More Harm than Good

While many complain about Andover’s strenuous workload and call for changes to alleviate the high stress levels plaguing PA students, we must remember that this is Phillips Academy. Andover’s own website boasts itself as a high school “known for its extensive and rigorous academic program.” No one was deceived into thinking that this school wouldn’t require work – and lots of it. This is what each of us is here for. This “extensive and rigorous academic program” leaves students, upon graduation, with an unparalleled high school education, preparing them for college and beyond. More than 225 years of precedent should attest to this. But still surveys asking for suggestions on ways to relieve my stress flood my mailbox on a regular basis. As long as I am required to take classes and required to be graded on my performance in those classes, I will have stress. Therefore, I find surveys such as these and other stress-relieving attempts by the administration futile. Though, this is not to say others haven’t benefited. Simple changes by the Pace of Life Committee, though I feel unnecessary, have indeed offered stress relief to some. The new athletic requirement, allowing students to abstain from a sport (or “slide”) one term between Upper winter and Senior spring, has freed many Seniors’ schedules so that they are able to pursue other interests. However, a drastic alteration, such as changing our grading system to a pass/fail system, would do more harm than good. First and foremost, a pass/fail system would encourage student apathy. Should one be implemented, the quality of work done by the majority of our student body would undoubtedly decrease. We would lose motivation. Andover students are known for their high intellect. Thus, it can be deduced that many students would be able to pass their courses with a minimum amount of effort. I, for one, would abandon my review for math tests which I could pass without studying, and instead socialize with friends or do another more enjoyable activity. In fact, much of my extra effort exerted for studying or for papers is for a top grade, and I think most students would say the same. Our current grading system – that of a 6-point scale – encourages students to work beyond the “passing” level and challenges those to achieve excellence, or “6” work. Some argue that a pass/fail system would re-instill the enjoyment of the learning which our administration highlights as a hallmark of an Andover education. While I am thoroughly interested in all of my courses, I am still a 16-year-old girl, and when given the choice of working or not, I would most often choose the latter. No matter how interesting or eloquent Catullus’ poetry may be, admittedly I’d rather watch “The O.C.” However, the drive to receive a 5 or a 6 supercedes such idle desires. In addition, our college transcripts would be nearly indistinguishable from one another. As it is likely that the most students will have “passing” grades in most of their classes, the only unique factors will be teacher recommendations and standardized test scores. However, teachers’ comments cannot objectively differentiate one student from another, as some may reflect more on the student himself than on his level of work. For those students who are poor test-takers, a transcript with only SAT and AP scores is not an accurate assessment of their intellect or effort in school. Grades, such as those on a scale of 1-6, are the only true indicator of a student’s effort and proficiency in a given subject. Sure, a pass/fail system might absolve my stress-levels on a short-term basis. So would a four-day week. But that’s not what our parents are paying for.