How Letter Grades Hurt Learners

The amount of anxiety that runs through your body when checking your grades is immeasurable. You hold your breath while looking at your list of classes, wondering how you could have done so poorly or being proud of yourself because you got an A that you definitely deserved. Grades are something that we all have to deal with—five letters that cause so much stress—A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s, and the dreadful F’s. They each matter, they each affect your GPA, which then affects your college qualifications. However, your grades do not actually define your intelligence or success.

All our lives we are told: good grades are vital and it would behoove us as students to get the best of our abilities. However, at the end of the day your C in pre-calculus doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to fail in life. Some students are squeezing by, doing the bare minimum to learn the materials needed for their classes. Unfortunately, they’re doing it simply because it is required of them, and not because they have the actual desire to do so.

According to an article in The Atlantic an english teacher wanted to prove how grades prevented students from truly learning. The sophomore english class went through a six week trial of not receiving any grades. The study found that students were actually engaged and interested to learn. For example, the class spent 3 days working on a single thesis statement. During that time student were not afraid to discuss their claims and ask questions without a fear of being wrong. They really took their time and wanted to make the statements good for them. Not for their grade. Another example  It’s almost like they’re so focused on trying just to pass that they don’t take the time to really soak in what they’ve been learning. For example, a unmotivated student probably wouldn’t take the initiative to ask questions about something if it isn’t going to be on a test, even if it was something he or she would genuinely want to learn more about.  If it doesn’t affect your grades, it’s irrelevant.  Therefore it shouldn’t require any more effort. It’s easier to be acceptable than it is to be inadequate.

It’s possible that having the responsibility of maintaining good grades could limit students. Everyone has their strengths, as everyone also has their weaknesses. There could be a genius sitting in English class but can’t pass psychology for whatever reason.  Even the slightest dip in any grade can turn a student’s entire GPA from acceptable to failing. As a result, someone could be passed up for great opportunities simply because they didn’t apply themselves to their grades as much as they did to their actual interests in school.  To most it would seem rather unfair.

Grades are important and should be taken serious, but there are so many other ways to be smart. Your intelligence should not be reduced by standards set by a school system. Teenagers should be rewarded in the areas they excel in. As for the areas they struggle in, students should be receiving guidance rather than being reprimanded for the inability to handle a ridiculously heavy workload.