Life is Not a Grade

happy student throwing papers in air in park

I wrote a version of this piece for a Junior English writing assignment back in 2003. It has since been revised for clarity while still retaining the original flavor and essence of the piece.

We’re taught in school to be responsible young adults. So, forgetting your English folder on a Friday morning, one in which you were already in the dumps, can really wreck your day. But, failing in one little thing is not the end-all of everything. There are four other classes, or in some cases three – you lucky ones – that are to left to prepare for. Four-fifths prepared isn’t bad. You’re already getting a B in responsibility.

Life is not a grade. There is no grading scale to rate how someone lives their life. It’s impossible to do so because no one else can ever know every single thing that’s ever happened to a person. You can’t rate every decision with a letter grade or on a percentile scale, because you can never really get in someone’s head. All you can do is try to understand as best as you can what their thought process was and what went into it.

You can’t grade a person as a whole, either. Who is to say who’s “cool” and who’s not? Me, of course. And you, and you, and you, and you. He and she will think what they will. But it shouldn’t affect them enough to believe they’re a total A plus-plus or an F. Some people spend far too much time judging others when they should be judging themselves first.

We need a grade for effort, right? Well, human beings aren’t perfect, and even with effort comes plenty of mistakes. In fact it’s possible to do far too much, when a little less would be sufficient.

Therefore, who is to say what’s right and what’s wrong? Anybody. Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion. But sometimes, it seems that our opinions themselves are being graded, and not the way they’re actually being expressed. We can’t be graded on our thoughts; we can’t be, as long as we can back them up. That is the supposed basis of grading, to make sure people don’t go out into the world and make fools out of themselves not being able to intelligently voice their opinions.

Life isn’t about seeing or hearing something and spitting it back out. It’s about thinking about it. In Math, we use our minds to problem solve – an extremely important skill to have. Arithmetic problems are meant to teach patience, a quality which is often lacking in this age of “fast-food” and instant gratification. 

We have our History classes to look back and ponder how people did things back then and why they may or may not have done them. We can also wonder: what if I was there, what would I have done? 

Our Science courses help us to observe how things work, and to teach us how to see things methodically. These Science classes are a sort of a subset of math as my Chemistry teacher once eloquently put it. Finally, English is about expressing ourselves, to share how we feel about the world, and to reflect on our thoughts by ourselves and with others.

School is meant to give us the tools we need to live in the world. How we use them out in the world, can’t be given a grade. All teachers can do is try hard as they can to teach kids what they’ll need. You just hope they’re responsible enough to use those tools to get an A in Life.

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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