why school grades are stupid?

Do you know how many people lived on our planet? More than a hundred billion people have lived on this Earth since the Big Bang. 

Do you know how many out of those we remember today? a very very tiny fraction. The reason is that we only remember people who’ve made an impact, a fingerprint, who changed the world. 

Sometimes we also remember people for doing terrible stuff and maybe we’ll remember presidents for randomly tweeting in the middle of the night well.

But let’s focus on people who made this world a better place.

My Biggest Fear

As a kid, I’ve always been fascinated with scientists, Nobel Prize winners, and high achievers. I thought of them as superhumans who had superpowers that I could never possess. And this idea made me scared of dying without leaving a fingerprint. I was afraid of dying without being remembered.

I mean think about it— we come to this life we consume air, water, food, use social media, YouTube, and then just die. Isn’t that scary?

One of my friends said that he wants to be a doctor but can’t because he sucks at biology. And asked him well why do you suck at Biology? and he replied, “well, I only got a 70 in the class last year” and at first I thought it’s alright. 

But then later I thought; Does it matter whether you suck at a subject or not? Isn’t the point of school is to foster our interest and become better at something? So why does getting a bad mark limit our learning?

Unfortunately, the reality for many students is; they don’t take certain classes for fear of scoring lower than average. And, this is a big deal when students compromise their learning just to get their numbers on their report cards.

The School’s Fallacy 

Now you might be thinking, well that’s the students’ fault anyway but why do so many of them care about marks rather than learning? The simple answer is— schools are focusing on the wrong things. For example,  schools’ sole preoccupation is to determine who can follow the curriculum the best. We as young people are taught to memorize information found in a textbook, only to regurgitate it onto next week’s test paper before forgetting it all. 

1. Schools Are Failing Not Students. 

I feel like schools no longer inspire the minds of the next generation. Instead, researchers at the College of William and Mary showed that creativity among students is on the decline. An increased number of students hardly learned a minimum! just to get the desired grade. 

We asked, “Hey! What’s coming up in exams” or “Which are the important questions?”, so we can study just that. And if something is not for marks or not on a test, then we’re reluctant to do the work assigned. 

2. Obsession With Grades

Now, is this because students are lazy? Why do we seem so markedly obsessed? It’s because a number means so much to us nowadays. Because we feel like those numbers determine our futures, we value getting a good mark as more important than learning.

We are told day after day that education is the key to a successful life. And that we need good marks to have a respectable job or good income. Yeah, some people tell us that marks don’t define us and that we’re more than just so great but it never feels that way.

3. Killing Curiosity, Art, and Ambition. 

Many institutions and schools solely look at the marks, making students feel like their future is determined by that simple piece of paper. So even though some students might be passionate about their learning or have an inventive mind, if they underperform on those exams then these organizations will refuse to consider them innovative.

This current ideology of education kills our creativity, curiosity, and desire to learn. The education system makes it easy for them to just do what they’re being told. Most of us students stop asking questions.

4. Valuing grades over learning

And in the midst of all of this, we have developed another problem: we somehow adopted this false perspective that those who have good marks must be better and smarter than those who do not.  

Now, students who have trouble following one way of learning have to face a stigma because in our society students with lower grades are considered less intelligent (which is definitely untrue). This lowers students’ self-esteem. Oftentimes, it is not intelligence but it means they might learn differently and they are smart in their way or they could be going through a personal issue that consequently affects their marks. 

Why are Bad Grades Normal? 

Nothing frustrates me more than when students with higher grades think that they’re bad or when teachers are there to view some of their students as less capable just because of their performance at school. Sure some people might not be naturally talented in subjects such as algebra but does that mean that they’re less smart?

And why can’t we also see that,

  1. Mental Illness 
  2. Bullying
  3. Financial Security
  4. Family issues
  5. Other factors 

do limit some students’ ability to do well at school. Now does that mean that they don’t have the potential to succeed? Of course not! so numbers don’t tell you everything.

5. Not Meeting The True Needs.

In our current education system right now the problem is that we have a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. But we know that students have different needs, strengths, and passions. And no two brains are identical.

And just like Richard Williams said,

 ” If a doctor was to prescribe the same, exact medicine to all of his patients it would be a disaster.

– Richard Williams

Why? because so many of the patients would get sick. Yet when it comes to school this is exactly what happens: we have one system and we just expect everybody to follow it.

What you can do to solve this problem?

Something you can do is to change our perspective on what grades mean and to realize that the numbers do not define their intelligence or potential. Looking back on history, we can easily find people who despite not being at the top of their class they had brilliant minds. 

Think of Sir Isaac Newton who received horrible grades in high school, Albert Einstein who also received mediocre grades, similarly Thomas Edison was called mentally ill by his teachers but he is now known as a person who lighted up our lives. 

So if we want to realize the potential of our society; we need to shift the focus away from academic performance alone. Instead of encouraging the desire to learn, schools should focus on not just the grades that we receive but rather the long-term progress of the students.

So instead of relying on grades to measure someone’s success potential or intellect. We should just use grades as feedback on their learning and we need to stop treating those that have lower grades as inferior. 

And when we can stop marginalizing students with lower grades and when we can stop forcing students to believe that their grades are the only indicator of success. That’s when we will better and truly encourage the leaders of tomorrow.

My Story

I used to tell people about my achievements and the great things I did years back to make myself feel better. But slowly, I was lagging back and my grade was getting lower which affected me and made me very disappointed and frustrated. Until I understand that, it’s time you accept the fact that;

I am not that special, I’m just a regular guy in the regular school with nothing special to offer. What an awesome way to cheer me up!

I seriously started questioning myself; What if I have nothing more to offer? And you know the problem with these arguments is that they make you jump to completely irrational conclusions.

You start thinking, “Maybe I’m not good enough for this”, “Maybe I’m not talented enough for this all”. All of a sudden, I got from a B to a C and then a D. I suddenly started skipping tasks and hobbies I needed to do. I was going down a spiral and the end was very ugly and full of regret. 


I realized that—you don’t have to be a Nobel Prize winner to make an impact. It’s okay to make mistakes. Now and then it’s okay to have weaknesses and failures. And instead of questioning myself, I started focusing on what I can do.

You can always make people around you happier, you can lift them when they’re down, you can give them that extra little push they need to help them achieve their goals.

Conclusion:Last Thoughts

Never let stupid negative feedback or school make you question yourself. I have my shares of ups and downs, fears and doubts, and weaknesses just like you.

And I’ll end up with a quote of Carl Sagan that’s very dear to my heart a wise man once said,

The Cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”

– Carl Sagan

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