A student holding her exam with an F grade
Image source: upjourney.com

Key Takeaways

  • Accountability is a significant part of learning, and students should understand this.
  • Educational institutions and parents should acknowledge that failures can be beneficial in driving personal growth.
  • The approach of handing out grades to appease parents and students alike undermines the essence of education.
  • Encouraging hard work and determination is more beneficial than labeling students as “smart.”

In the complex landscape of modern education, teachers often find themselves at the heart of many debates. A narrative from one experienced Advanced Placement (AP) teacher stands out. This educator voices frustration over an increasing number of students and parents seeking grade bumps, which they feel are undeserved. The demand, motivated by a growing pressure for high grades, contradicts the very notion of valedictorian ambitions, which traditionally represent academic excellence through hard work and merit.

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Among the cases, the teacher cites, one involves a parent who reasoned their child’s incomplete assignment was due to a misunderstanding of instructions. This justification stands as a shaky premise for those aiming to be valedictorians. The scenario is humorously juxtaposed by a commenter’s sarcastic remark, “Cool, my dream is to play for the Lakers. And it seems like we’re both putting in the same amount of work to pursue those dreams.

Accountability, a cornerstone of personal growth and learning, is echoed throughout the discussion. One parent of an AP student illustrates, “When he doesn’t turn in 3 assignments in a row and ends up with a C, that’s all on him. He earned that. Obviously I help and support him, but I can’t go to school with him and turn in his classwork for him.” Other commenters chime in with similar sentiments, acknowledging the value of failure as a catalyst for motivation and effort.

Alarmingly, the dialogue paints a picture of an educational system that seems to shelter students from failures. Instead of holding students accountable for their performances, the system, parents, and administrators have become quick to pin the blame on teachers, effectively stripping students of their learning responsibility:

“Accountability is only for teachers. Students are infantilized all the way through their senior year of high school. They are not expected to take a role or accountability in their learning.” 

Lastly, well-intentioned advice surfaces: instead of merely labeling children as “smart,” parents and teachers should instill values of hard work, determination, and a love for learning. The comment underscores the potential pitfalls of associating a child’s identity solely with being “smart,” which may lead them to evade challenges or develop a superiority complex.


These valuable insights call for a collective reevaluation of our approach towards education. We must reassess the weightage we give to grades, foster a culture that embraces failure as a part of the learning process, and encourage values like hard work, determination, and love for learning over the simplistic label of being “smart.” Hopefully, we can cultivate an environment where every student can truly learn and grow.


What is grade inflation?

Grade inflation refers to the tendency to award progressively higher academic grades for work that would have received lower grades in the past. It represents a decline in academic standards and is often linked to the pressure from students and parents for high grades.

How can labeling children as smart” be detrimental?

Labeling a child as “smart” can unintentionally create a fear of failure and a reluctance to take on challenging tasks. The child may start to believe that they must always meet the “smart” expectation and may shy away from tasks where they may not succeed, hampering their overall growth and learning.

What role does accountability play in a student’s education?

Accountability plays a crucial role in a student’s education. It helps students understand that their actions have consequences and that their academic success is largely dependent on their efforts. It teaches responsibility, promotes personal growth, and is a critical life skill.

What can be done to address the issue of grade inflation?

Addressing grade inflation involves a collective effort from educational institutions, teachers, parents, and students. Institutions need to maintain rigorous academic standards. Teachers should grade objectively based on performance, not pressure. Parents should support their child’s learning without pushing for undeserved high grades. Students should focus on understanding and learning rather than just the pursuit of high grades.

How can failures be beneficial in a student’s learning process?

Failures can be incredibly beneficial in a student’s learning process as they provide valuable lessons and insights. They allow students to identify their weak areas, understand the importance of hard work and perseverance, and motivate them to improve. Embracing failures as a part of learning can promote resilience and determination, important skills for life beyond school.

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