A High Score

Eugene W. Lau, a senior at Skyline High School, will share his views from time to time on the blog. -Katy

What do you say to the bored masses that mash away on their cellphones in order to match colors on Bejewel or try to get a higher score on Tetris? Does one approach the puzzle gamer nonchalantly¬†and ask “Why?” or does one just ignore the scene?

This is not an attack on people who have found a way to kill time. But the idea of a video game, where the motivation is to keep playing for a high score, may remind one of school. Does the student who plays Tetris do so in order to get a good score? Does a student read and research in order to get a good grade rather than to learn?

I was talking to a person I just met while taking a psychology class during the summer semester at Laney. She took the class mostly to raise her G.P.A. at Berkeley High. Honestly, I was surprised. She was too, when she learned that I was taking the class out of interest in the subject and for the sake of fun. I would never guess that one would care so much about mere numbers. I tried to comfort her by telling her that despite my good grades, she attended Berkeley High, and I attended humble Skyline High, an Oakland Unified School District public school. She had already one-upped me.

Do grades matter this much? I’ve never believed that getting an A was that big of a deal. I was angry when I receive Bs, but it wasn’t because I thought it didn’t represent my progress in a subject, but rather I was distraught because I didn’t do that great. I didn’t get a high score. I saw my class rank go down. It wasn’t about accessing education, but rather seeing a number go down or not. It didn’t matter what that number alluded to, whether it be U.S. History or Calculus. I could care less about how much I knew about John Locke or whether Sigmund Frued committed psychoanalytical incest. I wanted to see my student stock rocket.

Frankly, I see that I was conditioned to get good grades. In elementary school, it was a competition to see who could pull off consecutive A marks. To get a D would be the ultimate shame, the time when an academic samurai would commit seppuku. Going below a B is much akin to slapping one’s honor with a back hand. It didn’t happen in my group of friends, and even if I left them from elementary to middle to high school I found similar people for whom an A was something that one could use to compare, and to determine who falls on the class rankings.

Nowadays, I try not to care so much about grades, and to do the best I can and to appreciate the education I can get, but one can never escape their selves. I am what society has made me, and society has made me addicted to 100 percents and gold stars. I’m not complaining, the nice SAT score and the good GPA has given me an easier time when applying to colleges. It’s just that, it doesn’t really mean much in terms of education.

Should the process and importance of grades be lowered in importance? Is it an overly liberal thing to say that a school and teachers should evaluate students in a less general way? I believe some sort of progress could be made to stress the importance of an education one cares about. This would necessitate a change for more parent, teacher involvement, or even a change in how one is raised. However, this solution isn’t very realistic, and their are different issues that are being looked at here.

My philosophy teacher at Laney College has said that if one is doing anything one doesn’t like (school) for payment of some sort (credits, grade), then that makes the person a whore. That makes me quite a grade A whore, now doesn’t it?


  • Nextset

    An interesting essay. But here is what is going on. People care abour their futures and their prospects for the future. Education at the moment is more about credentialing (“badging”) than knowledge for it’s own sake. It’s nice if you learn something useful, but that is to a large degree optional.

    In the Brave New World, like hires like, marries like, goes to school with like, lives in like housing, has like occupations and gets treated a certain way based on credentials and associations. People are rational beings, they learn things that are in their interests and act according to their perceived best interests. Individual decisions are less accurate than group trends.

    Which is why so many of you students are so busy lining their ducks up to get into Harvard or it’s functional equivalent. They prefer to have that life – or at least the life they are busy swimming towards.

    As far as people calling other people “whores”, well – you might get to know local whores – you’d learn what that term actually means. Whores are typically mentally ill – dysfunctional and disease carrying professional victims. I don’t think that term fits what you are talking about here so well as “mercenary” or other terms.

    Watch your society carefully. You will see that some people are heading out the exits into other society. You and those you are standing next to are not standing still, the ground beneath you is moving. You might want to consult the map as to where you are going to. Make sure you are dressed correctly and like the destination. Because if you don’t, the exits may becoming fewer with greater distance between.

    In the end you are responsible for what you become. Make it a good choice.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Nextset, what evidence do you have that this is more the case now than previously.

  • Skyline Student

    Damn son. Its too bad many kids will never realize this ever.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Your philosophy teacher is taking a very extreme view — which philosophers are great at.

    Is a cheetah a whore for chasing gazelle when he’d rather be lounging by the watering hole?

    We work to live. School is work. Some of us try to work the minimum to live, others the maximum, but nobody can escape “whoring” completely.

    Oh, and if a prostitute likes her job, in this definition is she no longer a “whore”? In the Bay Area, we now call them sex workers, btw.

    Perhaps the problem is with the word whore…

  • Leah

    I think saying if one does something we don’t like for pay we are whores ignores the whole aspect of life that is deferred gratification or the basic pains of life. Education, like any life experience has parts we do simply because they will benefit us later. I do agree that too much of school can become about deferred rewards and the grade attached to performance rather than the intrinsic rewards of learning. One speaker I heard talked about students being aware of what their passions are and excelling there but doing well enough everywhere else. The students who feel compelled to get all As sometimes don’t know what they really care about and love and sometimes find it hard to hear the inner voice that tells them what their calling in life is. You sound like someone who hears his own voice and will have success by following it.