We live in a society that uses grades as a reflection of learning. Grades are supposed to show how well you know a subject, but is that what they really show? In our society it has become more about getting the grade than actually learning the subject. What impact do grades even have on learning? Jerry Farber, a professor at the University of California wrote an article, titled “A Young Person’s Guide,” that discussed grades and the impact, or lack thereof, they have on learning. Farber is correct in saying that our school grading systems are terrible because grades are not an accurate representation of someone’s knowledge.
In his article, Farber discusses how students learn a subject and information about that subject because they are told to not because they necessarily want to. Students work for good grades to satisfy their teachers not to satisfy themselves. He states, “What we get on the final is all-important; what we retain after the final is irrelevant. ” It does not matter what students remember after the test is over; and very few students do extra work, such as reading their textbook after grades are in, because it is not graded. Even though you pass a subject it does not mean you actually learned anything.
Farber refers to students as junkies and sleeping pill addicts. We should be able to learn naturally without being prodded to do so. He says, “We’re grade junkies–convinced that we’d never learn without the A’s and F’s to keep us going. ” Grades are only a motivational tool to try to tempt us with working hard to receive a reward. He also refers to students as children being tempted with lollipops (A’s) and threatened with spankings (F’s). Grades are holding us back, and “prevent us from growing up. ” Without grades would we ever think of learning as anything but dull and boring?
Grades turn us off from learning. Farber also refers to students as slaves and teachers as the slave masters. Students are like slaves when they are being forced to learn a subject. Farber states, “Perhaps those subjects that we would never study without being graded are the very subjects that we lose hold of as soon as the last test is over. ” Why would a student remember something they did not want to learn in the first place? Farber takes a counterargument stance and mentions how people think that grades are needed to give self-discipline.
However, he then says, “It grows out of freedom, not out of coercion. ” Students gain self-discipline when they want to get something done for themselves, not because they are told to. Farber states, “Self-discipline is revising one paragraph fanatically for weeks–for no reason than that you yourself aren’t happy with it. ” Self-discipline is not something that you are likely to gain from getting a grade. Farber offers a solution to the need for evaluation. He offers the idea of a Credit system. If you can meet the minimum standards set for a course, then you get credit for that course.
If you do not meet the requirements then nothing happens. There are no penalties for not passing. A student either gets the credit or they do not. With the credit system, it does not show how many attempts you have taken; your record only shows the credits you have received. Farber says, “If we reduce the overwhelming pressure for a meaningless, standardized degree, then perhaps we’ll end up with learning facilities that can accommodate even more students than the number that get processed in the factories that we currently operate.
What Farber means by this is if we get rid of the pressure for a grade, then maybe there will be more students pursuing further education. I agree with Farber that the grading system is flawed, and grades are focusing our attention on the wrong thing. Students are learning, but not the information. Students learn to do as they are told and follow instructions. In schools today, students do anything possible to achieve the grade. Students cheat, copy homework, and look up answers online just to turn in an assignment.
This is a perfect example of how students only want to please their teacher instead of learning the material. They are not learning self-discipline or learning for themselves. Farber says, “Wouldn’t it be great to be free to learn? Without penalties and threats, without having to play childish competitive games for gold and silver stars? Can you imagine what that might be like? ” Farber made many comparisons in his article, and he was right to compare students to children, slaves, and junkies. Students merely do as they are told to receive rewards and avoid punishment, just like children and slaves.
Farber makes good points in his article about how flawed our grading system is, and I agree with him. I agree with Farber’s solution to the need for evaluation. Grades are a terrible way to evaluate a student’s knowledge and so is the pass-fail system. The pass-fail system does not give any room for separation. With the pass-fail system, there would be no difference between a 4. 0 student and a D- student, and that is not fair. Farber offers the idea of a credit system, and I think that is a good idea. The credit system does not show if you failed, so there is nothing against you for trying.
I think we need a new way to evaluate students, and the credit system would be a good step to try taking. Farber is correct in saying that our school grading systems are terrible because grades are not an accurate evaluation tool. Schools should get rid of the grading system. Instead, schools should substitute a different method for evaluation. Schools could try to use the credit system, and see the impact that it has instead of our current grading system. Any other option has to be better than giving A’s and F’s. Is giving grades is the best way to evaluate someone?