May 4, 2015

I have had multiple careers in business, training and education. During that time many changes have occurred within the culture of our country. But, the change that bothers me most is the current over-emphasis parents place on their children’s grades — 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 — in order that you can, then, enter a field where large financial rewards await.”

And, of course, the implication is that “success” and “money” are 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?

I think not.

Sadly, we take pride in children who grow up to be “successful,” as defined by earned income — contributing precious little to our civilization or to the dreams of its people.

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

Several years ago, I read a particularly insightful interview by Amanda Long in The Washington Post Magazine, “First Person Singular: Wakefield High teacher and ‘It’s Academic’ coach Scott McKeown.” Here’s a taste:

“ . . . 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. . . . ”

“ . . . 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, many equally good measures of success.

More on Wednesday – – –

— Bill Walton, co-Founder ITC Learning (Mondays & Wednesdays)