empty building hallway

More often than not, today’s students have fallen into a continuous cycle of late nights, artificial deadlines, and grade influenced mindsets, when it should, in fact, be quite the opposite. In a vastly changing world, the education system is not set apart. Over time, education has slowly transitioned into a more damaging, expectant system, in which learning is no longer at the threshold of importance for students. It is no longer about learning, it is simply about passing. Grades have become a product to solely strive for. In the education system today, learning has been pushed to the side in order to meet the excess amount of expectations placed on students, creating a community based on living up to standards, which interferes with the learning process. 

While grades can be beneficial, they have developed into a sole source of students’ motivation, taking the place of learning as the end goal in school, which is to pass. Grades are a convenient and easy way to keep track of a student’s learning progress, serving as an “immediate feedback mechanism,” however, they have become a source of impending doom for many students (“3 Reasons Grades Are Bad for Education – THNK School.”). They stress memorization and reinforce a mentality emphasized on test scores, rather than rewarding learning and creativity (Lahey). Often, we see students would rather take the easy route or the simplest task to lessen the amount of over consuming workloads, to attain the best possible grades, and to avoid failure. Grades have diminished the value of learning and created an environment where students are afraid of failure, as the pressure to perform perfectly from teachers, parents, and even students themselves is overwhelming and damaging. 

As a current student in the education system, I can personally account for the dwindling focus of learning. It seems continuously we are told by our teachers, parents, and even our peers that “grades do not define you,” yet still, we obsess over the letter grades written onto our exams in bright red ink. We ask for extra credit points not to learn, but to enhance our grades even just a little bit. Studying for tests is not to comprehend and retain the information, it is to memorize, but then later forget, that information to get a multiple choice question correct. Our focus has been diverted from learning and instead placed on our grades. It has become a sad reality where students memorize, recite, forget, and then move onto the next subject. Grades should not be the end all be all, they should be “a recognition of the learning process a student went through, not the product a student strives for exclusively” (Schwartz). Because of these expectations, every school day has become a self-defeating cycle of striving for perfection instead of striving for learning and comprehending that which we are taught in school.

School is no longer about learning, it is about passing. Students continuously enter the routine of striving for good grades instead of the actual goal to learn, as perfect grades are held as a necessity for success for the youth today. Grades should instead act as a helpful stage in the learning process, rather than a diminishing form of learning. Today, the learning process has been lowered and students’ passion for learning have been diminished by the heavy weight the expectations of grades carryover. School should not be a place where your grades define your success as a person, it should be an interactive and collaborative environment for students to kindle their passion for learning and to grow as individuals. 

Works Cited

“3 Reasons Grades Are Bad for Education – THNK School.” THNK, 24 Sept. 2020, www.thnk.org/blog/3-reasons-grades-bad-education/. 

Lahey, Jessica. “Letter Grades Deserve an ‘F’.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 19 June 2018, www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/03/letter-grades-deserve-an-f/284372/.

Schwartz, Katrina. “Are Grades Diverting Focus From Real Learning?” KQED, 18 July 2017, www.kqed.org/mindshift/48450/are-grades-diverting-focus-from-real-learning.

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Towndefender
Towndefender
May 4, 2021 12:36 pm

I totally agree with this post. And look at me here failing, even though I know the stuff, but my grades are bad so I have to learn WHAT I ALREADY KNOW again. And the words School, Math and Homework are acronyms. Look!

S even
C cruel
H ours
O f
O ur
L ives

M ental
A buse
T owards
H umans

and

H alf
O f
M y
E nergy
W asted
O n
R andom
K nowledge!!! (These acronyms are not mine, I saw them on a video.)

January 6, 2021 4:20 am

Madison, I think you’ve made a really good point because school isn’t about learning anymore it revolves around passing. I feel that now my entire life revolves around my grades on whether I’m passing or not like I cant do extracurriculars unless you have at least this grade, you can’t go to college if you don’t have good grades, or even I can’t have my phone unless my grades are good. I just want this revolving door of passing and the stress that comes with it to stop so I can take a breather and actually learn something without wondering how bad my grade would be if I didn’t understand it. I hope that soon they figure a way to stop the revolving door and figure out a new way to let you learn without worrying if you are passing or not.

