I really prefer Kohn’s essay over Staple’s, although both essays made me rethink the grading process in college, which is a good thing because I like reading articles that open my mind up to different ideas, especially different ideas about ideas that I already have that I thought were seemingly concrete.
I thought that Staple’s essay was a sort of summary of some research that he did, while Kohn’s essay seemed to be more of a proposal essay. He addresses the subject, gives a background and evidence as to why his point of view is important, and he also addresses the counterargument. Additionally he provides a few possible solutions to the imminent problem that grades aren’t actually important, but because we make them seem so important as a society students’ aren’t actually learning as much as they can.
I thought both papers were really interesting, and it was easy for me to connect to them. I have always been an “all-A” student, but even I can admit that I don’t have as good of a common education that I should have, for example about the government, how things work, etc. I agree with Kohn, who says, “Grades tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking” (92). I am able to connect with this statement, because I have noticed a grand difference between how I approached high school lessons, and how I now approach my college lessons, in particular my Spanish classes. In my Spanish class, we receive either a check minus, a check, or a check plus when we turn in work, so that the professor is able to communicate with us if we aren’t thinking enough, we kind of understand, or if we did a great job at analyzing whatever text we were reading. This makes me not so concerned about the grade, but rather gives me more freedom to really read the text, and make sure I understand it, instead of trying to do some really complicated work – just to get the grade. In high school though I always felt restricted. If we had a homework question about the second sentence in paragraph three, I only looked at that sentence, and I did a really good job of answering the question. But did I ever read the whole paper? No. In this sense who is smarter? The student who can get the good grade, or the student who doesn’t necessarily care about the grade, but rather is interested in the entirety of the paper? I think that the second student is smarter, personally. Now I am trying to be that student.
I was disappointed by Staple’s essay. For some reason it didn’t seem as if his argument was very valid, and I found myself questioning, “could this possibly be true?” “Could “elites of the Ivy League” truly be encouraging transcript tampering just to maintain students’ interest?” (90). I thought that that was appalling. I know that I am in college to learn. That is why I am in college. I want to know more about the World, and have a greater understanding of well.. everything. I want to be wise. That is why I chose to be a student at a university. I used to think that grades are important, especially good grades as Staple’s argument states. Now though, I realize it is more about your understanding. Who cares what your grades were? It’s about what you learned that is important.
Thus, finally at the end of my rant, I think that there are both positives and negatives to each essay, and I can connect with each one of them. I have always achieved to maintain stellar grades, but I haven’t truly learned some of the meanings behind everything that I was asked or told to do. I would be happy if I could get all A’s in college, but I actually think that that would mean that my classes were too easy. Or I was really that smart. At a college such as the University of Michigan though, I think it’s okay to not get all A’s, because I know that the quality of my education will be what is important in the end.