I drew a healthy dose of amusement these past couple of weeks from Facebook updates containing screenshots of people’s college report cards and lists of generally good grades they received. These pictures or lists were normally complemented with the person’s high GPA and a generic statement of pride in their great accomplishment. As finals bore on and more and more people from various school networks began receiving their grades, I started to notice some similarities between those with the proclivity to posting their college grades online. I did not see the grades of a friend who just finished his first year of a graduate biology program.
I did see the grades of an English major friend though, who dared post his report with a B+ in Comparative Literature Workshop, the only class out of the list that seemed truly challenging (that particular list included figure skating). I did not see how my friend in the graduate Geochemistry program did. However, I did see the grades of an undergrad business major friend whose list of A’s was followed by enough exclamation marks to build a fence around the Pentagon.
“In a way, this whole posting-grades phenomenon ties into the bigger issue of Facebook braggery and dehumanization of communication online.”
When I went to college I did not see bad grades as an option. After nearly failing out of high school, I grew up just enough to understand a simple truth. Unlike high school, a college education is something that you buy in the most direct sense of the word. I do no want to buy a C. I want to buy an A. It should be blatantly obvious to all students, especially liberal arts students, that they do not really have the option of doing poorly at school. The people with truly difficult programs such as natural sciences, teaching, or whatever it may be, do not bother with these ostentatious posts, because they understand that they have no choice but to do well.
Perhaps I am projecting. If you do well and want to show your friends and the world that you are an academic badass, what’s wrong with that? In a way, this whole posting-grades phenomenon ties into the bigger issue of Facebook braggery and dehumanization of communication online. Generally underwhelmed by the overall easiness and frivolousness of my college experience, I didn’t bother going to my own commencement and graduation. Although I graduated magna cum laude with some minor awards and distinctions, I couldn’t feel great enough about it to announce it in detail to the Facebook world. The A’s I received didn’t encourage me, they nudged me into complacency.
“When you’re giving it your all and still not getting that A is when you know you’re being challenged to the brink of your abilities, and that should feel better than a few A’s.”
While it is humorous to observe 20-somethings brag about grades on Facebook, I think it is more important for me to point why exactly I don’t think that college grades truly matter in the context of accomplishment, and especially not A’s. When you get an A for a class it means your limit of ability is above that class’s grading rubric. You can do more; you were just not asked to.
I believe this phenomenon can cultivate a false sense of accomplishment in people that are in fact capable of greater things, perhaps much greater. When you’re giving it your all and still not getting that A is when you know you’re being challenged to the brink of your abilities, and that should feel better than a few A’s. I would venture to guess that my English major friend’s B+ in Comp Lit was his proudest grade, as was my own B+ in Biology when I managed to dig myself out of a hole after getting a D- on the midterm practical.
So to those who are still in college… Challenge yourself, and don’t think you’re hot shit because you collected a bunch of A’s in electives. This isn’t middle school. You can probably do more.