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The grading system used in school has given rise to a dispute among academics as to whether the exercise is necessary and the accuracy of the student's achievement. One of the prolific contributors to this controversy is Kohn, whose points can be found in the masterpiece, From Degrading to Degrading. The ideas put forward are highly fascinating and show the negative side of the grading process. Similar proposals were put forward by John Gatto on behalf of Against School, where he blamed the American system of education for the promotion of boredom. To him, having the education should not be equated to taking schooling which he perceived as, a daily routine in a factory of childishness. (Gatto 33-38) The two accounts can be used to scrutinize the issue of grading and whether they represent the real potential of the learners.
Kohn claimed that the grades result in a reduction of the students' performance because of the challenging tasks (Kohn 38-43). This statement was well thought out and depicts the current situation of the grading system. For example, if one is given a chance to choose between a paper and an in-class examine, chances are high that writing a paper will be preferred. An exam is likely to challenge the student's more, and that is why a paper can be promising a better grade. Grades are also unreliable, invalid and in some cases, subjective. Two teachers can award different grades for an exam at hand. Some teachers are harsher when it comes to grading, and therefore, a common rule or standard of measure lacks in the system. More so, it has also been noted that a C in a class could be representing a mark that is much lower compared to another C. For example, a score of 73 marks can be a C while in another context, it is a B grade. Grades could, therefore, be an arbitrary symbol which rarely tells students what they understand or do in class.
Kohn also argued that grades have been a major factor that has contributed to the distortion of the schools' curriculum. (Kohn 38-39). From his point of view, it is evident that the teachers have been more concerned with the results that their students will achieve and concentrate less on what they think is important for the learners. It is also true to argue that without these tests, the teachers will have the freedom of teaching what they want and at the same time gearing their efforts towards making sure that the students gain the most from the lessons. This move can shift the goals from just passing the test which has more emphasis laid on. Kohn also claimed that grades tend to make students lose interest in their studies. This is a fact that is true in most of the individuals that have gone through the education system. Whenever students are frequently subjected to positive reinforcement through rewards, they will lose interest. Getting high grades will only act as an incentive in the short run before losing meaning afterward. This is a concept that applies to most students in the schooling system. Kohn also pointed out that grades waste plenty of time which could be used for learning. It is true that the hours spent fussing with the grade books are misplaced. Adding up of grades can be a tedious and a time-consuming process which wastes resources that can be used for the learning activities.
It is also worth considering that grades have been an integral factor that has encouraged cheating. So much pressure is put on the students on the importance of good grades that are directly associated with a good life. As a result of this, an accurate representation of the students' abilities is distorted. Cheating is done by a large number of students who understand the difference between right and wrong. There, given the right timing and resources, a majority of the students will opt to cheat in their examination to get a better grade that increases their chances of perceived success. It is for this reason that the quality of thinking is reduced and thus questioning the need for grading.
Gatto, in his book, Against School, weighed the idea of equating the experience of students in school to boredom. It is true that most teachers are not well versed with the concepts that they teach in class and this has a negative effect in boosting the students' confidence (Gatto 33-37). As a result, the students get bored, and a blame game begins when bad grades are posted. Judging the student's on the grade, they score in this context will therefore not be a true reflection of their ability. From this standpoint, Gatto prefers substituting schooling with a system that is more involved with the students to articulate every facet of their lives and needs. To get a meaningful measure of the learners' ability, there is, therefore, the need to employ competent staff with a good mastery of their subjects so that the students can gain interest and inspiration.
From Gatto's arguments, there is a need to tailor the needs of the education and lay lesser emphasis on grading. To him, the concept of grading is foreign and was introduced from the state of Prussia (Gatto 34-36). In this state, the central idea had been to process mediocre intellects who would be denied their leadership skills. It is, therefore, necessary to re-evaluate the schooling system and face out concepts that make us stuck to the original intention in Prussia which is no longer applicable in the context of the contemporary world. It is, therefore, wrong to see success as being synonymous with schooling and the faulty grading system. His arguments are valid especially when arguing that Abraham Lincoln and George Washington did not go through the 12-year schooling system (Gatto 34-35). These two remain to be great minds in the history of the American presidency and perhaps, necessary to go back to the drawing board and look at the negative side of the current grading system.
Conclusively, a critical analysis of the grades proves that they are not necessary. This is a point that can be supported by the teachers and the parents too after making an observation on what students become after school that shows incongruence with the grades achieved. The grades should therefore no longer be relied upon in communicating the learners' progress. This might be as a result of, among other issues, the pressure to impress which results to cheating. If cheating does not happen, the teachers might inflate the grades to impress the parents making the system to be highly unreliable. It is on the basis of these reasons that the ideas in the account of Gatto and Kohn are found true and thus worth reconsidering the stand on the grading methods.
Gatto, John Taylor. "Against School." Harper's Magazine 307.1840 (2003): 33-38
Kohn, Alfie. "From degrading to de-grading." High school magazine 6.5 (1999): 38-43.
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