I like to equate grades and learning to a “trend” that has plagued young women for decades: body image. Putting enough work to be able to run a marathon almost guarantees a more toned figure, but training for the sole purpose of fitting into a cute tube top doesn’t make a marathoner.
Proficiency at thermodynamics calculations is like being able to run a marathon, but far too many kids would rather get an A and move on- never mind if they do or don’t remember what Gibbs free energy is, five months later. As humans, it’s in our nature to crave awe-worthy outward appearances in exchange for minimal possible work.
To be clear, high schoolers pursue wonderful grades as they look forward to the moment they will open their college decisions- for the judgmental eyes of the admissions officers that will determine their self-worth for four undergraduate years. Grades are the closest tool used to predict how we’ll do when we ultimately become part of a college, but they aren’t perfect. They are so far from being perfect.
Earning good grades is a game of studying to the test, forming good relations with teachers, and being organized- admit it or not. There is a correlation between good grades and knowledge, but we can’t assume causation from correlation. The problem with this system is that this game that schools create for us in our budding years doesn’t apply to life.
We need to stop making good grades a characteristic- no, don’t call her a kind-hearted, straight A’s kid like it’s part of her personality. What about the students who done mediocre and subpar grades, but have a strong penchant for music production, dance, movie critique, squash, programming, or trombone? What about the students who can hold conversations with anyone, avoiding awkwardness and making their companion feel at home? As a society, we must drop our tendencies to associate intelligence and success solely with high grades.