Around the 4th grade, I believe, is when students begin to receive grades for assignments. I remember my sisters telling me that the grades I got back then did not matter. But to me, it was the most important thing because it finally allowed me to be rewarded for the “hard work” I put into school. Starting in middle school, teachers began to give out letter grades. This is where it all starts.
I still remember the first B I ever received: Keyboarding – 6th grade. I never understood this class because our grades were based on how fast you typed without making mistakes. Our teacher told us that we were not allowed to backspace our mistakes, so I never did. Everyone else didn’t listen and ended up with As in the class. This is the first example that I can think of where I was taught that grades were more important than character.
High school is when grades really became important though as GPA became the upmost importance. With weighted GPAs, school became less about learning and more about who was taking the most AP, IB, and honors classes, and who was getting the most As. It even gets to the point where people drop out of classes that they are actually interested in like in the Arts because there is not an AP or IB version of it, and that would hurt their GPA. People learn to work the system to get the best grades possible, learn what the teacher wants you to say, and do the things that make them look best academically. Why? So that they are able to get into whatever college they want.
I finished high school off with a 4.918 GPA, and I was still only 16th in my class. I had five cords, two medals, and three pins to go with my cap and gown at graduation. I was proud that I had made it. I could move on to college: the place everyone says it’s so important that we attend and the place that I had been working toward during my entire schooling experience.
College is supposed to be this environment where you can learn whatever you want and get a degree in what interests you. That’s what we’re told. I was excited by my Psychology major, and I was talking to someone during my freshmen year about it. Their first question was, “so what can you even do with a psych major? It seems like a pointless major…” That’s when I realized that the mindset had stuck with everyone that you could only be successful and important if you took the hardest classes and chose a major like Business or Biology on a pre-med track. Those majors have futures. But this is where the grades fail us because in college, professors believe that a C means you’re doing well in the class and that coveted A which you’ve been working for and receiving since middle school is no longer in your grasp. In college, the departments only give away a certain percentage of each grade, and they maintain that percentage. You are no longer ranked based on your own work, you are ranked and given grades based upon how you compare to everyone else you’re in class with. It doesn’t matter what you’re interested in because unless you’re choosing the “respected” majors, you’re just going to be looked down upon. The system is pointless.
Don’t get me wrong though as I enjoy college and the people I have met at school. College is the time for figuring out who you are and sometimes you can even figure out what you want to do with your life while you’re there. The majority of people, however, graduate college with a degree they may or may not use, in thousands of dollars in debt, and with no idea where they are going to go from there. Back when my mom went to college, there was a purpose in attending college. Nowadays, people go to college because that is what is expected of them. To not go to college is something that is looked down upon as “making a huge mistake” in one’s life.
My mom always tells me that I need to find something I’m interested in in life and find a way to make money doing that. I like her mindset because that is the truth. That is what people should do because the world shouldn’t be a place where people only do what’s expected of them and what is more acceptable. Companies who are hiring aren’t looking at your GPA when they hire new employees; they just want someone who will work well within the company. So why do we invest so much time in trying to achieve the highest number possible that is supposed to “make us appear superior” to those around us when we are really just labeling ourselves and forgetting who we actually are as people?
As I write this, I just got back my grades for the semester. I got an F in Calculus. I have never received anything below a B in regards to final grades, and I’ve only received eleven of those. I have never failed. When I see that F in between all of my other grades, I do not see just a bad grade in a class, I see failure on my part. All I see is that I, as a person, failed. My mom saw me crying over this grade, and she said, “Don’t react like this to a stupid grade.” But how am I supposed to see this “stupid grade” as just that when all of my life, I have been taught that grades are the only thing that matters in school.
We are not taught that we matter as a person; we are taught that we are but a number, a GPA. As that number changes with the addition of grade after grade, we associate that fluctuation with how successful we are and our character. My character is not defined as an A, B, C, D, or even an F. What happened to the days when we learned about the character traits in elementary school? Each month belonged to a different character trait to learn about and that taught kids how to be good, wholesome people. Then we tore down the mindset we had built up since birth and replaced those character traits with letters and numbers which became measures of definition.
College is a scam because it is an institution that was created to continue this mindset and prepare students for the real world. Well, news flash: the world doesn’t work this way. Rather the world is more connected to the character traits we learned in elementary school. I can guarantee that perseverance, integrity, and responsibility will get you much further in life than a handful of As will. College has been a good experience for me so far because I have grown as a person and am learning a lot about myself. I’m not saying that no one should go to college. What I am saying is that college should not be seen as just the next step after high school. College is meant to serve a purpose in continuing education and it no longer does that effectively because people do not go for this reason anymore. People in today’s society go to college, take classes in subjects we’ll never need and pay tuition for a piece of paper that, many times, is virtually meaningless. What do I want to be when I grow up? I have no idea. But here’s to figuring it out, and I’m sure as hell not going to figure it out in Calculus. So I’ll take that F and I’ll raise you some courage and respect.
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