Hold on kids, here comes a rant.
I recently read an article about a Florida high school student who got a 10.03 GPA. Okay, I read seven articles. I kept reading because every article I found was fawning (excellent SAT word) over this amazing accomplishment. It made me angry.
Back in my day (yup, old man tendencies coming through loud and clear), GPA was on a 4.0 scale. Four points for an A, three points for a B, and if I have to keep going any further you’ll never get into a good college and your life is ruined (not really). Sure, we’d fudge those rules every once in a while and give five points for an A in an Advanced Placement class on our college resumés, but that was just to keep up with the kids at the other schools who were going to cheat either way. We couldn’t let them get an unfair advantage, right?
Lo and behold, I’ve come to discover that many schools now give AP classes a six-point weight, and that’s just grade inflation and terrible. And that’s how I feel about that.
But you know what, grade inflation is a minor crime compared to what this Florida high school is doing. You see, rather than use a four-point or five-point or even a six-point scale this Florida school is doing something different. They’re adding. For each half-credit of AP or dual enrollment course one of their students completes they add .08 to that student’s GPA. I can’t tell you how angry that makes me.
Let’s do a quick acronym review. GPA stands for Grade Point Average. Average. You know, that one where you sum all of the terms and then divide. You know, that one THAT ISN’T AN AVERAGE ANYMORE IF YOU START ADDING STUFF TO IT AT THE END. Average.
Think of the consequences: take enough AP classes and your report card of straight B’s could net you a 4.0. Heck, keep at it and you could make a 5.0. Keep going long enough and you could earn a 6.0 GPA without ever receiving a single A. The absurdity goes on and on because there is no cap, it’s not an average anymore!
This school has gone and turned GPA into KFC– formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken, but now just three letters that vaguely stand for a concept. GPA has gone the way of SAT– the artist formerly known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Maybe GPA should just follow Prince’s lead and change itself into an unpronounceable symbol because what this school has done has separated all the meaning out of the A.
So yes, I’m angry. I’m angry at high school educators for setting up a stupid system. I’m angry at the media for reporting a story like this with awe and amazement rather than asking the very simple question: How do you get a 10.03 GPA? I’m angry that the simple and pure mathematical concept of average has been so savagely destroyed (okay, maybe that last one took it a bit too far).
There are fundamental mathematical skills that you need to succeed on the SAT or ACT or everyday life (unless your life is being an administrator at this Florida high school). Average is one of those skills. But there’s this other skill: critical thinking. It’s really important too. So the next time you see some outrageous piece of information on the news, I hope you’ll stop and take a minute to think about the implications of what that really means. Taking the time to sharpen your critical thinking skills may occasionally push you into an angry late-night rant about trivial things, but in the long run they’ll be skills you’re glad you have.