Numbers

My dad is very concerned about both my and my sister’s academic progress. Sometimes he’ll suddenly just ask me about my academic progress out of the blue – the first thing over dinner, or while he’s chilling in the living room and I’m working at the dining table. On some level, I understand that it might be his way of communicating with me; after all, don’t you build relationships with people based on common interest? Our common interest might be what’s best for me, but we definitely have different opinions on that – personally, I care more about things that take my mind off studying, like working with dogs and playing the flute, but I never hear him asking about that. (that is, unless I have a flute exam coming up)

Growing up with a parent who constantly asked about how I did on a test (replies to be given numerically; recently, I say I do ok because I want to shift the focus) and how my friends did on the same test, I have probably never expressed my ‘I don’t live to compete with my friends’ attitude hard enough. I’ve always agreed more with what my mom says about ‘doing your best’, rather than achieving top marks on an exam, because it’s so much easier: you’re the only one who determines if you’ve tried your hardest. The one drawback would be that this system prides itself on your honesty, but personally, I’d prefer this than having your “effort” returned in numbers on your test.

While my dad now knows that I don’t ask around for others’ scores, and he won’t receive answers no matter how much he grills me, he also knows my sister still pries. It might be “friendly competition”, but it sure doesn’t seem like it when:

  • your dad can and will rattle off your recent exam scores at the drop of a hat (when even you can’t even remember what your stats were),
  • you’re asked about who you’re hanging out with, then asked about their general academic prowess,
  • you’re “politely requested” to make friends with classmates who have good grades,
  • it seems like good grades are automatically equivalent to having a good personality or being a good friend, to which I can raise a handful of examples who defy this,
  • everything revolves around grades and numbers.

 

My school prides itself on being holistic, but despite whatever sporting banners, chess trophies and community awards we have, everyone knows we’re still more academic-oriented than anything else. And it seems like it’ll always be this way, until we shake off the toxic mentality that numbers are the sole thing that represent us, and vice versa.

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