Seoah
January 6, 2021 4:08 am

Hey Madison, the points you made about the problems with our education system today are great! The comment you made about grades being the “end all be all” especially caught my attention. I find that many teenagers today are made to believe that getting good grades is the only way to achieving a successful life. Being a student myself, I can relate personally to the situation. The situation feels even more depressing now, with many schools going virtual as a result of quarantine. Motivation is at an all time low but the due dates and assignments never stop coming, and the pressure to maintain a good grade seems heavier than ever.

January 6, 2021 3:59 am

I completely agree with your point that school is no longer about learning it is about passing. The tests we are given are supposed to test us on what we do and do not know. But now it is about what did and what I didn’t memorize. Think you make your argument stronger by including how the education system treats you and what you have experienced from it. One thing I would’ve liked to see in your article was, that not only is the education system just about memorizing. It is also about cheating, especially in this new virtual learning environment. You could have explored how the schools should deal with passing classes, memorizing for tests, and cheating on more things, all while learning virtually. But overall, I thought your points and reasonings were strong.

Owen
January 6, 2021 2:02 am

I completely agree that scores are valued higher than actual learning. Students feel a lot of pressure to score well in classes and on exams. Many students study as a way to memorize material for an assessment, and not for actually learning it. Grades initially were about incentive for students to learn material, but it has gone to far greater lengths than that. I’d like to see what kind of alternatives could be put into place, instead of the current grading system

January 6, 2021 1:43 am

Hi Madison! This post raises the fundamental issue that many students in the education system can relate to but are compelled to ignore because of pressure and the standards of the people around them who want them to succeed, the irony. Some students may enjoy learning about the sciences or literature, but many others go into programming, the arts, physics, and more that are not focused subjects in school. It is important to have the opportunities to learn, but how many people do you know from high school who ended up having fun in a profession that they were pressured to go into? Society has changed from what it was before. More people believe there is less to discover and more to build, so now society forces children from the youngest age to accept the concepts of competition and being the best because that is what people believe will equal success. A quote from a very unique movie: “Reach for excellence, and success will come running after you.” Here’s the problem: this concept of competition and needing other people to accept what you want to do with your future creates people who live with regrets. Success through competition has become the main teaching of this century. If someone had a passion to go into art and were told they wouldn’t make enough money and wouldn’t be successful, they went into a statistically “successful” job and made enough money, but they always lived with their regret. In other cases, they never even found out what their passion was because they were too busy trying to live up to the standards of success around them and never found out what they really wanted to do. This concept has created the dilemma many students have today: What am I going to do with my future in college and will it be enough to succeed? Having good grades isn’t a crime or a bad thing, but doing it with a lot of stress and genuinely no interest for someone else to accept it is something that society should cease to promote.

elena
January 5, 2021 9:34 pm

I completely agree with your points made in this writing piece! I think this is an issue that needs to be brought to light more often. I think as students we have so much unnecessary pressure put on us to achieve in everything at school. Schools and the adults in our life say that they value mental health and then give us so much pressure. Between the amount of homework given, tests and the pressure of our future closing in on us, it is all just impossible. I think that young people today just need to know that it is okay to fail, and that others should support that as well.

January 5, 2021 4:39 pm

I agree that school is no longer about learning and is about passing. There are many ways in which I think the modern education system can do more damage than benefits. However, this can be fixed with a change in the culture around learning. From K-8 I went to a montessori school which moved away from letter grades and cared more about if students were proficient in certain criteria. In middle school to prepare for high school they graded on a 4 point scale. 1 meaning you need a lot of work. 2 being you are getting to where you need to be. # was proficient meaning you are where you need to be. 3.5 and 4 were if you show complete understanding or mastery of a skill. This way of thinking made us try to learn the material and not just memorize and forget.

January 5, 2021 4:17 pm

Hi Madison,
I agree with your take on the education system. Our obsession with grades causes students to focus on quickly stuffing our brains with information so that we can regurgitate it for good on the next test. In my math classes, in which I’ve earned good grades, I didn’t learn much at all because I abandoned much of my supposed knowledge on the pages of the multiple choice tests.. I’d much rather be a student in a school where, as you said, the process of learning is rewarded instead of the product.

