We dream of the day we get to exit the classroom, but we stress over the unknown that is to come. We complain about how unfair teachers and professors are because they take points off for minor errors. But minor errors in the real world lead to unemployment. The cycle of "I can't wait to get out of here" and "I wish I could go back" will never cease. But what a limitation academia creates on individual success.
School is not individualized. That much should be clear to all. Nevertheless, to educate each individual, it has to be executed with a common goal. Unfortunately, that common goal is not to make us exceptional. It is merely to make us functional.
The average teacher will discourage the student that dreams of doing something that has nothing to do with academics. The dreamer who longs to be a professional athlete always gets a retort on the statistics of how many people become a professional athlete. However, a sense of satisfaction does set in when I consider the fact that most of those teachers spend their lives discouraging students when the teacher had to settle for a job teaching students about subjects that a minimal amount of those students will utilize.
Although I might be a functional human being with a high GPA when compared to the national average, that does not mean I will ever be exceptional. For all the things I learned in school, I have learned very few things that will help me in my life.
In school, I never learned how to pay taxes. I never learned how to network. I never learned how to write a resume or act in an interview. I was never taught how to utilize my strengths in group settings. I was never taught how to finance a mortgage or what a mortgage even is (something with houses?). Memorization is prioritized over guidance on how to use modern tools that could actually help us learn more than memorizing a study guide only to pass one test.
I know way too much about Romeo and Juliet. Honestly, I know way too much about finding deeper themes when I read books. Think about how many themes kids say they found when reading a book that teachers deem acceptable. Every year I'm sure thousands of students find different themes in Romeo and Juliet. Do you really think Shakespeare had thousands of themes in mind when writing a play?
Arguably the funniest thing that I think about is that some of the classic novels students read were merely written as stories that did not mean nearly as much as we believe them to be. Our academic upbringing leads us to prioritize knowledge of multiple topics when, in most professional circumstances, vast knowledge of numerous subjects is unnecessary.
Some will argue that is a foolish proposition, to which I will ask this: If I taught a child how to be an accountant and nothing else, could the child function in the workforce? I think most would argue yes. However, we have a preconceived notion that each person must have a particular level of knowledge about a variety of topics to be deemed smart.
Unfortunately, what we discover in the real world is a harsh actuality for those who placed value on letter grades. There are no letter grades in the real world, and there is no guarantee that academic success will lead to professional success. I would even argue that the best students are rarely the most creative. How many students will take a risk knowing that they might fail?
Although for society to function, it is easier to generalize, I have to wonder, how much we cap our potential by discouraging individual growth? We put people on a pedestal based on letter grades and prognosticate an individual's fate at an alarming age. For students who fail at a young age, what motivation would they have to try? Don't we assume that once a D student, always a D student? We write students chances in the real world off before they can even drive a car. And yet some of those students labeled as failures or destined for homelessness redefined the way we live and engage with one another.
Even as an A student based on societal definitions, my identity feels incomplete. When I consider that description, I find it relatively futile. For the most part, GPA poorly reflects who I am. I can assure you my GPA will not get me into heaven. I wish it could. That might be the only good thing on my eternal resume.
But if I am not defined by how I do in school, then how am I defined? And if my success or number of degrees still leaves me dissatisfied, then what will provide satisfaction? Ultimately, if all my classes do not give me hope for eternity, what am I doing that will serve an eternal purpose.
My GPA still doesn't answer the simple question of who am I?