Timothy Belin, Campus Carrier sports editor
In my four years at Berry, I have enjoyed learning about the American education system and comparing it to that which I grew up with in my native Switzerland, as there are many stark contrasts between the two. GPAs, for example, are a completely new concept to me, one which I greatly dislike. To me, the GPA is the embodiment of a big problem with the American system: its desire to turn everything into a competition.
The point of a GPA appears to be to rank all students on the same reference scale, but I find this idea to be misguided for two reasons. First, the manner in which a GPA is determined is flawed and relies on chance factors, which goes against its purpose. Second, and more importantly, the entire notion of ranking students is moronic.
To start off, there are a few things that bother me with how GPAs are determined. The intent, as far as I can tell, is to convert grades into a points system so as to get an objective look at everyone’s academic ability. However, even though the conversion system is the same for everyone, the grades themselves are completely subjective. At Berry alone, I have had the threshold for an A range anywhere from a 90 to a 95, meaning that a 93 in two separate classes can equal two separate grades. Furthermore, what constitutes A-level work is even more subjective, as I have had professors give them for simply doing the work correctly and on time, while others hoard them like a rare and vital resource, as if giving out too many might physically harm their well-being.
You may think the subjectivity of a grade is only applicable to essays or creative works, but that is not the case. Even though subjects like math or the sciences have objectively correct answers, the weight assigned any given question as well as the choice of which ones to include on a test remain completely variable from class to class. As a result, you could very well know significantly more than a classmate and get a lesser grade due to bad luck.
But how a GPA is determined is not the biggest issue. That would instead be the very notion of GPAs themselves, because why are we even trying to rank students against each other? Education is not supposed to be a competition with your peers; it should be about bettering yourself. GPAs, however, completely subvert that purpose by encouraging students to artificially improve their grades rather than seek real education, all due to the importance placed on that GPA. After all, it can determine if you keep your scholarship, if you graduate, where you can apply to grad school and whether an employer will even consider your resume. But all this does is push a student to take safer classes, ones that will boost their GPA, instead of meaningful classes where they will actually be challenged to learn. It is indeed easy to ask around about professors and classes and tailor your schedule accordingly to maximize your GPA, but while it might give you the intended result on paper, it is not doing much for your intellectual advancement.
Given how many electives most of us have to fill, students are then more likely to settle for classes that seem easy rather than try those they are actually interested in. This is especially true because every class is given the same weight, which is another ridiculous aspect of the system. It makes no sense for your freshman French 101 class to be worth as much as a writing intensive capstone course or for an honors class to be equivalent to the regular version. Knowing that one will be harder only incentivizes students to avoid it, as the intangible benefit of intellectual growth is outweighed by the more pressing concern of maintaining one’s grades.
And I know some might oppose my arguments by claiming that GPAs ensure students put in an effort, but why should that matter? If someone wants to waste four years and way too much money twiddling their thumbs, that is their problem. For everyone else though, college should be where we go to actually expand our knowledge and challenge ourselves to learn. Education is not a zero-sum game, so there is no real reason to care what your nemesis’ grades are, because, at the end of the day, the only person you should be competing with is your former self.