As a freshman in my first few weeks of college life, I have been starting to realize the differences and similarities between college and high school. One big difference that I have picked up on is the idea of grade obsession. We live in a regurgitation society. Professors/teachers put information in, and all we do to learn it is spit it right back out on tests. When I was in high school, if I didn’t get an A on my test I would freak out and feel like my life was going to explode. I know, dramatic, but I bet that a lot of you guys secretly felt the same way. So…I wanted to look into why we were all so obsessed with getting B or A grades in high school? And when we didn’t, why did it feel like our world was coming to an end?
What is linked to grade obsession?
If a student is constantly struggling with their own personal issues and trying to keep up their grades at the same time, this constant need for A’s can lead to an immense amount of stress emotionally, physically and potentially even physiologically. Because “students are faced with a tremendous amount of pressure to get good grades,” there is a significant amount of evidence that “their mental well-being is at risk,” with the possible risk of suicide and other serious mental health issues.
Even though “grades do provide the desirable incentive to perform better, they also cause the undesirable effect of restricting student learning.” In addition to the mental health aspects, grade obsession can alter a child’s creativity, as “constantly thinking about what the teacher wants or what the rubric says for a paper injects a fear of not meeting standards for a good grade” and may “limit the domain our research, our thought process and the exploration of a topic,” or in gist our creativity and our willingness to explore and actually retain information on the desired topic.
Students’ desire to be perfect also plays a role in grade obsession. Because of the “pressure to be perfect” in the school setting for some, it is important to remember that “there is a big difference between striving for excellence and striving for perfection,” as striving for perfection is irrational and unattainable.
If students know that grade obsession is bad, why do they still do it?
Students have and will continue to obsess over grades because we feel the need that we have to. In order to be successful; get into the perfect college, get the perfect job, we have a desire for perfection even though learning should be about acknowledging what we know and don’t know and learning from it, so that we can take a true interest in the matter and be able to apply it to our own lives.
So…What are adults doing to solve the problem?
To be quite frank, all of the research seems to show that adult parents and even most teachers aren’t really seeing how serious of an issue grade obsession is. Below is a quote describing the problem:
“All too many adults seem to be oblivious to the issue of mental health in schools, especially in regard to grade obsession. A quick web search of “problems with the American education system” brings back pages upon pages of articles dealing with low test scores and high dropout rates. Parents, teachers, and politicians all decry the failures of teens to stay in school. What isn’t considered is the fact that maybe the failure is in the school system, as well as in society.” – US Represented
It could be argued that it should really be up to the student to “know better than to attribute their self-worth to a letter on a paper,” but considering that teenagers and children are still learning how the world works, adults and their supervisors should be making sure they learn the value of education and not making it seem like grades are all that matters.
Why is this relevant to us?
As I said, there are many differences between high school and college, grade expectations being one of them. In college, it seems that students stress less about getting a perfect grade, and focus more on simply passing a course. In high school I pushed myself extremely hard to get into the college of my dreams, which meant good grades so colleges would see that on my transcripts. So I guess one of the differences is the fact that employers don’t necessarily look at your college transcript (or at least I don’t think they do) to see exactly what grades you got in each class. For example, employers seem to be more concerned about what’s on our resumes, than what’s on our college transcripts.
Why should we care?
So even though it’s not quite as prevalent anymore in our lives, I still think it’s an important issue to be addressed for the lives of middle and high school students. It may not be there all the time, but grade obsession still lingers in all of us. You know that deep down part of you wanting that A is because you feel the pressure to get good grades rather than striving to learn as much information as you can to improve who you are. Grade obsession is a serious problem and those students are more focused on what letter they receive than what they are actually learning and applying that knowledge. We were all there once, (and maybe you still are) and I think we owe it to those younger than us to advocate for change on this serious issue and help them understand that grades aren’t everything in life. But is there a solution to this? Or is this how our society will always be? Comment what you guys think below.