School grades are hopelessly broken →
The Fairgrade group is seeking to lower the Fairfax school system’s cutoff for an A from 94 points to 90 on a 100-point scale, arguing that the higher bar hurts competitiveness in college admissions and scholarships.
Parents are nuts.
Every teacher and administrator is already aware of the growing problem of “grade inflation”. Average GPAs have significantly increased over the last decade or two. This could be that students are doing better than the used to do in school. Or it could mean that the same level of achievement earns better grades now than it used to. I’m betting that the latter is the more likely explanation.
I saw this very clearly when I was in school. Grades don’t reflect your aptitude, intelligence, or understanding of the subject matter. You don’t need to actually learn much useful material to get good grades. (And many of those who learn exceptionally well don’t get good grades.)
Good grades are usually the result of doing (or copying) all of the bullshit homework assignments, “note-taking” by copying all of the bold words and definitions out of the textbook, writing formulaic essays that barely fulfill page-length minimums by fluffing them up with meaningless padding, and memorizing the formulas for 36 hours to get you through the test, during which the teacher often leaves the room so you can cheat from your friends. Most people did this and got excellent 3.5+ GPAs so they could go to decent colleges, get decent grades there by doing the same things, and go on to awful big-company insurance jobs or glamorous careers selling clothes at the mall.
That’s not the route I took. I only ever copied a handful of assignments (and only to barely pass senior-year Latin class — thanks, Deena!). Usually, I just didn’t do my homework because I knew it was bullshit. I never took notes, even when we were required to. I wrote concisely and never even approached the page-length minimums. I bombed any test that was based on memorization (but aced the ones based on understanding), and I never cheated on a test, even when literally everyone else in the classroom was. As a result, I had a “bad” 3.0 GPA in high school, then I moved on to college and did far worse (homework counted a lot more and I never learned how to truly study), and I barely graduated (6 months late) with a GPA that I don’t even know but that’s probably in the low-2 range. I’m useful in the real world and have a great job doing what I love.
Most people from my generation can’t really do anything else in the real world except bullshit jobs because nobody ever held them to very high standards. They don’t know how to recognize their flaws and improve themselves because everyone always told them that they were doing great and they could do anything just by wanting to. They never ask good questions, nor do they know how or why they should, because they’re taught to shut up and accept whatever the teachers and textbooks tell them. They can’t write because they were taught that every essay needed to be written in Bing-Bang-Bongo format, and nobody ever significantly penalized them for incorrect grammar or spelling. They never really needed to understand the material, only memorize this chapter in the textbook until the test. And even if they did poorly on tests, they could easily pull an A or B in the class just by doing all of the bullshit homework (regardless of how well it was done).
I had to truly understand the material because I needed to accomplish the opposite: I’d get near-zero homework grades because I’d never do it, so I needed (and usually got) near-100% test grades to make up the difference. I’d barely pull through and get a C most of the time. I knew the material inside and out. And I still know far more of it than most of my classmate sheep who got excellent grades by doing everything “right”. (I also owe a lot to exposing myself to the thorough, constant, effective criticism of the internet, which constantly forces me to improve myself, and for which I am eternally grateful.)
You can understand why I don’t trust the validity of grades.