How grades overshadowed my learning

To this day, we have spent most of our lives inside the classroom, learning new material then being judged on how well we have learned it. 

Education has been brought up in many lectures throughout different schools, and I’m sure that at one point or another we have all thought critically about our school’s marking system.   

This outdated way of “testing” one’s knowledge is taking away from the importance of education by focusing on the end goal of receiving a high grade, rather than actually developing a deep understanding of the material.  

From a young age, we learn that these grades measure our intelligence and many of us once believed – and maybe still do believe – that they also measure our self-worth.  

I can still remember the empty pit in my stomach as my six-year-old self was handed back a test my teacher had graded.  

On the top right hand side of the page, in thick red marker, was a note. It read “D- Please have parents sign.” 

As I looked around at my classmates smiling faces, I thought that this mark meant I was not as smart as the other students, and therefore, they were better than me.  

I slowly slid the paper into my bag, ashamed by my stupidity. I prayed that no one would ask me how I did.   

Before my educational career was even given the chance to kick off, I had already figured out that the system did not work in favour of my learning style. Each time I received a letter grade I felt it was a representation of my self-worth. I later came to realize it was not a flaw in myself, but rather a flaw in the system. 

The school system failed me at a young age and I grew to hate learning.  

It was not until I was quite a bit older that this changed, when an amazing teacher helped me to see the real value of my education.  

This teacher taught me that learning could be fun, and everyone learns in different ways. But if that’s the case, why are we all tested in the same way and held to the same educational standard?  

When our grades become the most important part of our schooling, we lose sight of why we are here, but even now in university, I notice myself and my classmates often missing the point.  

Are we here to learn and become competent individuals in our perspective fields? Or is this all a very expensive way to earn a piece of paper in hopes that it will tell other adults that we would make valuable employees?  

I would love to say that everyone could agree with the first option, but I am not certain that would be true. 

The other day a friend and fellow golden hawk said something to me that struck a cord.  

In the midst of rearranging classes she declared that this would be the year she would stop caring about her marks and, in turn, would not work as hard as she has in the past.  

This was extremely unexpected to hear coming from one of the most focused and studious individuals I know.  

However, her reasoning was not what I had expected.  

She told me that since this is her last year at Laurier, her marks are no longer necessary to maintain her scholarship.     

All this time she has worked harder than anyone else I know, and in the end her motives were to reach a standard set by Laurier and not to gain the most out of her education.  

It is interesting to consider that even students who seemingly value their education still strive for a certain grade above all else.  

So, whether that grade tells us we are worth something or allows us to move up in the world, are either really the point of learning?  

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