Sophomores have begged for years for special privilege — an introduction to the upperclassmen lifestyle — and very recently, we were granted this wish. As of now, sophomores who have an average of 92.0 or above can request (via filling out a form) to work in the library during normal study hall hours.
This is a great opportunity for sophomores to step up and show responsibility. Letting underclassmen manage their own time is a sign of trust from the administration. Allowing sophomores to work in the library might also turn the space into a more studious one, because sophomores must earn this privilege by actually working. So, in theory, this system is a significant improvement from the old one.
This new program is exciting for sophomores as well, because we are getting our first taste of an upperclassmen lifestyle. However, the grade cutoff of 92 isolates a significant portion of the Class of 2020, because many of us haven’t reached that number. The emphasis on a single grade significantly hurts the potential of the sophomore class.
There are so many other factors besides grade average that constitute the ideal student; we students know this because Deerfield has already drilled it into our heads. We participate in 3 mandatory co-curriculars per year, we have dozens of extracurriculars led and run by students, and we are encouraged to pursue as many non-academic opportunities as we can while we’re here. And yet, we are only deemed worthy of sitting in the library for two hours a night if we get a 92 or above. What about club participation? What about the arts? What about athletics? What about the hundreds of things worth doing besides homework? All of these duties and interests take time away from obtaining the highest grade possible, so are they worth less than our GPAs to our school?
Deerfield fosters community. Deerfield encourages pursuit of passion. Deerfield thrives because of enthusiasm for things other than academics. Thus, the evaluation of students through a single number seems contradictory.
If the school implants the idea that the grades you get are more important to Deerfield than how well-rounded and involved you are, it hurts the potential of our school. It hurts the potential of our students. I am more than my grade point average, and I should be evaluated as such. A 92 should not be the determining factor of privilege qualification. There is so much more of me for Deerfield to consider.
If I believed my grade point average was more important that the material learned, than how much I accomplished, I would not be taking the classes I am. I wouldn’t be taking Latin III, or an Honors European History course, or Chemistry 1A. But I am. I didn’t let my average rule my schedule. I know that my grades mean less to me than exploring my potential through classes I want to take. I know my Deerfield experience will be infinitely more rewarding because I am challenging myself to explore the most I can. And I accept the fact that I do not have a 92. But does that make me less of a student in the administration’s eyes?
Aiming for high grades is a respectable goal. But aiming only for high grades instead of challenging yourself is not. If Deerfield accepts the idea that a 92 is ideal without weighing the fact that students take such a wide range of different classes with different challenges and different workloads, they are enforcing the mindset that a number is everything. Will students start accepting the mindset that a number defines them? Will they start choosing the course that will give them the highest grade instead of pursuing academic challenges? The honor roll system, college pressure, etc. all already place this stress on our education. Do we need another reason to let grades blind us to the importance of learning for learning’s sake?
Instead of helping our students see more than just what numbers represent, we are enforcing this toxic ideal. As early as sophomore year, we are being told that, without a certain grade, you are less that your peers. This is not based on effort or character or potential. It is based only on a number. I know that working in the library would help my work ethic. I know I’d be able to focus and work more productively. And I’m sure there are other students without a 92 who feel the same. Why is an arbitrary cutoff excluding us from a privilege we’d benefit from?
I don’t dispute that grades are an important part of who should be allowed to visit the library, but it shouldn’t be the only identifier. A recommendation from an advisor, an application, anything that measures the level of responsibility and character of these students would be better. 92.0 is an arbitrary number. But if an established threshold was combined with a rational judgement based on the student themself, not just their average, this would de-emphasize the importance of a grade. The administration would instead be promoting the idea that students who put effort into their studies and are of responsible and trustworthy character should be rewarded.
Maybe I’m just bitter, but I’m not the only one who feels wronged. Don’t tell us that we are worth less than our peers because we don’t have a 92 average. Don’t tell us we are worth less because we haven’t met a numeric ideal. Don’t contradict every message to “challenge ourselves” and “implement a growth mindset” that you have instilled in our education in favor of idealizing a single number. We are always worth more than that.