think that’s a problem too. Honestly, grades cause kids to take shortcuts. Instead of understanding and thinking critically about a topic, kids memorize what they need to know for the test. That too, is not learning.
I think grades are part of a bigger problem with how we view learning. As I mentioned in an earlier post, learning shouldn’t be viewed as a competition, which it certainly is, regarding grades. But another problem is our attitudes that everything has to be measured, and that if it’s not measured its not important. The immeasurable aspects of one’s learning are the most important. That is how a kid interacts with information, people, and his own mind.