Why grades are a detriment to learning


Kathleen Isenegger, A&E Editor

As the end of the first quarter of the school year approaches, I find myself checking my grades on PowerSchool daily. Each time I log in however, I am only met with disappointment for a variety of reasons: teachers have not entered particular grades, my GPA is not what I would like it to be, and above all else, my future seems to be falling apart.

As college dauntingly lays less than two years ahead, I constantly worry that my grades aren’t high enough to get into a good school. Of course if you don’t get into a respectable university you won’t get a good job, won’t have a good life, and eventually will die alone, full of regret.

Obviously this isn’t necessarily true, but I feel that I am being told this by my parents, teachers, general society, everyone I’m supposed to listen to. The message is clear, getting good grades is of the utmost importance in my life at the moment.

However, this seems like an incorrect statement. Shouldn’t learning be the most important thing about going to school?

Some may argue that grades are a direct representation of the knowledge you are obtaining, meaning that if you are earning good grades then it proves you are learning in class. I don’t believe this is always the case though. I attempted to analyze the marks I received from my teachers and discovered a jumble of points based on my effort in class as well as others showing if I was actually successful in my academic work. My grades seem to exhibit a combination of my intelligence as well as my diligence, and aren’t directly related to my learning.

I know plenty of extremely intelligent teenagers who are barely passing school, as well as students with very high GPAs who don’t seem to have an original thought in their heads. I think this shows in the most basic way how flawed the education system is. Many kids struggle with key elements that are essential in earning good grades. If students are unable to stay organized, for example, they are immediately at a disadvantage to earn a high mark, whether or not they have learned the material.  Students who earn good grades are good at sitting still, being quiet, and doing what they’re told. Are these really the people who should be admitted into the most elite colleges and receive the most abundant opportunities?

I cannot fathom what the benefit of grades are to students. They are an extremely poor representation of how much a student has learned over the semester, and instead shift the goal of school from acquiring knowledge to doing whatever it takes to earn an A. These behaviors could even turn immoral, as students are willing to lie and cheat just to achieve a good grade.

The cliche “knowledge is power” really could not be more true. If we educate our citizens we can make so many advancements in our society. Instead, we smother millions of innovators and thinkers, and mold them into students, who can only regurgitate the information we feed them.

Even though I believe all of this, I’m still going to do anything and everything possible to earn a 4.0 this quarter, because that is what society believes is an indicator of how smart I am, even though this clearly isn’t an adequate depiction. If only grades were eliminated from our education system, maybe students could actually concentrate on learning.