Education Breakdown

“I hope he doesn’t expect us to learn anything from this.” said an Andover student a few days ago. It may sound sarcastic, but it has a ring of truth to it that applies to the entire school. The emphasis placed on grades and accomplishment at this school is meant to inspire students to learn as much as possible in classes. Instead, students are inspired to get high grades and win awards. Learning and high achieving may seem like similar goals to the untrained eye, but students caught up in averages and Honor Roll often overlook the learning part. On homework, projects, and tests, students can earn good grades by simply spitting back what they’ve been taught. Students do not acquire knowledge, but instead learn the skill of memorizing. The question ‘will this be on the test?’ resounds in every classroom. It is evidence that students are only searching for what they are required to know. They want to know what they will be graded on and have no interest in actually learning the subject. In the long run, education is about how much information we absorb and take with us in our lives after high school and college. Grades aside, how much do we really learn at school? After all, a student getting all sixes does not always understand the subject better than a student getting fours. With hard work, anyone can earn top grades. Students who do study for hours and go to conference periods deserve the good grades they get. But, grading should reflect a students understanding as much as it should be a measure hard work. Originally, tests, quizzes, and grades, were meant to evaluate how well a student is learning the material. However, they have become warped, so that grades are now the most important aspect of a class. They have become more important to students than taking the time to absorb what is being taught. Test scores no longer evaluate a student’s ability to think for himself, but their ability to regurgitate what has been repeated in class. A student might hear what a teacher says and record it meticulously in blue or black pen on loose-leaf paper. They may even be able to reproduce it in their own words on a test – but did they really listen to what the teacher said? Do they know what they are writing? The real lesson everyone learns at the academy is how to manipulate the system. We learn how to pass classes and get the work done. We are taught how to speak up when participation counts and do extra credit when times are really desperate. Students meet with advisers, learn to show the effort, and calculate what’s required to make Honors. However, ten years from now, what will Phillips have taught us about biology and music? What will we remember about Hemingway, American History, and trigonometry? What will stick with us beyond midterms and after the final exam? That is the true measure of learning, and this is what Phillips Academy should be striving for.