More than ever, humans’ lives are governed by numbers. Of course, numbers such as our age, height, weight, and income have dictated a good portion of human experience for thousands of years. Now, there is also the added factor of the trillions of 1s and 0s that govern the behavior of our smart phones, tablets, and computers. And we, as students, have another set of numbers that are inescapable: our grades.
Each student may possess varying degrees of concern about
their grades, but there are always other people in our lives who have a vested interest in our performance in school, such as parents or guardians, counselors, teachers, and other adults in a student’s
life. Thus, the way scholastic performance is aggregated and presented must be fair and accurately representative of actual academic achievement.
However, that is not the case today. Both we and others
judge intelligence and accomplishment primarily based off the numbers printed on our report cards. Additionally, different people may draw different conclusions from the same grades — an
84 in Algebra might mean different things in different households. Students label each other “smart” and “dumb” based off test scores. Beyond high school, employers and colleges scrutinize our grades, weighing them along with more qualitative features as
factors in acceptance or employment.
Overall, there is too much emphasis on a system that
attempts to fully measure that multifaceted and fickle trait of human intelligence with a crude system of numbers
and percentages. Each person learns and thinks in a diffe
rent way; the differing traits of so-called “left brainers” and “right brainers” are just one example. Therefore, how can
their intellect and ability to learn be measured all with the same scale, based off the same tests? Of course, this is impossible to fully realize, leading to an academic favoring of certain types of students who excel at rote memorization and multiple choice over others.
There is little to no blame to be put on the teachers here; rather, it is to be placed on the system. Teachers are obligated to teach their students the required materials in order to fulfill the needs of certain state-mandated tests or other major standardized
exams. If teachers decide that this path is not the way for them or their students, their students’ scores likely suffer and the teacher is probably sacked, due to our overemphasis on grades as a measure of performance. So, it is a cycle of poor educational paradigms
that stems from a focus and desire for good numbers that
has comprised a portion of our modern educational system.
Of course, America’s education is far better than the
majority of the world and we have much to be grateful for. There are millions of children who desire, but yet do not have access to, an education. And in countries such as China, which has a relatively developed school system, there is an even more narrow-
minded priority on test scores and grades, not other measures of student intelligence, such as the difficulty of classes, hobbies, sports, and the like. In China, entrance to college is almost exclusively based off scores on a single college-entrance exam, which students spend most of their high school years studying for. By comparison, the consideration of extra-curriculars and volunteering by American colleges seems tame.
American students are blessed to have access to such a
comprehensive education. However, in the process of quantifying intelligence and then obsessing over these quantities, we isolate those students who are not for memorizing and regurgitating facts
and create a poisonous collective mindset that such students are simply “stupid”.