Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Does academic success matter

When my children have problems with their school grades, I try to put things in perspective. I tell myself that, ultimately, being alive and healthy is what matters. I also remind myself that academic success does not guarantee a successful later realization, let alone happiness, and I remember some who were nearest and dearest to me and had straight As at school, and were responsible, hard-working and compassionate, yet did not get the happy and long lives that they deserved.

But this thought gives no comfort.


Charles N. Steele said...

Then consider this. In grade school through high school, my grades were rather low. In my undergraduate college program, I often failed courses. If I was interested in a course, I usually earned the highest grade, an A, and otherwise did nothing and received whatever grade the professor awarded; I didn't much care. I completed my undergrad degree, went on to do some things I found meaningful that most professionally-minded people would not (e.g. competing in triathlons, full time). I made no money at this.

At some point I decided it was time to move on to a longer term project in life, and began preparing for graduate school. Because of my low grades (and change of fields, from History to Economics) I had to take additional courses to prepare myself and signal to graduate schools that I was not an idiot. Apparently I was successful, as eventually I completed my Ph.D. at NYU, ranked #10 in the world at the time. I've been successful enough in my subsequent career.

In my view, if parents can get their children to be literate, to read, to think, to be active, and to be happy, they've done what they need to do. Good grades and high quality education are helpful -- I see this in my students -- but not necessary. Character is most important; enthusiasm and willingness do do things, not be passive; those are essential.

Bad grades -- I had bad grades -- are not a barrier to be worrying about.

Maya M said...

Thank you! Your story is inspiring, and I think you are right about parenting.

Unknown said...


Got a agree with Charles. I have seen many people “get serious” about life and do well. If you give them the basics you’ve done well.


Maya M said...

Thank you!