I personally think Jef Mallett is the unsung genius of this generation. He’s the illustrator and writer of the comic strip “Frazz,” and before I continue, yes, I do read the comic section of the Los Angeles Times every morning.
A recent “Frazz” strip compared schooling to preparing for a marathon, and asked the question that if homework and tests are part of your “training” for college and the workforce and if we don’t time training runs because that’s what the race is for, then why do we receive grades on everything we do in high school even though it’s just training?
Yes, the obvious answer is to have a basis to a) be accepted to college and b) mark our comprehension of what we’re learning.
However, the “judgment” and measurement that we face as students isn’t conducive to success at an actual job.
No one is a professional high schooler. High school by definition is a training ground where we have to build the skills in order to succeed later in life, and yet we’re judged on our ability to consume information and rewrite it. Granted, some basic facets of knowledge need to be established before students can work at jobs requiring high skill levels. But the way we are made to consume knowledge and regurgitate it is not at all like the scenarios we will face as adults or even in college.
In my AP U.S. History class my grade is relatively low because for the first seven months of the year, I failed most of the multiple choice sections on my tests.
The thing that seems unfair is the fact that my teacher, my parents, my college adviser, anybody I ask tell me that when I go to college and take history courses 100 percent of those courses will not include any multiple choice questions.
So how is the judgment that I experience in high school comparable to the judgment I will find down the road? The scrutiny I face now is like a parallel line to the scrutiny I will face later: they both have the same slope but never hit the same points.
There needs to be a change in how we are judged.
We’re already in high school. We’re already undertaking the training. And there needs to be recognition of that. Students want to succeed in life, and often it is judgment that can turn kids away from running the final race. If we fail a math test, then we assume we’re not good at math.
The SAT does not measure how well I will do in college, and it certainly doesn’t tell me if I will be successful as a graphic designer. Or a philosopher. Or a doctor. It holds me to a baseline along with millions of other students.
Homework grades, test grades, paper grades — unless one wants to go into academia — are not in-line with the type of judgment I will face at a real job.
High school students are already incredibly judgmental people. We want to succeed and are therefore critical of ourselves. We hold ourselves to the standards of judgment we see around us. But it doesn’t guarantee anything.
As much as I hear talk about how good grades and lots of extracurriculars can get me into college, I hear even more talk about how the application process is a total craps shoot.
Successful people have meaningful relationships, find happiness in their work, innovate, inspire and do countless other things that often cannot be quantified or predicted by the grade they were given.
The future for students is so much more than a transcript, and yet that’s where we’re all told we need to start from. Assessment needs to change, otherwise we might not be prepared for what lies ahead.