By Nicholas Pond
Are you teaching your child to play the “grade game”? If you are…you’re not alone. Everyone in the educational institutions from the principal, to the teachers, to the students themselves have been doing the same thing…teaching your child to play the “grade game”. While grades are important as a rule, they should not be the main reason a student attends school or seeks to know something. The idea that the grade will get you where you want to go in life is flawed.
Many parents continually harp on the idea that the student must get good grades so that he can go to a good college or university…and that graduating from a good university will guarantee him a good job. This focus on grades during the school experience of course will ultimately make for a good life. Sounds like a solid way to view education doesn’t it? And statistics relating to grades have seemed to generally bear this out prior to the last decade or so.
It seems, however, that we may have over-sold this idea to the detriment of the current and coming generations of children. Grades are focused on what you know of what you have been taught, how well you test or how well you have been prepared for the test, and how well you game the system.
The real goal of educating ourselves should not be to obtain a grade by the least amount of effort possible. It should not be to obtain a grade at all. The real goal of our education should be the acquisition of the knowledge we can use to earn ourselves a future that is to our liking and of service to mankind. We need to understand that some knowledge is preparatory to understanding other knowledge. Students need to seek knowledge with the idea of using it for purposes known or yet to be discovered. It is the knowledge that is important…not the grade.
You must also add to the knowledge a work ethic that will use well the knowledge you have gained. In his New York Times article of May 28th 2013, Thomas L. Friedman put it this way; “Underneath the huge drop in demand that drove unemployment up to 9 percent during the recession, there’s been an important shift in the education-to-work model in America. Anyone who’s been looking for a job knows what I mean.
It is best summed up by the mantra from the Harvard education expert Tony Wagner that the world doesn’t care anymore what you know; all it cares “is what you can do with what you know.” And since jobs are evolving so quickly, with so many new tools, a bachelor’s degree is no longer considered an adequate proxy by employers for your ability to do a particular job — and, therefore, be hired. So, more employers are designing their own tests to measure applicants’ skills. And they increasingly don’t care how those skills were acquired: home schooling, an online university, a massive open online course, or Yale. They just want to know one thing: Can you add value?”
Knowledge is key. Not grade. Focus and emphasis need to be on the gaining of knowledge and a work ethic to use it productively. As a friend of mine, Col. Eldon Bodily pointed out to me in an email relating to this topic, “it is related to the question of a coal mine owner in PA when interviewing local job applicants. “If you want to work come and see me, if you want a job go elsewhere.”
At the beginning of each semester at the college where I teach, I begin with asking if my students are playing the grade game. Why are they here? Most of them answer, “Because it is required.” Col. Bodily’s friend, Matt DeLong, does the same thing. He puts it this way to his students; “Are you here to get a degree or to get an education?” Those who are simply trying to meet the requirements to get a degree are going to end up serving burgers to those seeking knowledge and skills.”
Grades, if applied properly, should be an indicator of how well the student is retaining the knowledge presented as compared to his classmates or the amount of information given. But it is only that and nothing more. That is the principle that should be used as a benchmark when considering grades. The principle that should be applied by your children concerning grades is that they should “seek for knowledge and how to productively apply it and the grade will take care of itself ”. In other words, seek mastery of the information, not just remembrance of it.
This principle needs to be driven home from home as it is not being done well enough from the principal on down in today’s classrooms. The student is the real educator. The student does the learning. Ultimately the student is the master of his own fate. High words I know, but true. Teach your child to learn by principle not principal.
For ways to accomplish this high goal, you may want to read my book; Educational Success: Parent’s Guide For Your Child’s Education. My book is available here a great resource for parenting techniques that work and improve your family relationships and success.