Sam
January 5, 2021 4:14 pm

Nothing like a global pandemic to expose the cracks int he American education system. Although we, the students, have recognized many of the issues you mention for decades, there is little we can do despite how we experience them everyday. But 2020 may have been he catalyst needed to finally get the educational powers that be to seriously consider wide-scale education reform. Despite our best efforts, education during the pandemic has been all but useless from an educational standpoint for the majority of students. Hybrid (online/in person alternation) is the worst of both worlds, in person is dangerous, students don’t attend online only, on and on and on. But the pandemic has also shed light on a major flaw of education; for many, its most important function is as childcare. Schools should not be glorified daycares; and maybe once we’ve overcome the pandemic we can use what we’ve learned to improve our greatly flawed system.

December 19, 2020 6:28 am

Hi Madison, I really like your take on the education system and what it really is about now adays. I can say I have been up late doing work because it is so much. Sometimes I don’t even learn anything from the work because I cannot have the mind set to learn, I have to have the mindset to finish by my deadline. I think schools could really improve the quality of student’s education by not making deadlines so imperative so students do not stress about the work and they actually learn something. I never thought about this that deeply before and I hope this post you made really makes a change.
https://www.thegraidenetwork.com/blog-all/2018/8/1/retiring-the-red-pen-shifting-attention-from-grades-to-learning

December 17, 2020 9:13 am

I really appreciate your article “School is No Longer Aout Learning, It’s About Passing” because I completely agree with you. Students are caught up with trying to get an A, as you stated “We ask for extra credit points not to learn, but to enhance our grades even just a little bit. ” This statement is true because extra credit is really only asked for to help improve our grades. Just like you also stated, studying for tests isn’t about gaining knowledge, instead, it’s about memorizing the material in order to get a passing grade. School has really become more about receiving grades that define you rather than actually obtaining knowledge. Thank you for your article that truly expresses how many students feel. I look forward to reading more.

Emmanuel
December 16, 2020 5:04 am

Dear Madison,
I am happy with your post, “School Is No Longer About Learning, It’s About Passing” because I can see that within. Myself and other of my classmates. I can see us come into this cycle of just completing the work to the get it done and not actually learn.
One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “While grades can be beneficial, they have developed into a sole source of students’ motivation, taking the place of learning as the end goal in school, which is to pass.” I think this is smart because the only reason we want to do our work is to just finish it. If we didn’t have grades or deadlines our work would never get done.
Another sentence that I found interesting was: “Studying for tests is not to comprehend and retain the information, it is to memorize, but then later forget, that information to get a multiple choice question correct.” This stood out for me because studying test for me is juts memorizing rules. I never truly know what I am doing during an exam of quiz. Right after the quiz I immediately forget everything about that quiz/ exam.
I do truly agree with you that Schoo is no longer what it used to be. One reason I say this is because after every year we all just forget what we learned that year. Another reason I agree with you is because us students find ways to get our done work as easy and simple which also just doesn’t help us to learn.
Have you seen this https://medium.com/energy-convertors/this-is-a-message-to-all-teachers-stop-relying-on-memorization-to-determine-your-students-34cca2c2e328 ? I thought you might be interested in this because of how they respond to knowing kids get by school with just memorizing.
Thanks for your post. I look forward to seeing what you write next, because I don’t feel Luke this get talked about. Many students go through and it’s sad to see how school has changed us all.

Thano Prokos
December 15, 2020 5:45 pm

What I love about this post, Madison, is that the exigence of this problem is set up right in that first paragraph, and I think your tone and sense of urgency are as severe as they need to be: this is a problem. A couple of key points that stood out to me, and questions that spring from them:

“Over time, education has slowly transitioned into a more damaging, expectant system, in which learning is no longer at the threshold of importance for students.”

and

“Grades have diminished the value of learning and created an environment where students are afraid of failure, as the pressure to perform perfectly from teachers, parents, and even students themselves is overwhelming and damaging.”

