A grade represents the level to which you met your teacher’s expectations of you. If you do what your teacher wants, you get an A. Right? Even if this teacher is a passionate mentor who gives credit for creativity and investigation and doesn’t care whether or not you type your papers, an A still means that he approves of your work.
Leaving school, grades are the only thing they give you to take with you on your way. Your diploma is an acknowledgement that you collected a sufficient number of acceptable grades. The big symbol they send with you, after TWELVE YEARS OF YOUR YOUTH, says “you met our expectations!”
I’m not saying we shouldn’t ask kids to meet our expectations. The thing is, when the ONLY symbol we really celebrate is about meeting expectations, we’re saying implicitly that that’s the most important thing.
And I want to celebrate compassion, creativity, problem solving, problem finding, ingenuity, leadership, stewardship, responsibility, hard work, open minds, beauty, longevity, partnership, communication, intelligence, technical skills, and self-sufficiency WAY MORE than I want to celebrate obedience.