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Andrew Hecht

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Should public schools in the United States eliminate the traditional A to F grading scale? And if so, what assessment do we replace it with?

In 5 months, at the age of 21, I will be graduating college from the University of Florida. Yet, it wasn't until recently that I began to realize how distorted my view of education has been for past 15 years of my life. From childhood, we are commonly "taught" (and indoctrinated) that when we receive "good grades", we are "good people" and "good students." Consequently, beginning around kindergarten, a child's self worth is defined on an "A" to "F" scale. From the perspective of a child, an "A" student is "good" and an "F" student is "bad".

This belief entirely distorts the real purpose of education. We are commonly driven to learn not for the sake of learning; but instead, we are motivated by the almighty grade. Growing up, rather than reading books for fun or curiosity, I commonly read only those books that were assigned. Rather than exploring new concepts, I stayed on the designated curriculum and track. And rather than creating new ideas after school, I completed my homework. By high school, my GPA became somewhat of a false deity, a barometer of self worth, and a ticket to future success. Sadly, a large number of my "academically successful" peers had an even more distorted view of education than I. In high school, I often saw students copying each others homework before class as a means to manipulate the system. School was not about learning, it was about recieiving high grades. In college, this same manipulation manifests itself every time I hear a student say "I'm not taking Professor X's class because it's hard and I need an "A" for grad/law/med school."

Moreover, not only does the "A" to "F" scale seem flawed but the standards we measure as well. Commonly, in public schools we measure math, science, and reading but deny the students who excel in dance, singing, painting, building, and poetry the self worth of receiving an "A" in their area of expertise.

Should pub. schools in the US eliminate the traditional A to F grading scale? Is there a better way?

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    • Jan 10 2012: If the U.S. educational system is so successful there would be no financial crisis, lower unemployment rates, and less homelessness. Did you know that in some schools there are janitors with PhDs? The educational system is failing badly and it's pathetic how there are still people who believe in it. Nobody asks to look at your report card during a job interview, nobody asks for your report card when you fill out the applications for a credit card. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both dropped out of college, yet they are probably the most successful Americans today. There is barely anything we do at school that will concern our lives: we do not talk in Elizabethan English, we do not calculate the joules of energy needed to fry an egg, we do not use the law of frictions when we want to make a turn when we drive. If the grading system rules out how successful we will be, our Nation would be ruled by nerds. I'd like to see how they can solve our problems using intricate calculus principles and physics equations.
      So in general, the US education system is a piece of shit. It has been modified to meet the needs of the industrial age and has not evolved with time. I suggest you start reading some books and see how our educational system that you're so proud of is failing. Seriously man, stop living in a fairy tale.

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