So, as this is my line of work, where do I even begin with my questions? You used phrases like “over time” and “slowly transitioned into a more damaging, expectant system,” implying that there WAS a better age of education when learning was the priority, and if that’s the case, when was this better age and what was the context which surrounded the classroom, at that point, when allowed us to prioritize learning?

The next point that I want to bring up is that you nicely identify a series of stakeholders or responsible parties for our current state of education, So, I guess, my next questions are: can we expand this list, and if so, what do we do about it? Why do teachers assign and grade the way they do and how can that be changed for the better? Who selects what gets taught, and is it stimulating/useful enough? What kinds of expectations are parents putting on students and are those expectations fair? Has our integration of technology in our classrooms led to better, more meaningful learning, or are we missing something? Why do we get upset when we get Bs? Nothing about a B is bad, after all. What options exist outside of traditional 4 year universities? What about the cost of university? What about companies that profit from selling standardized tests, curricula, and textbooks to schools? Phew!…… I’m exhausted!

So, my challenge to you, if you wanted to do a follow-up to this piece. Where do you start? Let’s say that Joe Biden taps you for secretary of education, tomorrow. So many factors affect learning for the sake of learning vs. learning for the sake of the grade; you have to pick one and start somewhere to address this mess. Where do you begin?

December 12, 2020 10:57 pm

I am intrigued with your writing “School Is No Longer About Learning, It’s About Passing” because so many students get overwhelmed by the workload that they try to memorize the answers and just care about passing. One sentence that you wrote that stood out to me was “Grades have diminished the value of learning and created an environment where students are afraid of failure, as the pressure to perform perfectly from teachers, parents, and even students themselves is overwhelming and damaging. ” I think this is important because teachers and counselors tell students that they have to have the best grades and basically be the perfect student. But failing is how we learn and get back up. Thank you for your writing. I look forward to what you write next.

December 11, 2020 11:06 am

Madison,

I appreciate your article on this topic as it a frustration experienced by many students, from middle school to university level, that has gone relatively unaddressed within education systems in the United States. From my own experience, school has become synonymous with being “perfect” and earning straight As instead of absorbing the material and applying it to the real world.

Your sentence, “It has become a sad reality where students memorize, recite, forget, and then move onto the next subject,” really struck me as the structure perfectly relays the robotic feeling that many students feel. School can sometimes feel like a list of things to do. Once the task is complete, you forget about it. I believe that more emphasis should be placed on retaining information instead of quickly digesting it for a test.

Overall, thank you for your insightful post. Great work and I look forward to reading future work from you!

December 11, 2020 5:50 am

Dear Madison,
I am very intrigued by your topic because I have recently thought about this important issue myself. I definitely believe it is a major problem that students think it is more important to strive to obtain all A’s and get a 4.0 gpa than to actually learn and understand the information we are being taught in school. It is sad, yet this issue holds so much truth. I liked when you said that “the education system…creates a community based on living up to standards” because it so common for students to think that grades and report cards are of such great value instead of trying to retain and get something out of the lessons they learn. I know that it can feel like the end of the world to get one bad grade, which creates so much unnecessary anxiety and stress on a daily basis. I think trying hard in school is important, but I believe that grades are not everything and should not be seen as a measure of self-worth.

Thanks for sharing!! I enjoyed reading 🙂

Maia
December 10, 2020 5:57 pm

Madison,

I am interested in your post because I share a similar stance on this topic. I also think that school has evolved into a system that prompts students to merely strive for passing grades instead of grasping the material that is taught.

One thing you said that stands out for me is “Grades should not be the end all be all.” Many students, including myself, have to take quizzes and tests on days where we may not be feeling our best, which affects the quality of our performances on exams. Because of this one bad day, and potentially bad grade on the test, our overall grades are negatively affected. This shouldn’t be the case, as we know that for the majority of the time, we are capable of learning and understanding the material. I also agree with your discussion on the stress that the status of our grades places on us as students. Now, we associate bad grades with overwhelming consequences. As you said in your concluding statement, school should be “interactive and collaborative” in order for students to maintain confidence in their abilities and learn effectively.

Thank you for your post, and I look forward to seeing what you write next!

Youth Voices is an open publishing platform for youth. The site is organized by teachers with support from the National Writing Project. Opinions expressed by writers are their own.All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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