When visiting my daughter this past weekend, she reminded me that while she was in high school that I would give her five dollars for each A on her report card, but ten dollars for every B.* And she knew why.
I'd encountered people who, after an unbroken string of A's in high school, suddenly got a B or C in college and fell apart. Knowing how to handle academic stumbling blocks - that teacher who just can't be satisfied, that concept beyond one's comprehension, that unreasonable assignment - is as critical to one's education as knowing the quadratic equation or how to honor parallel construction in one's writing.
My plan didn't work with my daughter. She still wound up with something close to 4.0 GPA and still handled her college and grad classes just fine. So much for that theory.
But here is another concern I have about stratight-A students: Are they demonstrating, not intelligence, but the ability to conform, to mindessly follow instructions, to support the established order? Do truly orginal thinkers and creative problem-solvers get high grades in school?
So here's the consequence: what happens when our straight-A students become educational leaders - principals, directors, even superintendents? 500 years ago Machiavelli wrote:
"... it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."
The underlining is mine. Why would anyone want to change a system that has so handsomely rewarded the deserving - oneself?
Perhaps we need need to put the folks who were C and D students, the drop-outs, the poor test takers, pains-in-the-butt, the artists and rabblerousers in charge of the schools for a while. Maybe we'd see some change.
Or perhaps we should start giving A's for something other than good test performance. What a concept.
Beware the straight-A student leader.
*Yes, this is a part of my nomination for the title Worst Parent Ever.
See also The Good Girls/Good Boys Club post