B for a Better Education

Ariela Zweiback, Contributing Writer

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It is Sunday; the weekend is almost over; finals are next week. As I sit down at my desk desperately trying to remember some mathematical formula I learned about three months ago, the concepts seem to have completely dissolved from my memory. I am unfocused, yet highly motivated. I worked my tuchus off all semester and now – for the final hurrah, the final indication of what I know, that 15% of my grade – I must do well in hopes of maintaining the letter grade which somehow represents my worth, my value as a student, as a thinker.

Representing my worth. I want that A. I have that A, but why do I have that A?  Is it because of my unparalleled smarts? Or the knowledge embedded in my system? No. It is not that at all. I know for a fact that I have As in part because I do what I am asked to do: I turn in my papers on time, I memorize all sorts of dates and numbers, and I use big words that I find in the thesaurus in order to prove I am worth that A. But most of us can do that. Our teachers give us the tools, and then ask us to show them how we can use those same tools, and, on top of that, they also provide us with detailed instruction manuals as to what exactly we need to do for that A. And then they tell you, “Grades buy you opportunity.” They provide options. Who wouldn’t want that? Options are good.

It is Sunday still. And instead of studying for those very finals, I am writing this piece. Writing requires a tool box – the tools I am learning at school but, also, my creativity. Most tool boxes have the same instruments: grammar, words, syntax, but creativity is unique and hard to teach. Actually, impossible to be taught, at least in my experience. While I am worried about my finals that I will probably do well on, my teachers will never see my creativity when I bubble in one of four options.

Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, put it best: “Getting straight As requires conformity. Having an influential career demands originality.” I have conformed to the system, but I want to be original. I haven’t grappled with puzzling material this year. I haven’t risked my GPA by taking a hard class. I haven’t created anything that rattles minds. I will strive for that A, but I will make it a goal for myself to take that hard class next year and get that B.