The semester’s nearly done and many seniors are just looking forward to graduation. And as it’s always been, graduations are a source of academic and political conflict.

I probably wouldn’t ride on the sudden surge of my good friend Ma’am Tina’s post on the value of the Pisay diploma since I am a graduate of some other high school. But what is important in that post is the trend of lowering standards of what makes a graduate worthy of claiming an alma mater as one’s own.

So how important are grades anyway? I myself am a self-confessed grade-conscious student. I have kept a grade log of all of my requirements for courses and still keep track of my general weighted average even for my graduate studies. Yes, there will be a lot of inspiring educators who would say that grades don’t really matter but given that argument, why even have them around?

I believe that many schools in our country develop a very grade-conscious outlook in our students. As a token requirement in my English for the Professions classes, I required them to write a short proposal (in letter format) about the grade I should give them for the semester. It has been my source of shock and awe when I compute grades. I encounter a lot of students who feel that they fully deserve a flat 1.0 (the A+ in UP standards) despite lackluster performances. In this, I appreciate (and follow) the reminder of our department chair that grades of 1.75 and higher should only go to those who have displayed the capability to graduate cum laude or better.

Now this isn’t to undermine the students’ abilities. This is just probably a reflection on the attitudes of students when it comes to grades and academic rank nowadays. To most students, a grade of 2.0 (defined by the University manual as a grade corresponding to “good,” probably a B or C+ in other scales) is the dregs of the grade pool.

The thing with UP is that grades can be really subjective. Professors have free reign of how they structure the syllabus of a particular course. A class may have few or many requirements quantifiable through computable points. There are also the intangibles. How would you even try to qualify effort and passion? Students have varying strong points too.

I have previously mentioned that honor graduates of recent years don’t really impress me. Given the ease of getting high grades due to UP Diliman’s RGEP, it is quite easy to just target the courses and professors who readily give out 1.0s. Never mind their horrendous choice of subjects. They end up choosing probably the most intellectually devoid and irrelevant courses to take. (Yes, we have graduating majors from the English department who never took up the basics of college English.)

To me, and a few other people, that leaves our graduates lacking in the basic knowledge that a UP graduate should have. I won’t be saying that the old general education program is perfect but I could say that (as a product of that old program), we’re more well-rounded than the graduates that we have today.

And yes, I maintain my stand that there are honor graduates this year who do not impress me at all.

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