Why Graded Needs to Change the Way We Learn

Who am I? What do I believe in? What makes me happy? Who do I want to be? What is my relationship with the world around me? These are all important questions that surround us. Even indirectly, they are what make society able to grow and develop. They push our thinking; they make us wonder. They serve as reflections of ourselves and provide a starting point for how to deal with the outside.


The way we think in relation to the world is the way that we shape it. Yet, it does not seem like we give this the importance it deserves. In school, all we see and hear is concrete. We are given the information, taught to repeat and accept it. We memorize formulas we do not comprehend. We read about leaders that seem to be as distant to us as is the sun. We stand in a science room and fill out worksheets on meaningless concepts. There is no connection. What is the point?


Recently, someone raised this question: if students do not even concentrate in a system that is clear and concrete, how will they do so when there is no one forcing them to? The answer lies in the roots: change the focus. How are teenagers supposed to commit themselves to a subject which seems to have no direct connection to their lives? The system separates the learning from the student. It builds so that the goal is no longer to develop as a human being, but to bring more college admissions to the school’s name. It is striving for success, however corrupt that may be.


Why are we here? What is the purpose of school? Students here at Graded will most likely respond with “college.” From the beginning of high school, we are asked to act a certain way. High grades are important for your GPA and standardized testing scores. It is important to do sports so that you will fulfill the purpose of a well-rounded student. Volunteering will show leadership, involvement, and get you your CAS requirements. We become indoctrinated into a format that will achieve the highest points. Graded wants to get students into prestigious universities. There is nothing wrong with that. It values itself by where its students go to after, as opposed to what they do after. It is inevitable that the way students think is greatly influenced by the message that a school transmits. If the purpose is to breed high-achieving students who go off to make money, then it is going in the right direction. If it wants people who actually do good to others and changes the world, something needs to change.


It is clear even in the roots of the school how the students are more encouraged to strive for excellence within themselves than to think as a global citizen. The core values emphasize striving for the highest an individual can possibly reach. They mention critical thinking and reflection, but these are extremely overlooked. How can one think critically when there is a yes or no question? When there is only one correct answer on the SAT or the MAP test? We learn to reflect in such a forced and restricted manner. Writing a blog post about how well you did on an assignment is definitely not critical thinking. The mission statement does not address respect. Although these concepts are on paper, the school is obviously not acting upon them. It is easy to have a wellness conference and say that it wants students to become happy and healthy, but the institution contradicts the same ideals the guest speaker promotes. Only those who are in Student Council had the privilege of participating in the conference and reaping the benefits of mindfulness. The rest of the school is simply present in a 30 minute assembly with no connection to anything. They are expected to apply a trend that is presented for half an hour into a routine for years that has gone in directly the other way. It almost seems hypocritical.

It seems like Graded expects everyone to be born with an opinion. However, these are developed through a process of self discovery, which is difficult and cannot be done by oneself.

— Bianca Auriemo

What is learning? Is it possible to be taught? What is the role of the teacher? There is a very distinct difference between teaching students what to think and teaching them how to think. Students cannot become “engaged, ethical citizens in a dynamic world”, when they are indoctrinated rather than educated. It seems like Graded expects everyone to be born with an opinion. However, these are developed through a process of self discovery, which is difficult and cannot be done by oneself. Students only truly learn when it comes from within themselves, and the job of the teacher is to help them reach that state. This depersonalization of the school system is going against its ultimate goal, whatever it is.
Only when we are taught to question, to think, to connect and to realise what our relationship with the world is, does education truly reach its purpose.