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What is the Importance of the Grading System in American Education?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/30/2016 Category: Education
Updated: 3 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 193 times Debate No: 93226
Debate Rounds (3)
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The grading system currently in place in most schools is superfluous and, most of the time, detrimental. It should, instead, by replaced with a system of merit.

In addition to other requirements that a particular public institution (those are the ones we aim to specifically target in this debate) may initiate for a student to achieve by the time they graduate, grades only create a false sense of learning, achievement, and actual skill. It has created numerous problems across the field of academic, specifically when it comes to college acceptance rates, with many states allowing for automatic admission to many students within the top percentage of their classes. While this does create incentive, possible initiative in many students, it can be quite destructive to those same students, many of them climbing without really striving. The material they learn is lost in the white noise of the various other activities they "participate" in order to be seen a valid candidate, without really having done anything at all. While this is not true of all students, it can be said, having seen it first hand, that it is a real issue within the American education system. Many people tout that students come out of high school knowing nothing, and it is partly because of this very reason. They aspire after a grade, number or letter, and don't build the necessary skills that apparently come with that particular grade. The grading system, much like the entire Educational System itself, is outdated; the "grade" of student should instead be based on merit.

That is, what a student actually does in their time in class that can be clearly seen and shown through a portfolio. This will change the entire makeup of classes, forcing students to participate, engage, and understand on much higher levels than they do know, as they are no longer bound by a grade, but by a responsibility to actually produce a particular project or assignment in order to graduate from a class; it is literally about the application and performance of skills rather than the simple and supposed mastery of said skills. In the same way that in typical science classes, experiments are carried out in order to apply the students knowledge to a real situation, this should be applied to all subjects, in some form, and build with each grade they graduate into.

Students will come out with a much more wholesome and beneficial experience by the end of their years in school, seeing them no longer as a waste, but a time of incredibly valuable acquisition of skills, even if they are not directly applicable to their careers later on. It will create a new valuation to the importance of learning in the American setting.


My opponent goes on to claim that grades give a false sense of achievement, learning and actual skill. But then says nothing to back that claim up. How on earth does getting a high 90 in grade 12 calculus give you a false sense of learning/achievement/skill? Did the student not learn anything? I doubt it or else they probably wouldn't have gotten such a high mark. And how did they not improve their mathematics skills? Unless you did nothing in that class and failed your skill in mathematics improved. As for a false sense of achievement, getting a high 90 in grade 12 calculus is quite impressive. How is that false?

Then my opponent seems to have a problem with students who have high marks getting into college because of a standard mark they have to reach. He/she claims that students get a high 90s average without really striving. That statement is completely illogical. Either school has become suddenly easy or people have become extremely smart and I don't think either of those has happened. People get high 90s because they're motivated to do well.

Then my opponent claims that those who are at the top of their class forget what they learn because they're doing so many other things to be seen as a candidate. So hypothetically a student gets a 99% average without any motivation and does volunteer work or whatever are the qualifications to get into Harvard and then suddenly is struck absolutely dumb when he/she is accepted is what my opponent is saying. Unless you suddenly had a long term memory loss of everything you did in high school that's not very probable.

Then my opponent says again that the main problem why students don't do well in college is because they aspire after a grade and don't build the necessary skills to continue doing well. This completely contradicts what my opponent said before that students don't strive. So, say in my opponents hypothetical world that the person that I talked about before got into Harvard but was saved from being struck suddenly dumb. Instead he/she suddenly forgot how he/she studied to get 99% average and completely failed at Harvard. As you can probably tell, this isn't very likely.

Then my opponent preposes that students should get marked by how much they participate in class. He/she then says that it should be based on how students perform their skills rather then if they master them without realizing that students are already being marked by these. If you don't hand in an assignment, you'll get a zero and that'll bring down your mark. If by my opponents way you didn't hand in an assignment the teacher would say that your responsibility was lacking.

There's no way to mark how people perform because the results would differ and then it wouldn't be fair. For example if three children were suppose to hand in an assignment. The first child hands it in early and it has only five mistakes. Because of the initiative of the kid handing it in early you mark that as a 85%. The second child hands it in on time with only two mistakes. You mark that as a 80% because they met the requirements. The third child hands it in late with no mistakes so you mark that as an 85% considering that all the other children made a mistake. How is that fair to the middle child who met the requirements but didn't get the top mark? The other two could have rushed it or had procrastinated but the teacher wouldn't know because they don't see what goes on at home.

Also how are you suppose to grade things if you can't use the grading system. In fact in the example above, the children might just be marked by bad, good enough, good, better, exellent system where it uses words or something like it. This would just generalize all students and make it unfair for those who actually work.

Then my opponent implies that actually, he/she wants a hands on kind of classroom because it will benefit students more. Hands on classrooms benefit classes like science but could you seriously imagine how slow math class would be if everyday in grade 12 math you have to pull out your 3D shapes? Hands on us good for some classes, not all.

