About three weeks ago, I received a ‘B’ on a paper. Clearly, I have not let this grade go, as I continue to write about it for this week’s Consider post. Although I understand that a ‘B’ is not a horrible grade, when you wholeheartedly know that you deserved the ‘A-‘, it is hard to let the unfairly harsh grading go.
While many students might not take their academics to heart as much as I do, I’m sure that at one time or another, every student has felt that a grade bestowed upon him or her was undeserved. Sometimes, a bad grade can be a non-issue—for instance, in classes taught by professors who look beyond raw scores in order to calculate your final grade. Class attendance, participation, your perceived effort put into the class are all taken into account on top of your test percentages and essay assessments.
But for classes in which you begin to recognize that your overall effort to be an upstanding member of the class is not being taken into account, what is a student to do? Suck up to a GSI? Be that student who annoyingly attends office hours for no good reason except to showcase an ‘interest’ in the professor’s research?
The above options seem to be wasteful applications of a student’s precious time and brainpower. I, for one, rarely attempt to attend office hours, for I feel that my commitment to making it to class all week is enough. Yet, when one is distributed a knowingly unjust grade, the options are unfortunately limited.
These sorts of frustrations have led me to critique the entire school system in general as a micro-version of the selfish, capitalist system that only reproduces the unfair social inequalities which operate in ‘real’ American society (as opposed to the ‘fake’ college world). When I was given an unfair grade, I came to realize how it must feel when a person is insufficiently credited for his or her work, or when an employee is underpaid at an exploitative job. The latter two examples, while clearly representing sufficiently more serious injustices, helped me come to terms with how the world works (and even more so, reminded me of what I should expect to encounter after graduating college this year). It also helped me to put my ‘bad’ grade in perspective, remembering that much more severe wrongs could have flown my way, and that I am actually lucky that my only worry revolves around a trivial life happening such as a low mark.
On the other hand, I remain angry at the school system which positions students at odds with one another to receive the better score. While I am sure the competitive drive to beat one’s peers might lead to increased quality of work by all students on the whole, I, personally, believe the collaborative classroom to be much more conducive to healthy learning. One could even point to the proliferation of CAPS’ self-help/de-stress events as indicative of the fact that the college environment is truly too stressful and that it emphasizes the wrong parts of learning.
These problems I have mentioned might only link to the fact that education is hard to facilitate at a school of 41, 674 students (according to the Office of the Registrar). With classes of 150+ students, how else are professors expected to judge students except by ambiguous grading policies?
All I can say to that point is that I’m surely glad that I’m a senior. The majority of my classes are now are twenty students small and everyone usually knows each other’s name. Students of these classes gather in circles where every contribution is thoughtful and thought-provoking. In these types of classes, you also get one added benefit—you will definitely receive the grade you deserve.
By: Nicole Grinstein
(Photo courtesy of sxc.hu)