I have had multiple careers in business and in education. I have watched many things change within the culture of our country. But, the change that bothers me most is the over-emphasis parents place on grades today — an emphasis they mistakenly pair with success.

Unfortunately, what those parents mean by success is almost always equatable with money. “Make straight ‘A’s’ in school so that you will be admitted to a prestigious school — so that you can, then, enter a field where large financial rewards await.” The implication is that “success” and “money” is irrevocably tied together.


Is a master mechanic not a success? Is a homeless shelter administrator incapable of being a success? Is a public school teacher destined to be a loser?

Sadly, we take pride in children who grow up to be “successful” in large financial institutions, for example, because they will then make really big bucks, flushing their “once upon a time” talents by merely re-shuffling wealth — contributing precious little to our civilization or to the dreams of its people. And so it is with many other high-paying careers that often leave the big earners feeling unfulfilled and empty.

Can a material-filled life of luxury ever compensate for the broken dreams of childhood?

So, it was particularly exciting this week to read in “The Washington Post Magazine” an article entitled, “First Person Singular: Wakefield High teacher and ‘It’s Academic’ coach Scott McKeown.” McKewon makes some interesting comments:

“Sometimes your straight-A students stink at this because they’re so meticulous. They have to dot all the I’s. They’re scared to be wrong, so they’re not pit bulls. Some of the strongest kids I’ve had are the C kids, just your old-fashioned gentleman’s C’s. They’ll just watch the History Channel and read whatever they want to read, but they don’t often care at all about grades. And they don’t care about being wrong every so often.”

“You need to have a killer instinct. Smart instinct is good; football instinct is good. Not every day needs to be ‘Everybody Gets a Trophy Day.’ You need to know what you’re good at and what you need to work on. That’s what’s so satisfying about ‘It’s Academic.’ . . . They know at 16 what a lot of kids don’t know: ‘I’m probably not going to be a movie star. I’m probably not going to be Super Bowl MVP. But by God, I’m going to be competitive at what I’m good at.’”

Make room for our children. Give them encouragement to pursue their own dreams, even when those dreams may be different than the ones we want them to have. Help them to achieve their own definition of “success.” Help them to see the wisdom of “following their own bliss” while avoiding the “Golden Handcuffs” that afflict too many adults with high paying jobs.

Grades are merely one measure. There are many equally good measures of success.

More on Friday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning