As we move through the American Education system, especially high school and college, we are consistently reminded about the utter importance of the grades we obtain in our courses. In high school, I remember my father always demanding I strive to get the best grades I can in order to create the most opportunities for myself in the future. Anytime my mother heard my father scold me about a “poor” test grade, I would be threatened with the possibility of not making it into a four year college and be stuck aimlessly in a community college (as if community college was not a smart choice to go to).

College is no different. Sure we are on our own, with no parents looking over our shoulders making sure we ace every test and show up to every class, but the pressure of getting good grades is still quite relevant. Once again the thoughts of graduate school and other opportunities weigh on these little letters that professors give out to us twice per year. And in college, the amount of actual work put into a standard 3-unit class varies so greatly that it is almost impossible to predict how well one can do in a semester. Every class has its own grading scale, every professor their own writing preferences, then there are other points such as participation, attendance, “Liking” something on a social network; all of which help shape which little letter we will receive on our transcripts. There is no consistency to the 4-point American grading scale, especially in college.

As students are working to fit as much as we can onto our plates with the little time we have every day, it becomes evident that those who work the most efficiently to complete all of their work end up obtaining better grades. Note, I did not say, “it becomes evident that those who work the most efficiently to complete all of their work end up learning the most valuable information.” I said better grades. Why? Because most students, due to the societal pressures to obtain A’s and B’s, focus only on how they can most excellently craft their work to get the most points, but not on actually absorbing into their heads. So how are students who obtain such high grades not actually learning all of this information that their transcripts says they do?

A lot of the time, they cheat.

The system emphasizes what grades we get, not actually how we got them. Sure there are the plagiarism spiels mandated to be in every syllabus, but what kind of work is actually being done to make sure students are not BS-ing their way through their classes? As illegal and unethical it is, there is an art to cheating your way through school. Students will strategically take online classes in order to use their textbooks and the worldwide web for every test. They will classically peak over their friend’s shoulder during an exam to see their answers. They will split up the work and then cooperate and get together to copy each others’ answers. The way each and everyone of us does school is an art form; we each cleverly maneuver our way to get the grades we need because unfortunately it is the grades that parents, professors, and future employers initially look at before even seeing how much we know as intellectual persons. Not everyone cheats, or some have done so only once or twice, but how is a GPA supposed to differentiate between the two?

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