Saturday, March 17, 2012

The greatest tragedy in academia is the straight A student.

Yep. You read my title correctly.

The greatest tragedy in academia is the straight A student.

I know this flies in the face of conventional wisdom. It may even tick a few people off. But hear me out on this one.

To me, when a student gets straight A's, it's a sign of unmet potential. When a student gets a B on a report card, it is essentially saying, "the student is doing well, but not quite to the highest expectations." Or, "Pretty good, but there is some room for improvement." When a student gets an A, it says, "This student met all our expectations." And in a situation where learning and growing are the main objectives, any time a student hits a ceiling such as that, the system has failed.

So...if I had my say, this is how I would change the grading scales in schools:

0-50% F
51-80% D
81-100% C
100% and somewhat exceeded expectations B
100% and greatly exceeded expectations A

Now, I know, any student reading this is probably thinking, "wow, harsh", and any educator is ready to argue with me about why this wouldn't work and give me some dissertation about federal standards and teacher evaluations and No Child Left Behind and on and on. I know. This comes from my ideal world where the philosophy of education is turned on its ear, most traditional pedagogy is thrown out the window and the individual teachers again regain control of their own classrooms (meaning the unions and the federal government keep their nose out and let the people who know what their doing actually do it).

At this point, you may be asking yourself, "why is this whole diatribe about grading scales and student performance in a blog that is typically about Christianity?"

It is because I think we as Christians do the same thing to ourselves and each other. There is a set of standards inside the Christian culture and we grade ourselves and each other on how well we meet expectations. If we show up to church every Sunday looking like we don't have any problems, if we pray and read scripture for at least 15 minutes every day, if we tithe exactly 10% of our income, if we tell others to "have a blessed day" and end our emails with "In Christ," or some other churchy, but vague sounding phrase, then we give ourselves and each other an A in Christianity. We've met expectations, done what we need to please the teacher, and we wear our A's very proudly on our chests.

God doesn't grade on this grading scale, though. As far as salvation goes, it is pass or fail. You either have accepted Jesus as your only way to Heaven or you haven't. But if you want to talk about living a blessed life and offering yourself as a Holy Sacrifice pleasing to our Lord, then His grading scale looks a lot like mine.

At best, all those "churchy" expectations will just get you a C, if even that. Christ becomes the standard for an "A", and to get even close, we have to far exceed our earthly expectations of just a few meaningless behaviors. We have to begin to mold our hearts into the image of Christ. And in this life, we'll never hit the expectation ceiling of having our hearts look anywhere near Christ's heart.

So if we never can obtain an "A" in this life, then what are we supposed to do? I suggest the same philosophy people who actually care about learning tend to take...don't give a darn about grades, which when talking about God's standards means don't give a darn about earthly expectations. The goal isn't really earning the grade, the goal is the intended outcome, growing and learning in a particular area of study. Here, it is growing and training our hearts to be more like Christ.

The greatest tragedy in the church is when we deserve F's, but give each other and ourselves A's with little or no regard for the only one who can give us an A.

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