Students would have the freedom to learn by working on real projects—and that might ease their obsession with grades.
I spend a lot of time in a philosophical tug-of-war with students and parents over what grades mean, why we give them, and how they should be interpreted. Parents want to know how their child is doing, students want to be left alone, and teachers just want everyone to think a bit more critically about the material. We end up with conflicting pressures, and a grading system that has overstepped its bounds with disastrous results for student psychology. Cheating, lying, extra credit for bringing in a box of Kleenex—it’s all the same disease.
As I stare out across the ocean of students I teach everyday, I wonder if their obsession with grades comes from an unexpected source: the way we schedule their classes. Perhaps clamoring for meaningless grades and inflated A’s is a side effect of the herd mentality present in schools and the schedules we use to create and maintain that mentality.