Incentives are a wonderful thing. As a parent I did a few things I thought were smart. When they were young, I would give them one dollar if they drank water versus soda at a restaurant. For grades, would bribe them to get A’s. When you are young, you are not thinking about getting into the “best” school, and not really sure what grades mean. A parent knows that going to the right school has lots of advantages so in lower grades a bribe like that works.  

But why do parents and later students know that getting good grades is important? Colleges say they use grades to decide whether someone gets accepted. So, in turn the goals of schools, parents etc. become getting the ‘grades’ or scores needed. In fact, businesses have been built based on the fact of getting SAT/ACT scores as well as tutoring for students.  

Nothing withstanding the fact that in top schools 43% are alumni, athletes, parents or teachers or kids of ‘donators’ the race for now 57% of those open slots (AADT) . The current supreme court ruling also opened other cans of worms, but I am not going to head in that direction. The direction I am thinking is more, the fact that the goal is grades and scores, so we educate based those goals.  

Grades are a recent creation, and around 1830s they more resemble a bell curve. The average grade was a 50. The distribution was set to be more of a ranking. At some point they skewed the grades higher, cause well no one wants to be ‘average.’ Now the history of grades is not the cause of the problem, but with the the reliance on them. 

Elementary and High schools then have the current grade model resulting in parents wanting kids to have a 4.0, schools wanting kids with high grades (money, bragging rights, wall of ‘acceptances’ etc.) and kids stressing out trying to reach the grades. In this model the question I want to ask, are the kids learning anything? 

Classes that require regurgitation information (date of a war, formulas, the plot / symbolism of a book etc.) is much different than problem solving, thinking, creating, Ignoring who ‘wrote the book’ and knowing the root cause of a war to pick the right choice on a test does not teach someone how not to prevent it if they are someday president. Learning how to solve differential equations does not teach you how to question math to come up with the next theory. Removing Arts from schools ends creativity for choreographers, composers, painters and writers. So, what are we teaching our kids and why? 

The Three R’s go back to around 400 AD, and are still the core of schooling, though they got named that in the 1800s. But is this the right things students need to excel at? Are interpersonal relationships, strong core values, working with others more important? Of course, you need to learn language to communicate, math to know what you are buying but what percentage of people have ever used calculus or geometry in their day to day jobs? There are others that argue that things like financial wellness, basic nutrition and other topics should be included in the core. My question is why don’t parents or students have the option? If the answer is that colleges want some way to differentiate non AADT students maybe, we should take a stance against it. 

Harvard who uses grades (sort of) to decide who gets into its school, but questions if grades are the right way to determine intelligence. So why are we doing all this to get in? Are the incentives of grades making better people? No, I do not have the answer, but the conversation must be started, or we just continue the status quo which just seems crazy. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them.