by Ariana Habibi

Throughout my academic life, I have placed an irrational emphasis on school. Over time, my performance in school became intrinsically linked to my sense of self-worth, with an ambiguous goal of gaining admittance to a “good school”. When college decisions were released, I achieved this goal.

Though rather than feel happy, I felt lost.

After so many years, I had grown numb to education. I had adopted unreasonable nihilistic attitudes, believing that the time I spent in school was unnecessary if it failed to pay off in the form of an acceptance letter in the end. My sole academic motivation was college, so when that goal was achieved, the cycle came to a standstill.

These feelings are not unique — they are actually fairly common amongst student. Rather than learn for the sake of learning, or truly value their education, too many students fall victim to the mindset that school is just a temporary stopover on the path to future success. In many ways, this is true; it is arguable that one goes to school in order to acquire the skills or thinking ability necessary for success later in life. However, the issue is not having greater goals in mind, but valuing success above learning. The issue is that students value grades above learning.  

Prior to an exam, students ask around to find out exactly which concepts will be tested so that they will know what material to study. Though many view the practice as harmless (as all individuals would ultimately be tested on the same information), doing so is a detriment to the learning process. By electing to only review certain topics, students essentially say that learning the information is not their priority — getting a good grade is.

This problem goes beyond selective studying, and ventures into the realm of cheating. Whether by sneaking in flashcards or copying a peer’s answers, it has become commonplace for students to use ulterior methods to attain grades they have not earned. At Stuart HS, the student body has become familiar with the practice of cheating (even among higher level students), though consequences are usually few and far between.

However, students who elect to cheat are not necessarily bad people who want to unfairly beat the system. Some are those who have grown apathetic to education, feeling as though the system has unfairly failed them. After all, despite altruistic educators (or somewhat bitter editor-in-chiefs) insisting on the importance of learning, grades are the primary commodity of education. A student’s GPA has immense influence over their future; it can either propel them forward or hold them back. With the spectre of college admissions looming over their academic careers, high schoolers face the pressure to make the grade or forgo their dreams. When under this pressure, cheating on an exam doesn’t seem so bad.

Alternatively, some students feel as though there is no purpose in doing assignments if they would not have a significant impact on their grades. While “busy work” certainly contributes to this issue, it is not solely to blame. Instead, this is a reflection of the increasing emphasis on grades and the decreasing importance of valuing one’s education.

Now, bright-minded individuals are all so focused on their grades they are studying to remember in the short term, not to learn the information. This is what has been ingrained in students through the years: you must get this score to get this GPA to get into this college to have this future.

Though the education system is meant to benefit students, the students, unfortunately, lack authority to regulate it. As such, there is little potential for the emphasis on grades to dwindle in the near future. Still, students are not entirely powerless in regard to enacting change, for students hold the responsibility to shift the focus from superficial grading systems to genuine learning.

When partaking in school-related endeavors — whether studying for an exam, writing an essay, or even going to school — students should aspire to simply learn something new. If a student’s goal is to walk away from the task at hand even slightly more aware of the world surrounding them, education will seem to be less of a chore, and potentially even become a source of enjoyment.

Although I continue to impulsively check SIS, I have grown to better understand that my grades no longer define my success. Rather, my ability to grow intellectually and as a person does.

Besides, we all have to go to school, so we may as well enjoy it.