The Mark Side of UCSB: GPA Woes Are Not Allowed in College

Friday, January 12, 2007

A student goes home and shows an A- grade to his father.

“Are you proud of me?”

“Very proud,” the father responds. “Minus.”

What this absurd example shows, aside from the comedic writing of "Arrested Development," is that people tend to give grades far more clout than they deserve. Many of us grew up on this type of conditioning. As adults, it’s important to realize just how little grades mean in relation to the rest of our lives.

It’s understandable when it comes from ignorant freshmen. They’re still trying to get over the traumatic events of high school and college admissions. But once they’re in, their high school grade point average becomes meaningless. College students therefore need to find another reason to justify getting straight A’s. Some literally need them to qualify for financial aid. Same goes for those hoping to get into graduate school. As for the rest of us, all we need to worry about is academic probation and disqualification. It certainly takes a good amount of slacking to find oneself in danger of these two conditions.

Once you eliminate mandatory reasons like qualification criteria, grades become another excuse for people to brag or whine about themselves. Grades certainly aren’t very accurate in gauging a person’s level of knowledge. There are so many variables that affect academic scoring, such as assignment percentages, grading curves and uptight professors and teaching assistants. A philosophy major who carefully exploits the university’s pass/no pass system can end up with a higher GPA than an electrical engineer. But that’s not to say the philosophy student is any better at academics than the engineer.

Don’t get me wrong; I still give praise to those who plan on graduating with honors and such. So long as these people do so in order to gain some sense of accomplishment from college. I respect that type of passion. But it’s a different story once they start comparing themselves to the rest of their peers. Nobody cares and nobody should, considering that one honor student’s accomplishment has no bearing on the next student’s.

It’s even more unfortunate when UCSB graduates fail to realize the meaninglessness of grades after college. I know of at least one person who resents her coming to this university because her academic record became tarnished by anything less than a B. On top of that, she actually goes so far as to blame her transition from “honor to dis-honor” student on the Isla Vista lifestyle. Even if I.V. is the 24-hour party zone of her exaggerated imagination, many students wisely choose to travel to the library and other study hotspots when their residential environments become too hectic.

There’s nothing more pathetic than a student trying to shift the blame for their academic performance away from themselves. Missing a final because you drank too much the night before or because another car is blocking your driveway isn’t much of an excuse. I’ve shown up an hour late to a final with barely a clue about the exam’s contents and still scraped by enough to pass the class. I didn’t care about the class, but I cared enough not to fail it. The grades a person receives rely solely on their willingness to earn them.

So take a moment to figure out your post-college plans. What exactly do grades mean to you now, and what will they mean in your future? You’ll find it easier to enjoy taking classes in a university atmosphere. At the very least, you’ll quit obsessing over arbitrary scores that have little bearing on your possible career.

Daily Nexus columnist Mark Batalla will make a quirky pun at his graduation regarding his diploma and a copy of 1994’s “With Honors.”

Posted by Batalla at 1:58 PM  


Post a Comment