Decimal Point = You?

The only clear-cut thing I have learned in high school is that your intelligence can be quantified. Perhaps it can also be implied that this number is the only force driving us to try to understand our world. Comprehension has been completely eliminated from the equation.

It seems as though I am one of the few people in high school who still appreciates the art of learning. I want to grasp some understanding as to why things happen and how different things interact and work together. I don't do that for anyone except me. I never ask what is going to be on a test because I honestly don't care. I don't believe in limiting my knowledge to accommodate a test. I don't fight with teachers for ­gratuitous points, because there isn't a huge difference between a few points on a test.

My point is not to declare that grades are completely superfluous, but instead realize that grades are composed of an aggregation of numbers teachers assign based on your performance. The problem is that grades are also supposed to be an indication of areas in need of improvement. Instead, they have evolved into a measure of a person's worth. There are many fallacies in this. For one, each teacher instructs at a different level of difficulty and what you put in isn't always what you get out. In fact, effort exerted and your grade have some correlation, but not to the ­extent they should. Instead obsequiousness is almost encouraged because every extra point haggled from a teacher is an additional decimal point, and that is all it comes down to, isn't it?

What do you get when you coalesce all the small fractions of a point? It doesn't make you any smarter. Yet, despite the subtle nuances between one point and another, grades are calculated to the nearest hundredth of a decimal point. How can there be that significant a difference between a 101.32 and a 101.78? How can a number that by definition is not objective be broken down into such tiny fractions and then used to determine a person's intelligence? Grades do not reflect one's motivation, ambition, or aptitude. They're just numbers.

What makes a grade so official, anyway? Is it meant to define a person? In our society, the idea of judging someone beyond numbers seems completely esoteric. Grades, salary, weight, age – what if you added up all these numbers that delineate you? Could you use that to compare your worth to another's? ­Obviously not, and to try would be ludicrous.

There is so much angst generated over these numbers. The whole system is absurd. The ideal seems to be to start with a decent average, and continually push to increase that number exponentially. We are taught to strive for perfection in place of searching for comprehension. We are placed under immense pressure, controlled by little measurements, so small that there is always a distance to perfection. There is this constant pressing feeling of inadequacy spawned within each of us.

Do you lose the ability to think and act for yourself when you're so used to just doing what others say you're supposed to do? We have been taught to take the most exacting classes as opposed to what we might find interesting. It takes away from the passion and enjoyment of learning when everything is done to please.

This creates an extremely heavy weight teetering on each student's shoulders. It's impossible to balance stability and perfection, because neither really exists. We are taught to worship these numbers because they tell us how good we are. A number can never truly reflect a person and one decimal point does not make one student more intelligent than another. The difference between a 100 and a 101 is often just luck.

These numbers have taken actual learning out of our education. No one cares about anything except numbers, and getting into a good college. People can't bring themselves to focus on the moment and take in life. I decided to spend my time in high school learning. If a college dares to patronize me over a decimal point because of that, I have nothing to say.

This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s .