Monday, February 15, 2016

Being "smart"

Grades can be a challenging thing to base judgement off of, especially when they hold so much weight in your future. Stellar grades are necessary to gain acceptances into competitive universities, so students (myself included) worry a lot about them. I went to an extremely competitive high school just outside of Boston, so Harvard was always the goal. My high school had the stigma that the smarter you were, the "better" school you'd get into. Looking back on it now, I know people in less competitive colleges who I'd consider to be smarter than my friend who goes to Harvard, which led to my second discovery: How do I know that what I consider to be smart is what other people think too? Being smart to me is putting in consistent effort to learn new topics, and taking the time to master material so it can be easily talked about if it were brought up in a conversation. 

***I just took a break to read what I just wrote, and I thought it sounded way too un-opinionated and confusing, so I'm taking advantage of the fact that this is my own blog and can write whatever I want. Below is my honest and opinionated view of grades.***

I grew up in an academically stressful environment, but I never stressed as much about grades as my other friends did. I definitely owe that to my parents since they always told me that it was the amount of effort you put into something that counted and not necessarily the grade, but the grade would most likely be higher with more effort. I still agree with that message today, but I think the way we measure how academically "smart" someone is is SO BAD. I understand how tests could have been a useful tool in the 18th century, but I feel like we have made so many technological and intellectual advances that there has to be a much more accurate way to judge how we give grades. Tests are based purely off memorization, and that's the problem. How can I say that someone is smart when all they did was flip flashcard definitions for 3 hours the night before to get a 90 on a test, only to forget 75% of what they learned a week later? How does that help anyone in the long run? Sure, you get the immediate satisfaction of getting a good grade, but if you forget the information only a few days after the test, how will that help you for the final exam? There is a huge disconnect between being smart and getting good grades. To me you can still be extremely smart and get shitty grades, but you can also get great grades and still be stupid. With the feedback of students, teachers, administrators, and psychologists who know how students think, we need to come up with teaching and testing techniques to ensure that all students can retain and interpret the information they learn, instead of just memorizing it.