Sunday, April 26, 2009


With another semester over the question becomes: what have I learned? Of course, many correlate learning with the grade received. Unfortunately, this is often a fallacy. Getting an A doesn't mean that you've learned more than in a class where you got a C. In many instances the grade is being seen as more important than the learning. This is hurting the goal college means to accomplish, and is breeding a generation of test-taking paper writers without social skills or real-world experience. Yes, grades do measure some sense of accomplishment, but they do not always measure actual knowledge or skill. As grades are released the head-scratching begins, and many judge their success on an A-F scale.

Last semester, I got two B+ in very different classes. In fact, one was the class which challenged me the most and I learned the most, while the other was the class that was least helpful and I learned little in. However, on a transcript this means nothing. Even though one is in my major while another is a useless general education requirement (disguised as a writing intensive class). If this could be explained to future employers it would mean little, but it can't be so I'm limited to what my transcript shows and my gpa is. This hurts students who challenge themselves, since no reward is given for taking my difficult professors or more intensive classes. As a result, lots of students become solely focused on the grade and not the learning. The result? An attitude that says: "I'd rather get an A and learn nothing than get a B and learn a lot." In a business, results-based, world this is the norm, but college is supposed to stimulate thinking of another kind. If this fails, what hope exists for those who dare to be themselves? I would rather learn than "succeed" on a strictly gpa basis. I'm not saying that straight C's are good, they aren't, but what does a 4.0 mean if you learned nothing? It may get you a good job, but it won't keep it for you if you don't have the skills needed to do the actual work. There are lots of "book-smart" people, who can study for a test, but can't think on their feet, adapt, or interact in a normal way. I'd much rather get a few B's then know I learned nothing and got a meaningless 4.0. To me it would be embarrassing to tell people you got one if you knew it took no effort. Sadly, little figures to change as long as gpa continues to dictate "success." This semester will, once again, not be 4.0 material, but I have learned a good deal. I consider myself fortunate, and believe I'm getting a good education at Pitt. A 4.0 would be nice, but i'm not demoralized by not getting one. Unfortunately, with many more concerned with their future job and pay than learning this will likely continue.

I suppose that this is inevitable, but it doesn't make it any less unfortunate. Still, take what interests you and you'll learn a lot in. The grades will come with the learning, and if they aren't quite at the magic number it's ok. No one said good grades would be easy, but learning isn't either. It, however, is far more rewarding.

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