Law in Contemporary Society


Our conversation today got me thinking about how grades, exams and other forms of academic assessment have informed my life. Growing up a product of the public education system, such metrics have starkly defined each point in my education. Largely, they have been used by a system to calmly and coolly separate the deserving from the non-deserving. I found the statement on how part of the concern about grades is being captured in an identity that is not our own, striking. In part because, from my experience, good grades and doing well on exams are what make you matter in a system that would otherwise, and in large part not care. That is how the system determines who gets a chance and who is relegated to the rest of the pack. In the US, education may be universally available, but opportunity is much narrower in scope.

I grew up in a mostly immigrant working-class neighborhood and attended grade school typical of public schools in New York City, not particularly well-funded or staffed, but I was lucky. I had the grades to make honors, and in 5th grade my teacher gave me an opportunity to take an entrance exam for a specialized middle school, and when it came time to figure out high schools, I took another entrance exam. The scene is still fresh in my mind of two hundred or so kids lined up outside a high school on a cold January morning, waiting, for a single four-hour test to determine their future – what would be possible, within reach.

Through grades and exams, I was able to escape the schools with high attrition rates and violence I was zoned to attend. I recently learned that the high school I would have attended, that I had lived two blocks from for most of my life, is closing down at the end of the year because it failed to meet the required 60% graduation rate. I don’t think growing up there was all that much that separated my path from those kids who will now have their school life abruptly interrupted. Grades and exams may not capture our identity but they have defined in large part in my life the scope of and access to opportunities that I otherwise certainly would not have had.

-- TiffanyK - 18 Apr 2012


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r2 - 14 Jan 2015 - 22:07:53 - IanSullivan
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