Paying for points

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Getting extra credit is like playing a game for points. Art <br /><figcaption id=Art by Jamie Fung

In our modern school environment, it has become possible for an after-school dodgeball game to raise your English average. During the 180-day academic year, Townsend Harris boasts a number of renowned performances: SING!, FON, and various other events. In order to promote attendance at these events, teachers often offer extra credit to students who attend. We students, heavily conscious of our averages, gladly spend our dollars to attain higher grades. At first, this deal seems to satisfy all parties: the performance is well attended, students have higher grades, and teachers have classes with higher averages.

However, upon closer inspection of the ethics of this bargain, the deal becomes less sweet.

There are currently three forces that attract students to school events: quality entertainment, free food, and extra credit. Of these elements the one that should be the most scrutinized is the extra credit. When we purchase a ticket for a school event to get the extra credit, we are more or less purchasing a desired grade — a grade, mind you, that we didn’t earn. Of course it is only natural for a student body composed of bright, young minds to seek out an extra point here or there. But to do so with cash is completely unethical. By paying for extra credit, we forsake the idea of hard work, replacing that idea with a lazy mindset. Should people really be awarded for having the time and money to attend events when others might have neither?

The concept of “citizenship,” as it is defined in class contracts, baffles me. As Townsend Harris students, shouldn’t we already  feel obligated to support our comrades at school events? If I truly sought to add 5% to my average, I’d work harder in class, not pay to relax in the auditorium. Can it really be called citizenship when students are going to events for the extra credit and not to see their peers at their finest? An event that lacks attendance must find a way to attract students without offering a reward. By using extra credit and the obligation of citizenship as a means of filling seats, performances are no longer cultural experiences, but opportunities to advance one’s own position. Instead of relying on “citizenship,” organizers should focus on captivating their audiences and making them want to attend their events.

The distribution of citizenship credit itself proves unjust. If a teacher decides to issue extra credit for a particular performance, a throng of students rush to buy tickets. But what about those who cannot attend? Should they really be barred from receiving the credit, simply because they were busy on a night that others weren’t? Or worse, should students buy tickets, not show up to the event, and then lie to teachers for the extra credit?

Although I staunchly oppose the perverse use of the term “citizenship,” I agree with its fundamental principle. The concept of extra credit is reflective of a meritocracy: those who are willing to do more than the rest should be rewarded. However, does watching a performance or a basketball game really warrant a reward? I think not.

While I have pointed out the ethical injustice being done through our school’s so called “citizenship,” it is important to understand that I do not think school events should be boycotted, or teachers and event organizers persecuted. However, I do believe students should be attending school events because they want to be a part of their school’s community, because they want to see their friends in their finest moments, because they want to cheer on their comrades in the ranks, not for an extra point on the next test. What should be the solution to this issue then? It is simple: extra credit should not be offered for school events.

Exchanging money for points amounts to little more than academic prostitution. In our attempts to earn a point or two on an exam, we sell ourselves and our time. We forget that things happen in school besides our grades; we forget that students, some of whom are our friends, devote their time for performances. By attending an event just for the grade, we nullify the true purpose of the performance. Instead of receiving a smaller, more interested crowd, these events are filled by throngs of uninterested grade-seekers. If an event doesn’t suit you, don’t attend; make room for the spirited, crimson-and-gold comrades in the ranks that truly want to be there.