Grades Are Toxic

by Shawnong

It is a tacit understanding that students with good grades are smarter than those with poorer grades. This is fundamentally and overtly flawed.

Our conventional interpretation of intelligence is misinformed and the capabilities of the human body and mind go much deeper. According to Howard Gardner, humans possess multiple intelligences: Linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, kinaesthetic, spatial, and interpersonal and intra personal.

What schools typically attempt to measure with grades are mainly the linguistic and mathematical intelligences. This is due to the hierarchy of subjects our education emphasises, popularised by Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk. Schools place subjects such as math, sciences and languages at the top whereas sports, music and arts are below.

This means that students who are competent in other intelligences are made to go through the same system which only celebrates limited kinds of intelligences and thus may feel dejected or worthless.

In a sheltered world of an academic institution, grades are a form of currency analogous to money. Schools give priority to students with better grades in areas such as choosing of electives, overseas trip preferences, etc. Thus students who have better grades will have the privilege of choice and this unfortunately reinforces the negativity on students who are not skewed in the mathematical or linguistic direction.

Grades desperately fail in trying to measure the intelligence of humans; the very act of trying to do so is almost degrading and vulgar. I do feel that such a system is exclusive and ineffective in engaging all of our students fully and that more needs and can be done to improve the situation.