A’s: The Start of the Alphabet, Not Your Life


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Grade induced stress visualized

Lexi Anchondo, Writer

The earliest record of a letter-grade system comes from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts in 1897. The letter grading system has since been used in modern-day education for teachers to perceive students’ success in school. The highest score for a student to get is an ‘A’ and a sign of complete comprehension, skills, and learning. 

Having straight A’s is a temporary success and should not be the ultimate goal for students. 

Straight A’s are not a positive thing and simply do not mean that someone is better than another peer. The future should not and cannot, for sake of mental health, be based on letters and numbers. Acquiring perfect scores does not define a student’s capabilities in life. Just because a student is doing well in school doesn’t mean they are going to do well in the real world. Students have grown up with the pressure of always wanting to have top scores and be the absolute best because that is the only way they have been told they can succeed. However, in the grand scale of things, is it much better for a student to be doing their best and giving it their all rather than trying to make an outrageous score to try and validate themselves? A student should be evaluated by their skills and ability to learn, not the ability to sit in a room and take a test. 

The true test of life, and what should be most valued by educational facilities and employers, is life skills. Leadership, compassion, empathy, and dedication are things that should judge the content of a student’s character, not a letter that becomes meaningless over time. While maintaining a high GPA allows you to stand out to colleges when it comes to acceptance letters, there are opportunities in life that do not ask for a GPA, but whether you have leadership, teamwork, and social skills. Many careers today in our technologically driven world require you to be able to be socially skillful. The goal of academic perfection is unhealthy, and many students today beat themselves over a low A or a high B. Society has embedded the idea that academic excellence correlates with career excellence, but this is not the case. So much time is given to education that there is never any room to live life and enjoy the true blessings of the little time being here in this world. The belief that perfect straight A’s means intelligence needs to be changed, as academic excellence does not correlate with career perseverance. Instead, it should be accepted that not many students have the drive or intelligence to pursue a straight-A goal, but they have the same capabilities through hard work and perseverance and should not be neglected from the same opportunities to enter the workforce. 

Although straight A’s look good on paper, grades are only a fraction of intelligence. The goal of perfection is never satisfied and can become unhealthy. If students are embedded with the idea that good grades determine success, so much time and effort is committed to education that they are missing out on the true assets of life. Maintaining a high GPA is very beneficial for getting accepted into college, but colleges are also interested in an involved student that can also possess skills such as leadership, creativity, and communication. Sadly, many classrooms are only focused on scores, and all this does is provoke a student to memorize material. Students may be making the grades, but with all the pressure nothing they are retaining is beneficial. Being able to see past a letter grade will be a valuable break for all students and will help students acquire skills that will be crucial for life outside of the classroom. Yes, a 4.0 is impressive, but life outside of school is going to require a lot more than brains. 

Students sacrifice health, friends, or even time spent with family for a high grade. Straight-A students can also miss out socially. A student should not be judged on their grades, but on what they take from the class. By paying attention, trying hard, and being respectful even a non-straight A student can be successful in future careers, while also being respected by their peers. Some people are just not straight-A students, while others can achieve the grade easily. Trying to push the idea on students that they must get to the top of a mountain impossible to climb is something of the past and should be changed with the revelations of the future. Students shouldn’t be pushed around by the expectation of high grades and then believe themselves to be failing after they fall short.  

If getting straight A’s comes naturally to a student, then all the power to them. Those students are capable to continue getting high grades and hopefully can negate all the stress that comes with it. Otherwise, students should stress about not getting all A’s. If there are a few B’s throughout an education, it will show all the opportunities to learn a student has made. Once graduated, most workplaces don’t look at grades anyways. 

Yes, it is true the letter grading system works and is helpful to schools worldwide. It should definitely remain in place, however, that should not determine the “intelligence” of a student. Everyone is their own individual and everybody learns, grows, and achieves things in different ways. The letter grading system is an intelligent creation, but it should not have the power to judge the content of a student’s character. Students should not have the pressure of a high grade looming over their heads, and the potential to realize a C can be a comfortable commonplace. 

A’s are the start of the alphabet, not the start of the rest of students’ life. Let it be normalized that students can take intellectual risks. Employers value skills, and students must be valued more for this than a letter. Recognize that underachieving in school can prepare students to overachieve in life. Intelligent people often earn good grades. But some intelligent people don’t earn good grades or go to college. The definition of smart is the ability to achieve one’s goals with relatively little effort compared to peers. Good grades are not every intelligent person’s goal. Everyone is intelligent in their own special way.