Grading Is Degrading: A Look At Academic Violence
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Politics and Activism

Grading Is Degrading: A Look At Academic Violence

The failure of grades, tests and homework.

Grading Is Degrading: A Look At Academic Violence

When it boils down to it, grading is the most prominent example of academic violence. There are two ways to learn: through fear and through desire. The education system prides itself off implementing fear-based learning institutions, otherwise known as American public schools.

You may wonder, how can grades equate to something as destructive as violence? Well frankly, academic violence is a big part of students' lives of all ages. We love to get those A's in class but what goes into that process? We study for numerous hours. We lose sleep. We get anxious about the quiz or test the next day - will it be multiple choice, short answer, or essay format? Will it be easy? Will it even be on the material I studied for? Studying takes a toll on us. I have yet to meet one person who says they would love more homework, more grading, and more time out of their day spent towards studying.

Grading, homework, and testing just aren't that useful. They exist to scare kids into learning. "Do well on tests if you want to be successful! Beat out all the other kids! You want to be the best student, don't you?" Without objection, students obey the orders their teachers give regarding how much and how long they should study if they want to succeed. Bear in mind, this is by no means an attack on all teachers. I admire those who are passionate about teaching and raising future problem-solvers, especially when their students tell themselves that excellence comes from inside. These teachers seek power with students, not over. No teacher was ever positively remembered for being such a rigid grader or enforcing strict guidelines.

Many parents then ask their children at the end of their semesters what grade they received instead of what they learned. People really think that a letter on a piece of paper is more important than the lessons, ideas, and morals a student takes away from a course. It's as if the heavier a student's backpack is, the more they learn.

When you throw grading out of the educational equation, what's left? The common go-to answer is that students won't learn anything because there are no consequences if they don't get get good grades on homework and tests. WRONG. A thousand times, WRONG. Just the opposite; when you eliminate grading in the classroom is when the learning environment takes on a completely new challenging and difficult atmosphere.

Of course, desire-based learning wouldn't be complete without some useful course content. Instead of learning about how to find x in algebra or how to use cosine on a calculator, how about we learn the truths about bullying, catcalling, suicide, the death penalty, how meat is produced, homelessness, governmental lies, wars and peace, and drugs? These are topics that are both interesting and relevant to the real world. Furthermore, desire-based learning strengthens character because the desire comes from within.

In addition to getting rid of grading, the solution to academic violence is to create more discussion-based classes. Teachers should connect with their student. It's okay for students to stand out as individuals and not clones of the same rule-abiding robots, because this leads to a classroom free of absolute control. Ironically enough, these are the most effective classrooms where the deepest thinking and most imaginable, powerful ideas are shared.

I promise you it will be okay if you don't get those A's you've been yearning for. Even the most successful Hollywood celebrities didn't get to where they are without a few bumps in the road. In contrast, Walker Percy once said "You can make all A's and go out and flunk life."

There is always an alternative - another job opening, an internship, a traveling experience, or even a chance to read a book. Drowning ourselves in the lost art of writing gives you more perspective and insight than any letter on a report card could. That's because grades are not a reflection of how much you learned, they're a reflection of the hard work you put into beating the fear-based system.

Long time pacifist and teacher Colman McCarthy writes that "Quality teachers see students as combustibles. Set them on fire with a passion for useful knowledge and they will burn for a lifetime."

I'm not trying to take away from your academic accomplishments. Instead, I wish to inquire about the state of the education system and the benefits and importance of grading. We tend to freak out over our GPA. "If I graduate with a 3.7, I'm eligible for this program." "This graduate school only wants students with a GPA of 3.5 or higher." To put the creation of grading in perspective, ask yourself this: When you're on your death bed and your family is by your side, how many of you are going to tell them, "I wish I got more A's in college"? Or when you're already dead, how many of you want your tombstone to read, "John Smith, beloved student who had a 2.9 GPA and wished he did better." Food for thought.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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