By Rachel Luchmun
A recent survey showed that the college has a 93 percent approval rating in the community. A majority of people believe education to be an important tool to improve their lives. After all, knowledge is power.
And yet, it seems to me that the quest for knowledge has been replaced by something different: the quest for the GPA.
At first glance, it seems that the two are one and the same – and why should they not be? The GPA is supposed to be a reflection of how well a student did in a class, and how well that student did in a class is proportional to the amount of knowledge obtained.
Like so many great concepts, reality is different from theory. Students care more about the GPA than their actual knowledge. Not all of them, thankfully, but a big enough number that it is definitely a problem.
You only have to look at http://www.ratemyprofessors.com, where students converge to learn about professors. How many comments talk about the “easy A?” The phrases “take this class if you want an easy A” or “don’t take this class if you expect an easy A” litter the website as if it was the professor’s responsibility to ensure everyone gets the perfect grade.
It’s not. Students go to college to learn, not to achieve a high GPA. In a class I took last semester, discussions often centered on current events and their relation to the class material. The professor wanted to push students to express their views and be exposed to different viewpoints. I never heard half of my classmates speak up – they sat there not paying attention. Most of them eventually dropped. Their rationale? Material from those discussions was not graded and therefore not important.
There is a widespread stereotype abroad that Americans are stupid. This is obviously not true… yet. Because if students are only preoccupied with the “easy A” to get the highest GPA, without caring about what they learn, how they develop their critical thinking skills, then what’s the point of an education? Is a degree a mere piece of paper to be shown around?
Yes, the GPA is important. It is what potential transfer universities look at. It can make the difference for applying to an internship. Many scholarships are based off a GPA. However, they all assume that the GPA stands for something: knowledge acquired, skills developed. Not just doing the bare minimum to pass with an A and show no more academic curiosity beyond that.
A counter argument that I often hear is that this is “just” a community college; the classes are “just” general education classes that are boring anyway. Or that students are just not smart, that they just don’t have time to learn things that are beyond what they need to know. They don’t want the annoyance of learning a lot of things, they just want the grade.
And I get that, obviously, you cannot learn everything, know everything. I get that some students perform better in one subject over another. But it does not mean they have to go through classes with a closed mind, only keeping the GPA as a goal. Education is more than just regurgitating things on a piece of paper. It won’t hurt to join into discussions, to listen, to ask questions, even if nothing covered is eventually going to be on a test.
Education is a privilege, not a right. Students would do well to remember that and grasp the opportunity to learn new things.
Contact Rachel Luchmun, managing editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.