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Eagle: Why Students Cannot Fly as High

According to Greek mythology, the cunning immortal Prometheus stole fire and provided it to the frail and burgeoning few of humanity to empower growth and progress. As a consequence, Zeus sentenced him to an eternity of enchainment to a rock.

Each day, a great eagle fed on his liver. At night, Prometheus’ liver would heal and the eagle met him again at sunrise and continued feeding.

I think that current grading methods academia are sort of like that. Students, immensely capable, flourishing citizens and adults, are perpetually held back from their own progress and potential because at some point in their lives, they struggled. Sometimes, even in a class they were required to take, or in a discipline they were merely exploring. These failures tear at us, and harm what academic and personal success we could have when they should not. They are recorded onto our transcripts and we are scarred.

For reasons that no one has otherwise explained to me, bad grades have a habit of following us, like ghosts in the machine, affecting our cumulative GPA’s, barring us from participating in many extracurricular pursuits, or from earning those titles and other accolades that we are told to strive for.

Worse, the universal importance of the Grade Point Average encourages students who do manage to keep their heads above water to obsess over their grade in their courses, thereby neglecting the meaning or purpose behind learning at all, so long as they walk away with an A.

But who can blame them?

Today, you have to be an overachiever to stay competitive. We sign our e-mails with our names, followed by a list of positions we hold in the community and the various accomplishments we’ve made. Frankly, it seems a little desperate, like all the nice things that you did for your middle school crush to get his attention, only to watch him walk away with someone else who was more popular than you.

Some accredited colleges have taken an alternative approach to evaluation. A student of Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts told me, “By not having grades and instead having written evaluations, classes are far less stressful. If you happen to not be good at one particular aspect of a class it will not ruin your entire experience there.”

 In history class I learned that Abraham Lincoln said “a house divided cannot stand”. Well, a house also cannot stand if there is no foundation. We are full-time students; it’s our job to learn as much as we can, and to grow as individuals. To do that, we need to be given the opportunity to learn from mistakes and failure, and to build a steady platform that we can launch ourselves from, though not with the end goal of becoming the envy of everyone else, like a self-inflated SPUTNIK. We can do it, or else we would have never been enrolled. Accepting failure, personal and professional, better directs the molding of our character, and this deserves greater cultivation than the resume.

Posted by on February 8, 2013. Filed under Around Campus,Opinions & Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses to Eagle: Why Students Cannot Fly as High

  1. Jordan Cooper

    February 11, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I think about this all the time– especially as a future teacher. We’re also obsessed with our future careers (which also have to be super-competitive), holding us back from building that foundation you spoke about! Great article.

  2. Meredith Kelley

    February 11, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Love this article… reminds me of the albert einstein quote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

  3. Kailee Thomas

    February 11, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Great article Paul! I didn’t even know it was by you when I began to read it 🙂 Hope there’s more in the future!