There has been a growing movement on social media platforms like Tumblr for the past several months that can be summed up in four words: grades don’t define you.
Users cite random tidbits of information, mainly about intelligent, successful celebrities who performed poorly in the classroom.
Posts remind people that Albert Einstein failed miserably in school and how Microsoft mogul Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard at age 20 before receiving his degree.
Kate Winslet (you know, Rose, from “Titanic”) and William Shakespeare were dropouts too.
Photos of Scantrons bubbled in to read THIS DOES NOT DEFINE YOU are reblogged hundreds of thousands of times.
Maybe the system is whack, maybe some people are bad test-takers and maybe the SAT doesn’t measure intelligence as well as it could (hey, that’s why they’re revising it, right?).
It is true that getting good grades doesn’t always equate to superior intelligence and getting bad grades doesn’t necessarily equate to stupidity. It’s true that individuals are more than numbers in a grade book.
But, in reality, grades matter. Plain and simple.
What these Tumblr users forget to mention is that Albert Einstein flunked because, well, he was literally a genius and school was just too boring for him. It’s doubtful that everyone who plays the Einstein-was-a-failure card is under-engaged in class because they are just too brilliant.
Bill Gates may have left Harvard early, but hello, he still got into Harvard and that didn’t happen with a transcript of Ds and Fs.
And unless you’re planning on dropping out of school to become one of the most widely recognized actresses on the planet or a poet whose works will prevail for almost half a millennium, your argument is invalid.
It’s true that failing a math quiz every once in a while won’t kill you. Those are the days when you can tell yourself, “My grade is just a number on a piece of paper,” and try not to let it happen again. But skating through your education and rejecting the idea that grades measure anything important is just absurd.
There needs to be some kind of middle ground. Don’t smile at your straight-F report card, but don’t have anxiety attacks over your 89 average, either. Just do your best, study for your exams and learn as much as you can. The rest should come naturally.
*This story was originally published in The Signal.