Then my opponent makes the assumption that suddenly students will stop thinking that school is a waste of time with their new found skills. Firstly most students who want to learn don't see that school is a waste of time. Secondly lets say in my opponents hypothetical world that the person in who was accepted to Harvard didn't forget all his/her skills. Of course since there's no grading system that mean that instead of the 99% she got an excellent. Just like every other person in Harvard now. So that means she/he had got an excellent on every test and exam. Just like every other person at Harvard. But with her new found skills he/she will rise above other and get an excellent in everything. Unfortunately since everything's so generic, everyone got an excellent and he/she was never recognized for his/her capabilities. This is the problem of kicking out the grading system and replacing it with a merit system. Unless you come up with a hundred describing words from bad to excellent, it will never be as accurate as the grading system.
Debate Round No. 1


My opponent makes the inaccurate statement that I believe that there should be no grades at all, when this is simply not the case. I never suggested that we should totally abolish the grading system, this is far from the truth. What was implied is that, the current grading system is superfluous and suggested that it should likely be coupled with something more that creates a greater variety in various candidacies when applying for higher education. There would be none of this hypothetical bad-good grading scale, and the implication that my opponent makes by suggesting this falsely devalues the argument made, because it misinterpreted, grossly, what exactly the merit system is. The system does not devalue those who work, but rewards them more so for their work. Students should not simply be handing in assignments, but again, applying the skills that they learn to a particular project or, for lack of a better term and sorrowfully redundant, "assignment," that is not based on particular requirements, but is instead based on the intrinsic insight and ability of the student and their ability to create something with what they have.

Consider an English student; while the study of literature and writing are, most of the time, highly subjective, the cumulative ability of a student to discern, critique, and craft might be evaluated based on the production of either a long form essay or a novel by the end of their four years, which might be evaluated by the qualified staff or the institution itself, with a panel of professors or elected representatives who would scout future candidates. This would make the process much more effective, it would give the students immediate involvement with their line of work; we are talking about a specific students, we are not suggesting that this to be required across the board for students. This is, then, to say, that we are shuffling the entire structure of the current system, at least from ninth to twelfth grade, during which time, students are often formulating what they are going to be doing with their lives.

My opponent notes that students who are going to work are going to work, and we might say that the same students are driven towards a particular goal that they would like to achieve, of which grades are doing them no good; it would benefit them more if they were able to start their "careers", as we're inclined to call them, much earlier, by having the hands-on productive based education afforded to them by a merit system. The driven students will be able to find their way much easier if they are given the chance to participate in what it is they are driven to do. Note, I am not suggesting that we begin a wide-scale institution of Montessori education (it is possible that we are implying the partial sampling of certain aspects of it and integrating them into public schooling), not by a long shot. This must be understood as to stray from inaccurate claims, once again, by my opponent.

In order to provide an even field, we might also consider a student studying in a particular science, such as Chemistry, in which case, it is much easier to say simply if the student has done what they can or not: whether or not they achieve the reaction expected, and to what extent that reaction is achieved. We may consider that a lab report is attached to is of which might even further evaluate the knowledge of the student. Possibly the student eventually must design their own successful experiment, and again, it is as simple as saying "Yes" or "No" the reaction; outside of the laboratory setting, the numerous possibilities of evaluation are more than apparent. The specific skill of a candidate is not devalued, as my opponent seems to believe.

The Merit System brings out the best in every student by forcing them to literally do everything they can in order to achieve a good mark, rather than simply what is requried of them; this goes for more than just the high ranking students who we are already aware are going to go to lengths we are asking of them, but with initiate the students who are considered average or underachieving, because the impact of their effort will strike them much harder than if they were simply given a failing grade. The Merit System improves the quality of student work, which will have an invariable effect upon them later in higher education, and, more importantly, in their careers.


My opponent first makes the mistake of going back on his word. It says in his first argument that the grading system should be replaced by the merit system and now he says that the grading system should be accompanied by the merit system. That completely just made all his points in the first round useless. If students are getting marked by how they act in school by a number, isn't that still trying to achieve just a number? Otherwise it is all about the bad-good grading scale and like I said before, that scale is very generic.

Then my opponent goes on to say that the merit system rewards those for doing work. Isn't that exactly what the grading system does? Then my opponent says that students should do assignments based off of their own skills and that there should be no requirements. This is an issue. If there were no requirements I could pretend to be extremely stupid and do no work. But I could pretend to be trying as hard as I could and then I would get a good mark is what my opponent is basically saying.

Then my opponent goes to say that students should either write an essay or a novel and let a panel of judges from universities read them and judge whether they are a good candidate. That is extremely inefficient and nobody would waste time to do that. This is what applying for university means. You send your form to the university ad they'll read it and decide whether your a good candidate. Nobody has time to travel to every high school at the end of the school year to read a thousand novels and essays.

High school is for mastering your maths, languages, sciences, etc generally. University is for specifying in one of those areas and college is for specifying in a particular career. What my opponent implied in his third paragraph is exactly what we do in college. Unless my opponent would like to squish everything that we learned in high school into elementary school to make room for college in high school then the school board should stay right where it is.

Then my opponent goes on to explain what should be done in chemistry if the merit system were applied. Because getting all those elements and distributing them to all students is very cheap as all. Then my opponent says that try should be judged by a simple yes or no. So if I managed to make something explode with all the cheap chemicals and elements I would get a yes? That seems ridiculously easy, extremely expensive and has a million loopholes. Any body could dump all the chemicals together and get a reaction. And that would mean they're actually smart? My opponents system is faulty and does not highlight the use of skills.

Finally my opponent concedes that students who get good marks already have skills. This makes most of his points in the first round useless. Then my opponent says the impact of failing will hurt students more. How so? By failing them? Because that already happens in the grading system. And at least in the grading system you can see how much you have to improve to not fail the course. If it were the merit system, a simple "no" means nothing at all to the student and they won't know by how much they have to achieve to pass.
Debate Round No. 2


The instigator resolves to disregard the notion of the merit system, acknowledging the inadvertent red herring from the true purpose of the debate, which is the importance of the grading system within the American Education system; what the Instigator instead suggested was a matter of systems, rather than the specifics of said system. The instigator forfeits the debate from this point forward.


I continue with my points since there's nothing to refute.
Debate Round No. 3
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