Several years ago, a colleague asked St. Luke’s faculty to assist in the creation of a document called the meaning of grades. I let out a loud chuckle, thinking this was a joke, but the look on the faces around me let me know my guffaw was, at best, inappropriate and at worst, insensitive. This was a serious matter. I needed to be brought up to speed because somehow, I had missed something big.

Some time between the end of Charlie’s Angels and the beginning of Downton Abbey, the meaning of grades changed. Grades no longer reflected skill and knowledge; instead, they became currency for college admission. Students began to believe that if they accumulated a certain number of grades in a particular range, they would be admitted into a particular college. The correlation between grades and knowledge was gone.

When I was growing up, we defined ourselves as students. Our job was to learn. Now, many students define themselves as college applicants. Once they get to college, they define themselves as applicants to internships, graduate schools or high-paying companies.

Our job at St. Luke’s is to recapture an idea that has fallen into extinction: Knowledge is the prize. When students enter my office frantically stating that they will never get into “X” College with a B- in history, I calmly explain that you can’t grovel and beg your way to intellectualism. Mastery of a subject isn’t acquired by asking for extra credit points. Not always having the answer is what school is all about.

I also remind them that there is something exhilarating when you get that tough final question on Jeopardy right, even though there is no grade attached to it and no monetary reward. Just knowing the answer is reward enough.      


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St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.      Sign Up Today to Visit St. Luke's





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