• Foundations of Truth

When Everyone’s Special, Nobody Is

In Romans 2:6 it says that God “will render to each one according to his works.” In the kingdom of God, there are distinctions among individuals. Each of us will be judged fairly, whether we like it or not.

People are always looking for ways to measure someone’s skills and rank them in comparison to their peers in order to develop a clear picture of who is or is not outstanding. The grading system employed by schools throughout the United States is a perfect example of how someone’s talents in a specific area can be measured.

Nonetheless, the Seattle School District has decided that grades would be “unfair” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. They decided to give high schoolers an automatic “A” for this semester without regard for the merits of the student’s work. [1]

According to the article in the Seattle Times: “‘Grading has historically rewarded those students who experience privilege, and penalized others,’ said Seattle schools Superintendent Denise Juneau — signaling that a more permanent relaxing of grading scales may be in Seattle’s future.” [1]

While an argument can be made that the pandemic poses enough of an academic challenge to warrant a pass/fail or no credit system, to effectively declare all the students in the district “above average” is ridiculous and diminishes the achievements of students who have actually worked hard to keep up their studies despite the challenges.

Furthermore, to say that only the privileged are capable of academic achievement is demeaning to individuals like Ana Barros, a low-income Harvard University graduate from Newark, New Jersey. Her hard work and perseverance made it possible for her to attend an elite university despite her lack of privilege. [2] Without her impeccable high school grade point average, it is unlikely her talent would have been distinguishable from other candidates. The point is this: her grades meant something. They meant she was above average. Harvard University accepted her because of that.

The problem is that an “A” on a transcript from a high school in the Seattle School District is now under suspicion because the school district has demonstrated its willingness to fudge the numbers. This rewards the unworthy and punishes the dedicated. In Proverbs 21:5 it says, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit, as surely as haste leads to poverty.” In contradiction of this heavenly wisdom, school officials in Seattle seem determined to create a system that harms the diligent students who have earned their grades.

In a similar vein, an article by Esteban Elizondo, a recent Yale University graduate, discussed failed attempts by portions of Yale’s student body to implement a universal pass system in response to the pandemic. Admittedly, this is slightly less ridiculous than granting universal “A’s” but the principle is the same. In Elizondo’s words: “Universal Pass, unsurprisingly, has been framed as a fight for low-income students. …But, in reality, this latest crusade is just an excuse to do less work and abolish academic standards altogether. “ [3]

The Seattle school district is jeopardizing the future of their students because they insist on handing out participation trophies that colleges will view with skepticism.

Jesus Christ used the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 to illustrate how servants of God will be rewarded according to their work for His purposes. In a world without standards, grades, or hierarchies, the message is that “everyone is special” but if everyone is special, then no one is. This misguided grading policy is counter-biblical and does the students of Seattle a disservice. Hopefully, the parents of these students will have the courage to oppose this foolish system before it sets a bad example for the rest of the education system to follow.

Foundations of Truth hereby waives all claim of copyright (economic and moral) in this work and immediately places it in the public domain; it may be used, published, edited, and distributed in any manner whatsoever without any attribution or notice to Foundations of Truth.

[1] Danny Westneat, “‘A’s for all’ is the most Seattle thing ever — and cover for the school district’s own poor marks,” Seattle Times (April 22, 2020), https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/as-for-all-is-the-most-seattle-thing-ever-and-cover-for-the-school-districts-own-poor-marks/

[2] Brooke Lea Foster, “What is it like to be poor at an Ivy League school?” Boston Globe (February 26, 2018), https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2015/04/09/what-like-poor-ivy-league-school/xPtql5uzDb6r9AUFER8R0O/story.html

[3] Esteban Elizondo, “Yale students are using the coronavirus crisis as an excuse to lower standards,” New York Post (April 4, 2020), https://nypost.com/2020/04/04/yale-students-are-using-the-coronavirus-crisis-to-lower-standards/

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