There's a belief in our society that intelligence is tied to GPA, and there have been countless ways this has been proven wrong. Some people don't test well (I'm one of those people), some are better at oral presentations, some people are better at writing papers, and some people know the material, but just don't do the work to get the grade. Simply put, we're coming around to the idea that GPA is not linked to intelligence.
But there's another stereotype about intelligence that people don't usually talk about. It's the idea that you're either smart or not smart. You either get it or you don't. What happens when you're in between? What happens when you understand part of the material, just not all of it? What about the people who can carry a conversation about the musical intricacies of the new song they just heard, but don't completely understand the state of the economy? What about the people who know just about everything about world history, but struggle to find the symbolism in some novels? What about the people who just want to ask questions for clarification, to make sure they understand whatever it is? What about me?
I've had several classes in college where I've essentially had to teach myself the material. Now, this is understandable to a point. College is about independent learning and not relying on the professor to teach you everything. So when you come to class and didn't understand the material from the night before, it's taboo to ask questions for clarification. Other students may give you looks, or the professor may make a comment about it being the "easy" stuff. This fosters an environment where being smart is the only acceptable thing, and anything less isn't.
Now, this isn't the case in all my classes, and not all professors are like this. I've had classes where professors have encouraged questions and made sure to review everything even if it was the "easy" stuff. These classes have been perfect for me -- they haven't made me feel like I'm not smart enough to be in college.
But this idea that you have it or you don't - what damage is it doing? I can tell you first hand that it hurts my participation grade in class. I don't like to ask questions in class or contribute to class discussion for fear of being wrong and viewed as not smart enough. I know some people who will withhold from social conversations because they don't want to seem dumb in front of their friends about a seemingly "common-knowledge" topic. I know other people who feel like they can't achieve great things because they don't have all the knowledge of everything.
So we've accepted that GPA isn't tied to intelligence. We've realized that grades are more measurable if you have the means and will to put the effort into your schoolwork. We consider GPA to just be a number and know there are other ways in which you can be intelligent. But we need to realize, too, that it's okay to not be that smart. We don't need to know everything all the time, and it's okay to ask questions.
We're all smart, and we're all smart in different ways. Let's embrace it and use it as a chance to teach each other more. Let's use it to ask questions. Let's foster more environments where it's okay to not know everything. Because we are all smart, but no one knows everything. We need that to be okay too.