22 March 2019

"If there is one thing to take from the discussion so far, it is that we cannot boil down the idea of preparation for life to just getting good grades."

As parents we have been given a huge responsibility. Our children arrive in our families completely dependent on us for everything. Our job is then to teach, train, and guide them to become “successfully” independent in a complex and dangerous world.

Last week we saw that our brains are always trying to take the complex world that surrounds us and simplify it. An example of this is how we have taken the complex process of preparing our children for life and made it into a “simple” formula.  It starts with earning high academic scores, so that they can get into a top university, which leads to a really good job, and finally results in lots of money and happiness. As with all things complex, this formula is not completely false, but also and more importantly not completely true.

So this week, let’s begin to look at the first part of the formula, good grades. First and foremost, good grades are significant. I am not saying or encouraging our students to disregard getting good grades in their classes. Good grades inherently have benefits to them. A student doing well in classes learns the importance of self-discipline. If your child is attending a school that is academically challenging, good grades show the development of a solid work ethic. Along with that, they are used as one measure for university entrance. So let me again say that good grades are important.

Good grades however, do not necessarily correlate with success in life. As parents we want to simplify the formula down to these numbers and letters, but the harsh reality is that we can’t. We don’t like to say this because it creates the uncertainty our brains are trying to avoid, but good grades are not a prerequisite for professional success. A 5 year study by author Thomas Corley showed that 41% of self-made millionaires were ‘B’ students, 29% were ‘C’ students, and only 21% were ‘A’ students. The average high school GPA of millionaires in the United States is only 2.9. Yes, that number is correct: 2.9.

As I began to write the article for this week, I thought that we would simply tackle good grades today and then move on to the next part of the formula next week. However, I found that there is more to look at with this topic, so we will continue to discuss the first part of the formula in the coming weeks.

If there is one thing to take from the discussion so far, it is that we cannot boil down the idea of preparation for life to just getting good grades. Our students need to strive to be successful academically, but we do them a disservice when we make it the only focus and the only thing we care about. When we make the student’s GPA or test scores the paramount goal of school, we are shooting for the wrong target.

Written by Karl Steinkamp

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Head of School since 2006.
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