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Jacob Garafalo
Shaelynn Long-Kish
English 111
Traditional Grading Benefits Hardworking Students
The traditional grading system has paved the path for some of the brightest minds in
history. Hardworking students with a passion for learning have thrived and brought value to
society. This common sense system has been used by highly educated countries and has
produced results for centuries. Every student is given an equal chance to work hard and earn
success. Students who excel and receive the highest marks are rewarded with recognition and
self-pride. Recently, the argument has emerged claiming that traditional grading is corrupt and
outdated. Theorists have asserted that students are becoming increasingly comfortable with
regurgitating material to earn top grades. They argue that students no longer learn because too
much emphasis is placed on grades. Alfie Kohn and John Tagg are professors and educational
theorists who want to abolish traditional grading. Although they have honorable resumes, and I
highly respect their opinions, I disagree with their notion which labels grades as harmful and
unneeded. Traditional grading is essential to adequately prepare graduates for life after high
school. Todays society is more competitive than ever before; nearly everyone is going to
college, and it is becoming typical to spend 6-8 years engaging in postsecondary education. The
traditional grading system does not need to be altered because it creates a competitive
atmosphere and produces solid evidence for employers and colleges to use.
One of several who blame the proven logic of traditional grading is Professor Alfie Kohn.
Although I respect his views, it is hard to agree with his logic. Kohn opposes using grades to

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evaluate students with three main assertions: grades reduce thinking, decrease interest in
learning, and make students lazy. Kohn said, Most of us are directly acquainted with at least
some of these disturbing consequences of grades, yet we continue to reduce students to letters or
numbers on a regular basis. Perhaps weve become inured to these effects and take them for
granted (Kohn 4). He makes the argument that when teachers give grades they are taking away
from the learning process. The solution Kohn sets forth is a simple one: High Schools should
eliminate grading their students and invest all resources on learning. Unfortunately, his views do
not apply to the majority of students. The idea that students would be devoted to learning without
receiving grades is false. Without the incentive of grades, students would be perfectly content
doing nothing. They would go through the motions and develop a false sense of success. Grades
are not designed to impede learning; instead, they act as an incentive and are a way to rank
students. Although Kohn disagrees with ranking students because he feels like it creates
unneeded pressure, he does not take into account that society is filled with competition, ranking,
and pressure. People and companies are constantly competing to be the best. There is nothing
wrong with competition because it produces excellence.
Professor John Tagg, another theorist wanting to abandon the success of traditional
grading, is in agreement with Kohn. He disagrees with the way grades are administered and
believes the educational system is outdated. It can be concluded that both theorists oppose
grading because a passing grade does not make a student well-educated. Tagg reinforces that
students only study to pass the test and not to develop a better understanding of material. Once
again, the logic does not apply to the way a successful society functions. When referring to the
current educational system, Tagg says, Thus, when students become grade oriented, they are
merely responding to the incentives in their environment (8). Tagg does not think grades

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indicate what a student gains from a class. He provides the following example which
exemplifies his point of view. A student who previously took Taggs class, fell behind and failed.
However, the class was so interesting to her that it changed the way she viewed the world and
she ultimately changed her major. Another student took Taggs class and passed the class with an
A, only because he crammed before the exam and was able to memorize the information for a
short period of time. He did not develop a different understanding of the world and the class had
no impact on his life. Although Tagg makes an excellent point, this does not mean grades should
be eliminated. Grades in the traditional system may not always correlate with the impact a class
had on a student. However, scores are necessary to judge students performance. Even if a
student resorts to memorization to pass a test, it represents hard work, a valuable mind, and
dedication to bettering themselves. Students must determine how to prepare for tests and have
the right to choose which classes are worthy of a deeper understanding. Tests and grades are
essential because they supply colleges and companies data on minimal standards to determine
admissions and hiring. People deserve to be rewarded for working hard and achieving success
that sets them apart. Any change which takes away from this would be detrimental to
hardworking students.
Many students have encountered teachers who have a hard time communicating in the
classroom. These teachers lecture the full class time, taking only minimal questions. It is difficult
to learn in an environment lacking enthusiasm and dialogue to engage students. Educational
theorist, Paulo Freire, provides beneficial recommendations and focuses on improving
communication and the partnership between teacher and student. Unlike Tagg and Kohn who
blame grades, class rank, and testing for why students do not learn, Freire attributes the problem
to teaching strategies that do not involve student participation. His proposal maintains the

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framework of the traditional grading system, but insists teachers change their approach to better
engage their students. According to Freire, if a teacher does not want his or her students to only
memorize information, he or she needs to initiate continuous communication. The classroom
should depict a conversation rather than a lecture. Freire said, Through dialogue, the teacher-ofthe-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacherstudent and student-teacher (Freire 246). Freires proposal keeps the current grading system
intact and creates more opportunities for students to thrive. Communication skills are extremely
important and learning would be accelerated in interactive classrooms. Instead of providing
lectures, teachers must facilitate discussions of root causes and problem solving. No educational
system will ever be perfect, but despite the minor flaws with the traditional grading system all
students have the opportunity to be successful. By studying, preparing for standardized tests, and
working hard, students will develop the tools needed for the future. Freires approach, used in
conjunction with the traditional grading system, will foster the most valuable educational system.
One of the most encouraging aspects of todays society is people are actually discussing
how to enhance the learning process. We are lucky to be living in a time when people have the
opportunity to receive a free K-12 education and are given adequate opportunity to attend
college. Tagg and Kohn are theorists who have expanded the conversation of learning, but have
failed to present a better educational system. Freires proposal, challenging teachers to better
engage students, advocates for a more productive learning environment while maintaining the
grading process. The educational system, which has relied on traditional grading, needs to
maintain a competitive atmosphere in order for graduates to be prepared for the real world. The
educational system should stick to its core principles and thoroughly consider enhancement

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options. Society should stay away from altering the grading process and pursue strategies to
improve the effectiveness of educational pedagogy.

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Works Cited
Kohn, Alfie. "From Degrading to De-Grading." High School Magazine March. 1999: 1-13.
Tagg, John. The Learning Paradigm College. Boston, Mass: Anker Pub. Co. 2003.
Freire, Paolo. "The Banking Concept of Education." Ways of Reading. Ed. David Bartholomae
and Anthony Petrosky. 4th ed. Boston: Bedford Books, 1996. 239-252.