Value of education forgotten, more focus on grades

by Heidi Krick – Asst. Campus Voice Editor – hkrick@unca.edu

Good grades become the endgame for today’s college student, with the personal benefits of a valuable education forgotten along the way.

A college degree is priceless.  Besides providing the necessary steps to succeed and survive the job market, students also define their roles in life during college by learning who they are, learning about the world surrounding them, determining what they want out of life and what steps they need to take in order to succeed after college.  Students forget these defining moments by focusing too much on grades. The value of college comes from the result, rather than the process.

Of course, the educational grading system holds its own significance.  Grading a student’s performance allows students and their parents to recognize what the student understands, and where the student needs help or to spend more time studying.

Unfortunately, the integration of standardized testing into grade schools reinforced a mentality in students that emphasizes passing tests.  Standardized testing stresses memorization, rather than learning.

Three important consequences contribute to the diminishing value of learning, according to a 1999 study: grades tend to lessen student’s interest in learning, grades create a preference for the easiest possible task and grades tend to reduce the student’s quality of thinking.

The consequences illustrated in the study published by the American Psychological Association show many students avoid taking any unnecessary risks because the challenge could jeopardize their grades or grade point average.

Instead of taking on new challenges, students decide to read easier books, sign up for easier classes with professors who are less challenging or choose to do a project on a familiar topic.  Students make this choice rationally, in order to minimize the chance of a poor performance.  With fewer students willing to take risks in their education, the personal evolution that comes along with learning new things and taking on new challenges goes by unnoticed.

During grade school and college, students learn to analyze different perspectives and apply newly learned theories to real-world experiences.  By focusing so much on a final grade, students quickly forget what they learned in class, ready to move on to the next assignment, the next test and the next class.

Success does not solely come from the “A” received in a quantitative mathematics class.  Success also comes from the ability to remember what was learned in statistics and having the ability to apply those lessons to everyday life.

Students with lower grades also tend to have lower self-esteem, according to several studies published by the National Institute of Health.

Consistently low scores lessen overall motivation, creating the impression on the student that they are not smart, not hard-working and incapable of performing as well as their peers, according to the study.

The amount of emphasis placed on grades in the American educational system pushes many students to a point where they forget grades do not define them. Instead, students must remember self-definition comes from any process undertaken, including education.

Self-definition remains one of the most undervalued goals in a college education.  Value now comes from the number of “A’s” achieved, the diploma and the amount offered in the paychecks following college.

Working hard will inevitably produce good grades, but what is learned during the hard work put in for those good grades can produce a feeling of accomplishment that lasts a lifetime.

Learning in school has lost its appeal to students.  The purpose of a college education now seems to be a simple prerequisite for a stable job and income.

Everyone wants a good job and the ability to support their families, but some students have forgotten most future employers will not care what grade they earned for humanities.  Employers want to know what challenges you faced in school, how you managed those challenges and what experiences changed, or identified, you as a person.

College profoundly affects personal development and growth, according to a psychological report published by the Education Resources Information Center.

Students, develop competence, personal integrity and wholeness, establish identity and purpose, learn to manage relationships and emotions and even develop spirituality during college.  None of the accomplishments found in the report had anything to do with grades.

Good grades should not be viewed as the foundation for a successful future.  Rather, students should acknowledge the challenges they faced during college and recognize the valuable lessons they learned by facing those challenges.

Avoid getting stuck in the self-defeating cycle believing good grades enables passing classes, which leads to a diploma, which leads to a good job. Instead, understand while hard work does create good grades, hard work more importantly improves upon the self.

Improving the self is truly the ultimate goal of college and life.

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