Re: I feel this needs to be said...
Our team has no grade policy.
100% of our robot is built by students and parents.
100% of our past and present graduates have gone on to higher education.
Yes, grades are important. Are they the end all, be all to who you are as a person: NO!
I believe this topic raises a larger issue than what is currently at hand. Which is more important: The school or the student?
The goal of public education (I am not familiar with the inner workings of private institutions, so I cannot speak my opinions of them) is to provide each and every student with the skills and knowledge they need to live life to the fullest. Elementary education is rather straightforward, and provides students with the foundation they need to learn at a higher level. As schooling continues to the secondary level, the mission and outcome begins to become blurred. Ask any high school student "What is the point of school?" and you will receive a few different answers. Of these answers, most will hold the general idea of "To learn."
This is the misdirection that plagues a majority of high school and college students. Students spend a majority of their adolescent life in school with no real goal beside "to get into a good college". Yes, this is a good goal to have, but where is the significance in this? College is not for everyone, and students need to be given the opportunity to find themselves before dedicating a large amount of time and money to this cause. FIRST is a tool students can use to in self-discovery in a world where society's aspirations are based around the near-impossible-to-achieve dreams of professional sports and stardom (Ahh, but that is for another discussion!)
So, where does your performance in high school factor in? The answer to that question is lodged in your perspective on education, and the point of its existence. While some may not agree with me, (based on opinions, fact, or blatant ignorance) the point of school is not to learn, but to learn how to learn. Your grades in school have close to no real meaning. They are simply a gauge in the effort to distinguish those who are able to comprehend the material from those who may need more help. Achieving high marks may mean you are truly comprehend the subject, but more often than not it simply shows that student is capable of memorizing some pages out of a book. This is a huge flaw in the modern education system, and something I hope will be addressed.
In a normal classroom environment, teachers give lessons over a set period of time to be followed with an examination. The goal for students is to receive a perfect score on this examination. This might possibly be the worst thing possible for the students. It becomes easy and practically accepted to have no real knowledge of the 'guts' of the subject, but simply to just know 'the right answer'. This fact has created millions of teenage zombies in America, who simply sit through the day, take word-for-word notes, memorize them, and regurgitate their memories on the test. All the while, they have no real idea of what they are doing.
Is this happening everywhere? No, not really. The AP environment solves most of the problems I have stated. The AP examination looks for overall understanding of the subject matter, and does not ask for perfection. 75% right on the AP exam will score you the highest marks possible. I wholeheartedly agree with this method, and hope it expands to encompass all classroom environments, not just high level.
Back to the subject at hand: Which is more important: The school or the student?
Without either, both are lost. If one fails, so does the other. In any one school there may be thousands of students. For the sake of the school's survival, it is much easier to force the students to conform than the school to reform. The educational ideals of public education and of (what has become of) FIRST are based on different foundations, which makes hard for many students to survive in both worlds. While a student in a school is just a number, FIRST provides an experience which would otherwise be unattainable at this time in someone's life. Please don't get me wrong, teachers and school faculty care about their students. Of course they do, or they wouldn't be there. But, in the end the experience you walk away with from high school alone does not really enrich your life.
I'm sorry Matt, but I cannot support your plea. I repeat, grades ARE important, but students need to realize the importance of them in THEIR life. Sure, it would be nice if everyone had 4.0 GPA's and went to Ivy League schools... but everyone is not the same, and each person needs to realize his/her potential and what they need to do to achieve greatness.
So, please do whatever it takes to make the most out of your high school years. Don't waste the best years of your life with your face in a book. For the team leaders reading this, realize the experience your students are getting from this program WILL change their lives. Please, do not discount this fact and give every student the chance they deserve.
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