Students need to stop perpetuating the grade culture at BSM

BSM should encourage students to get good grades, but the students themselves need to stop their judgment, especially when it comes to picking classes, looking at ACT scores, and choosing colleges.


Ginny Lyons

Students are given grades every day on their papers.

Henry Bird, Staff Writer

One of the best parts of being a second semester senior is that, as long as you’re above a C, your grades don’t really matter. For the first time in four years, students are almost competing for who can have the worst grade; it’s like a challenge to see who doesn’t care more. I’m not saying that that’s a good thing, obviously, but it is a nice change of pace in comparison to what BSM is usually like.

At BSM, we’re taught from the beginning that it’s vitally important that students get good grades so that they can get into an excellent university. In freshman year, 14-year-olds are sat down in the theater and are shown information about college aid, graphs about what GPAs and ACT scores will give them the best probability to get into different universities, and are then told that, as freshman year is the easiest year of high school, it is imperative that students get the best grades that they can right away. This culture only harms the experience that students have at BSM, and only serves to make high school more stressful than it already is.

On a hypothetical level, I understand the thought process behind pushing students early. Students should be striving to do the best that they can, so reminding them of this early would seem like a good idea. In practice, I’ve found that it has the exact opposite effect. Rather than pushing students to do better for themselves, it has turned BSM into a school that is obsessed with individuals’ test scores and GPA, rather than who they are as students. Of course, this isn’t to say that BSM shouldn’t be encouraging students early; the problem lies with the students who purvey this culture. There are three specific times where this culture really shines through: when students are choosing classes for the following year, when ACT scores come out for juniors, and when seniors choose their colleges.

As students get farther into their careers at BSM, they are offered more and more AP classes. What ends up happening, then, is that many students face pressures to take these classes, even if they don’t feel comfortable actually partaking in the class.”

— Henry Bird

As students get farther into their careers at BSM, they are offered more and more AP classes. What ends up happening, then, is that many students face pressures to take these classes, even if they don’t feel comfortable actually partaking in the class. The number of times that I heard students in my AP US History class complain about how difficult the class was uncountable; but for many of them, it was a class they had to take to prove that they could take an AP class. That culture just leads students to take classes that they aren’t prepared for and does nothing to actually help them learn new information that they’re interested in.

And, just to be clear, this isn’t some situation that I’m unaffected by. My junior year, my mom, my counselor, and my math teacher told me that I would be better off taking regular Pre-Calculus rather than taking Honors Pre-Calculus. After telling my friends this, though, I was told that I was smarter than that and that I should strive to challenge myself. In the process, there was a clear subtext that I was admitting that I was dumber than the rest of my classmates who were in Honors Advanced Algebra II who would be moving into the next honors course. So, against better judgment, I decided to take the honors course. And, unsurprisingly, I crashed and burned in that class.

I’m not saying that my horrid grade in that class is somehow anyone else’s fault. I was the one who signed up for the class, I was the one who ignored the pleas of my counselor, and I was the one who grew discouraged with the class and confirmed a self-fulfilling destiny. Still, though, I never would have signed up for that class if I hadn’t felt like I would be considered stupid for not signing up for it. I was already getting flak for taking Spanish IV rather than Spanish V; I didn’t need any more judgment. This judgment, to me, describes one of the prevailing cultures that exist within BSM: a culture of proving intelligence to others, but not yourself.

Another example of this culture comes to light for juniors during the height of ACT season. ACT season is the time after the students’ test scores are just coming in. What inevitably happens, then, is that the entire grade is sharing their scores with one another. This further leads to a toxic environment, as students can feel that they are now somehow dumber than their peers because they scored worse on their tests. From what I saw, another main problem is that this scenario, in a way, traps students: either they share their answers and are either seen as being dumb for performing badly or pretentious for doing well, or they don’t share their scores, which then makes students assume that they didn’t score well and are embarrassed about what they got. Either way, ACT scores serve as a way for students to judge peers for doing worse, or end up feeling better about themselves because of how they did.

Finally, and thankfully this doesn’t happen as often, is the culture that exists around the college search decision. The goal for the majority of BSM students is, of course, to get into college. This is a search that is personal for each individual student, but what can end up happening is students can judge their peers for the colleges that they end up going to. For example, Michael Hunter, a student in my grade, chose the University of Kentucky over Boston College this year because he enjoyed his time at Kentucky more and could see himself there. When he was deciding, many students felt that because Kentucky is an “easier” school, he would be failing to challenge himself and live up to expectations if he went there rather than Boston College. This is just one example of a similar scenario for many students: that the school that they’re going to isn’t good enough for them, or just isn’t good enough in general. This is another instance where a toxic culture of competition can interfere with what students should actually be doing during high school, which is achieving personal goals and enjoyment.

Overall, I do believe that BSM, as a whole, is an environment where students can find strong support groups, find their friends, and still have an enjoyable high school experience. However, one of the main problems with BSM is the fact that a large part of our school is a competitive nature that students adopt. It serves to belittle students and harm their experience, rather than lift each other up. If students understood that everyone has different goals, expectations, and talents, this culture could be diminished, rather than continued.