Why Writing For a Grade Can Have a Dangerous Impact

Eliza Sutton and Sarisha Ray

By the time they enter high school and certainly by the time they graduate, every student will have completed a writing assignment for school. Writing styles are dependent on their subject—a lab report for science class, for example, is different than an essay for English, and both will differ from a history paper. 

Despite the differences in assignments based on topic, they are all graded, which means that what is written is all skewed by the desire to get a good grade. This relationship provides a dilemma for students because writing for a grade often means having to sacrifice creativity and the integrity of education. The environment of school only makes this more complex, submerging students in a place where everyone is complacent with the facade of doing work for the sake of learning. However, as every student knows, this is not always the reality. 

When you write for a teacher in the hopes of pursuing an A, personal opinions and style can often be sidelined in favor of writing something that you think your teacher will want to hear. 

When you write for a teacher in the hopes of pursuing an A, personal opinions and style can often be sidelined in favor of writing something that you think your teacher will want to hear. ”

In reach of the high score and filling out the list of criteria assigned by their teacher, the student’s actual ideas and style can be swallowed by the standard five paragraph MEAL essay format that many education systems request to see in the papers that they commission. 

The skill of writing is constantly needed in daily life, both in and out of school, therefore deeming it an essential skill to formulate. However, when diving into a writing assignment, such as the personal essay for college applications, the requirement is for students to be able to express their unique voice and style. Writing vastly changes not only from scenario to scenario, but from person to person, and without pushing students to think and write outside of the box, they will fall below the mark in facets of writing where they need to be themselves to succeed. After all, if a student is consistently told to follow a norm—thus suppressing their true selves—then how is it fair to expect them to switch to a form of writing that was never allowed before?

To effectively communicate, one must learn the skill, first and foremost, of how to address what’s needed in the specific situation you are writing in. So why is it that so many schools teach writing in such a constrained way, and use the pressure of grades to enforce these constraints? 

Following an extensive criteria or rubric to avoid receiving poor grades is, in most cases, a fast track to never really learning. In real life, you don’t get a rubric. You have to evaluate the scenario as it comes at you and tailor what you write to best fit it. Furthermore, you are allowed to explore different angles on any given subject matter instead of making the logical choice of writing a cookie cutter essay from a point of view that you know will get you that A. 

At the moment, school (or at least many people’s experiences with it) does a very poor job of preparing people for this inevitable scenario and encouraging students to write what they are passionate about. 

If the stress about grades in writing were eliminated and instead the emphasis was put onto both learning how to address these highly variable situations and helping students write about subjects from an angle that peaks their interest, then it’s possible we could be raising more efficient and effective writers than have previously existed.