The indecency of grades

Poor kids! I can’t help feeling for them at this time of the year weighted down with exams. Both they and their parents believing the propaganda of no-grades-equals-no-life. Because it is propaganda.

And because of it we’ve lost our educational focus. Instead of education being the valuable development of young people it’s become an invaluable slog of time wasting testing.

We test kids so we can test teachers and schools; not because it’s relevant to children or the quality of education, but because it’s relevant to politics and the propaganda. And the children are caught in the testing crossfire between parents desperately wanting their kids to have grades because they’ve bought the propaganda and the teachers desperate to coach the kids towards high scores because their job is at risk from the results.

With rather dire and abusive consequences; I’ve seen people train dogs with more empathy than some schools have when coercing children towards grades.

The saddest thing of all is that we use grades now to define education.

It’s supposed to be the enhancement of young lives through learning. But now it’s only about results. And politicians think up more strategies to test for those results and more strategies to test the teachers testing the kids and the more testing that goes on the more miserable it makes our children and families. And our teachers actually, although most of them daren’t say.

Not having grades is almost seen as indecent, as a waste of education and a waste of life.

But the real indecency is the way in which our kids and families are manipulated to perform these tests and get grades for the glorification of the politicians (and some parents). And the real waste is that kids never see education for what it is; an enjoyable opportunity to discover the possibilities in life, that shows them creative ways to live and support themselves, to make a contribution and forge loving and respectful bonds and understand that it is this that makes them fulfilled. They too only ever see it as grades.

Most see it also as a gruesome grind. At which they’re likely to ‘fail’.

You cannot ‘fail’ education because you can keep going at it for life. You can only fail tests – which are not an education.

Testing, grade-getting, and league tables destroy children’s faith in education, destroys loving bonds, puts families in conflict, destroys the delightful experience of education and masks its value as a journey – an ongoing journey – rather than a means to grades.

Children are not simply test results or grades as politics and schools see them.

And my hope is that if yours are going through it now you can see beyond the propaganda sold to us by devious politics and support your kids towards leading fulfilling, productive lives whatever grades they get.

For there are decent, happy lives to be had even without grades.

10 thoughts on “The indecency of grades

  1. Pingback: FAQ: What about exams? | Happy Home Ed.

  2. Hi Ross, great post as always. We’re not on the exam treadmill but I still get to hear about it – my sister & cousin both have children who are in the middle of GCSEs at the moment *sigh* It does make me wonder what it’s all for when I read headlines about teachers, heads, parents, even employers losing confidence in the GCSEs; plans to change it, scrap it, replace it … and who bears the brunt of it all? The children.

  3. Ds1 (home educated) has been taking his first IGCSE exam this year. After he’d finished a practice paper yesterday he asked me if there was any point trying to get an A instead of a B or a C. I suggested that if he wanted to study a subject further, e.g. at A level, an A might indicate to a college his ability. Or, if he particularly enjoyed the subject, he might see working towards a higher grade as a good challenge. But otherwise I couldn’t actually think of a good (sensible) reason why anyone would put in the work required to achieve a high grade.

    It’s been an interesting experience trying to get someone who’s not that enthusiastic about academics through the exam process. I’ve been surprised at how easily we have turned to the dark-side of box-ticking and hoop-jumping, and how it has changed our learning style, not necessarily for the better.

  4. Great post, Ross. My no.1 is at school and in the middle of GCSE’s but luckily they seem to have the balance right and he is not worrying about it too much. No 2 though, who is home-ed, would never cope with all the testing so I’m very happy that he won’t have to go through all that, unless he decides in the future that he wants to (which, quite frankly, I doubt!)

  5. Definately in favour of your approch Ross!! Did my eighth exam of the year today, and I’ve still got seven left. Not to mention the subjects we finished a year early, so did those exams last year. I try not to think about what if would have been like, had I done all of my exams at once.

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