Low Grades, Kool Aid

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I was rummaging for class pictures last night when I found this. This is a merit card I got from highschool. I can't really remember but I think I got into the class top ten that quarter. There's nothing striking about it, other than the batshit insane low grades that they kept on giving us in that school.

Think about this. I was in the top ten. My average was no higher than 87.5. We're on a perfectly hierarchical arrangement and I'm on the best section. There were around 200 students in the batch. That means at some point after my grades, it only gets lower. To borrow the words of a senior of mine, "St. Andrew's is the only school where you study AND cheat AND still fail the goddamn exam."

Larry, a math genius motherfucker from our batch once perfected all the exams in mathematics for a quarter. I remember he got a 93. A 93. In other schools honor students would be pissing their shorts if they see a 93.

Another friend of mine was the second honor of the fourth and last section that year. His average was 79. You read that right. Having 50 students in a section that meant there were still 48 guys with even lower averages. I'm talking about guys who didn't ask their peers how many lines of sevens they got. These people counted the subjects that they were able to get to at least 80.

I can't remember ever gunning for grades that would take me to the honors level. With the kind of grading system we got and with the kind of treatment I got from my parents whenever I hit lines of sevens, I was happy enough to cling on to the 80's level. Every card distribution day was like OJ's handing-out-of-verdict day. I think that was when I developed a religious life. (for the week before and after the dreaded day anyway)

They've probably abolished the system already. I can now see younger batches getting very high grades from our school. And it's a good thing, because applying for college is a total bummer when you have a grading system rigged to make you at lest several points dumber than your otherschool counterparts. 3 years out of my highschool life were spent carefully engineering my grades so I can have a decent record for my college application. By engineering, I mean cheating hard and studying harder (sometimes viceversa).

But you know, despite all that, between having to crawl your way through an insane number of long exams (3 per quarter, not including periodic finals) and looking at your lines of sevens after card distribution day, there was something nice that happened. I learned to stop looking at my grades (mainly because theyre always horrible and they never really improve no matter how hard I try) and just try to get some learning done.

Maybe that was what they were trying to get out of us in the first place. A learning oriented attitude. Apparently learning can be done much better by dangling looming threats (of failure) than big rewards (like high grades).

And maybe you'd be asking, why I said it was the grade system that was rigged and it wasn't us students who were stupid. Because we graduated, and then went on to college, and then proceeded to get the grades we never could have reached during our days in St. Andrew's.

By making us constantly unhappy about ourselves, we were pushed to improve beyond even our own self-set limits. It's got to be the craziest brilliant idea I remember seeing in that school. (apart from using reusable mugs for lugaw that kids throw into the trashcan every recess, but that's for another story.)

Also, screw you. I'm not _that_ old.


rei said...

huwaa!~ St. Andrew's,.. hehehe

brown pants? ahihi

redkinoko said...

Pag 4th year na, black pants na lang saka pin. Walang patch.

pao said...

the good old farm days

Anonymous said...


sabi na nga ba andrean ka ehhh...


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