The Harbinger Online

Competing in the Classroom

I could read her face like a book. She wasn’t kidding anyone. She needed to know that she had beaten me. Her busy eyes narrowed as she tried to skim over my newly received PSAT scores. The way she leaned towards me gave away her feigned disinterest. She was completely infatuated with the idea of being better than I was. And that, to her, was the most important thing in the world. She finally managed to snatch the sheet from my hands, and as she did, my confidence fell to the floor. She hungrily searched the paper for just the right spot. Her eyes lit up. She smirked and handed it back to me.

I have a question — just one: why? Why was it that girl’s main priority to best me? It’s because we, as students, are headed in the wrong direction. We get angry when our best friends have a higher class rank than us, and we can’t stand it when we miss two more questions on a test than someone else did. But it’s wrong. We are so very wrong.

Our school environment has become an arena, not a classroom. We compete. We are, in fact competitors. But are we fighting for the right thing? Are we fighting for getting the best grades we can for our future benefit, or are we simply racing to the top of the class just to be able to say that we did so and pad our college resumes?

Ok, let’s take a step back here. I mean, honestly, who doesn’t feel amazing after they get the grade they want on a test? In that moment, when you see your score, you are exhilarated. Then what? You hear everyone else whispering, taking you away from your moment. And what are they saying? You know what: “Hey, what did you get? Oh, I got an A. You got a B? Oh, well I got an A. Oops, did I already say that?”

It’s really hard to hear. What used to be your confidence completely disintegrates as soon as you start hearing those excited hushed voices boasting about their success. All you are left with is a pit in your stomach. We can’t help it; we start comparing ourselves to others immediately.

We need to base our success on our personal goals. If we meet them, we should be elated.

We are never satisfied, are we? Even if we meet our goals, there will always be someone better than us, right? Well, in all honesty, who the heck cares? Do we actually care what another person gets on a test? No, we don’t. We care about how we did in comparison.

We shouldn’t have to feel like our grades need to live up to anyone else’s standards. It is not their concern. It shouldn’t be anyone else’s concern but your own. By having such a high interest in others’ grades we shift the focus of education into some intellectual competition.

It often confuses me why students love to discuss the quality of their grades but completely despise the class they are talking about. They could care less about what they are learning. They just get through the course and get the grade. But we have to remember this: what is the point of the class? The purpose of a course is not to give one bragging rights, but it is to actually educate young students so that when it’s time for us to run this country, we will be able to know what we are doing.

The problem of competitiveness has gotten to the point where there is so much insecurity in students, that we have to search students for their weaknesses. It makes us feel better to do so. If you got a C on a test, and your best friend got a D, in all honestly, you are probably thinking in your mind, “Well, I don’t feel as bad now.” School should not have to come to that. We need to be satisfied with ourselves for once. When we are done with school, and leading our adult lives, who will honestly remember or even care what you got on that one chapter test in the 10th grade? No one.

You are not going to think about that grade, but you will have something so much more vital. You will have knowledge. Yes, knowledge. That is what we are supposed to take out of school. When you look back at your high school experience, what will you want to remember? Hours of feeling ever-depressed about your almost A? How you used to look around the classroom searching for your friend’s test grade? The way you felt after you saw it, positive or negative? You should look back on high school and remember what you should have retained: life skills.

The absence for the drive to attain valuable life skills has driven us to make awful decisions. Cheating is the prime example for the lack of interest in retaining knowledge at school. Our minds are so corrupted, so driven to get one good grade, that we risk losing the opportunity to learn something, to make actual progress in our lives. Getting false high test scores isn’t surging us forward, it is setting us back.

So ultimately, should we idolize getting good grades and worship the idea of beating everyone out in the class rank or should we work on what really matters? I still clearly remember when I was humiliated after getting my PSAT scores back in the midst of the sophomore geniuses, but I am starting to look at the scene differently. Because seriously, no matter how I did in high school, it all comes back to what I learned and what I took from my experiences. What we can take from them. And that is how it should be.

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