Grades matter for one reason only: Because we let them.
Lots of kids get high school diplomas without grades. Lots of kids learn lots of stuff without grades. (Adults, too.)
Believe it or not, students get into Princeton without grades. People become successful in life (in whatever way you choose to define that) without any grades to propel them.
I mean how many tombstones (or obits) have you read that highlight a GPA?
So, let’s not use the excuse that “other people” or life requires them. They don’t. It doesn’t.
Just own this: we choose to use grades in school. We don’t have to, but we do. It’s just easier that way.
We choose them despite what we know are the problems with handing them out. That they impact self-esteem. That kids start chasing them and gaming them. That they signal an end to something. That they are a snapshot.
So let’s just be honest, ok? Grades matter because we let them matter. Because we make them matter. Because that’s been the choice we’ve made in education for eons. Because we don’t have the stomach for changing it.
We could choose learning instead.
But I guess that’s just too hard.