Photo Illustration: Diane Huang
Picture this: instead of students’ grades in class being private, each student was ranked on a list in the classroom in order of highest to lowest grade. Most students would be appalled if this system was enforced at St. Paul Academy and Summit School. Why then, if this is so frightening, are SPA students compelled to share their grades with their peers, which is essentially the same as a list, whether they ask for it or not?
Often the motives behind grade sharing among classmates are academic; students want to know how they are doing in a class relative to their peers. However, when two students share their grades with each other, one student will often walk away feeling less intelligent and the other feeling superior. Unfortunately, when students share grades, their peers often make assumptions about what type of student they are based solely on that one grade. How a student does on one particular assignment, test, or their overall grade in a particular course is an insignificant point on the student’s entire academic journey, throughout which students will complete hundreds of such assignments.
SPA is a competitive learning environment; teachers and parents push students to an extent, but many students are driven further by the desire to do better than their peers. Competition may benefit SPA by motivating students, however, it distracts from the long term goal of school which is to master content and satisfy a curiosity or passion in a subject for a student’s own benefit, not to focus on doing better than their peers. Furthermore, students viewing their peers as people standing in the way of their own academic success rather than a potential aid fractures the community in a negative way. While competition may be ingrained in the SPA culture along with grade sharing, it is never too late for students to actively take it upon themselves to scale back on both practices.