Class Participation: Change Your Personality or Suffer

ImageI have spent the past twelve years of my life in school, thirteen if you count the year I’m currently experiencing, and I’ve noticed a growing trend in education: the use of class participation in grading, negatively and positively. When I was younger, class participation never was used as a tool to lower grades, only to raise them, and yet, this year alone I’ve had two teachers drop my grade because I haven’t talked enough during class. I find this idea entirely ludicrous. 

Your grade should be a culmination of your work and your effort, neither of which can be adequately measured by how many obvious questions you respond to during class. Usually, I simply don’t respond because I figure someone else will, because the answer is simple, the question annoyingly condescending to assume that we as high school seniors don’t understand the most basic philosophical texts. Maybe I’m in the minority, but it simply doesn’t seem worth it to be consistently talking in class, to become known as “that kid” who always knows the answer and seems obnoxious about it while in reality that kid is simply fighting to keep their grade at an A because the teacher is so insistent on dropping it due to class participation. 

Using class participation to boost a grade, I’ve found, has been helpful to many kids and I’m not inherently against that practice. What I’m against is using it to drop the grade, essentially exiling those who do not feel comfortable with themselves to speak up in class, those who struggle to express themselves, struggle to seem intelligent in front of their peers. Using it to drop a grade is saying “You are not good enough as you are.” It’s essentially reinforcing the idea, that we, as people, should be outgoing, should be those kids who always speak our minds, while in reality that’s forcing a conformity on our generation when people are always different. Teachers who enforce this, then, are essentially giving a grade boost to those who are comfortable with themselves, not those who most understand the material, not those who write the best, but those who can talk in front of people. It seems unfair, in many ways, to those of us who sit quietly in classes, achieve A averages on all tests and papers, and yet end the term with an A- because the teacher doesn’t like that we don’t talk when we’re obviously paying attention in class due to our grades. 

In the end, class participation, for some, is saying you must change your personality or suffer academically, and that to me seems unfair. Am I alone in thinking that?

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