A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Why are students more focused about passing rather than learning?

As the school year comes to an end, students are scrambling to fix their grades. It is obvious that the students put more effort into passing or getting good grades than taking in the material taught by their teachers. Students are reminded constantly that their grades represent how well they do in school and often forget the true purpose of an education: to learn.

Blaming the kids, however, would be unfair, seeing as to how they are only adapting to the circumstances set by school staff and parents who also play a big role in students losing sight of the true purpose of school.

Many students argue that grades do not determine their intelligence, claiming that the students who get good grades aren’t necessarily the smartest.

“You can cheat your way out of school and your grades will show you that you’re the smartest person or whatever but are you really? No. But it doesn’t matter right? As long as it shows that you are,” says Giselle Najera (Div. 743), a college-bound senior who gets good grades herself.

Teachers will focus on students memorizing material for such tests, rather than students actually learning it. Throughout the school year, teachers will say, “This is important, it will be on the SAT.” Just like grades, a standardized test doesn’t really show how capable you are. A standardized test is a way for colleges to see how well students will do compared to students at other schools. Many students, however,  have a hard time handling the pressure of tests and grades while balancing other things outside of school.

“Standardized tests create stress.  Some kids do well with a certain level of stress.  Other students fold.  So, again, there isn’t a level playing field.  Brain research suggests that too much stress is psychologically and physically harmful,” writes Thomas Armstrong, the executive director at the American Institute for Learning and Human Development

Many argue that this issue goes beyond the walls of the classroom and starts at home. Parents are quick to encourage their children to get good grades and test scores, forgetting that grades do not define their children’s intelligence.

“Schools are for showing off, not for learning.  When we enroll our children in school, we enroll them into a never ending series of contests—to see who is best, who can get the highest grades, the highest scores on standardized tests, win the most honors, make it into the most advanced placement classes, get into the best colleges,” writes Peter Gray in a Psychology Today article.

Gray, a research professor at Boston College, explains how parents take pride in their children getting good scores in school, ultimately fearing that bad grades and scores reflect bad parenting.

“We see those grades and hoops jumped through as measures not only of our children, but also of ourselves as parents. We find ways, subtly or not so subtly, to brag about them to our friends and relatives,” Gray writes.

Parents will go as far as to issuing punishments for their kids to get better grades, adding to pressure for students to get good grades.

“I want to get good grades to make my parents proud and make everything they worked hard for worth it. When I don’t get good grades, I feel bad because I’m letting my parents and everyone who supports me down,” said Christopher Gonzalez (Div. 841), one of the top students in the class of 2018.

Ultimately, students are not to blame for their concern of good grades and test scores. After all, they are only adapting to the system set in place for schools and education institutions around the country.