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Don’t Let Your Kid Get Straight A’s

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Read Time: 2 minutes

Yes, yes, we know that some kids are naturally great at school. No need to really PREVENT them from getting great grades, of course. But no need to really push for a 4.0 either, says this wonderful Adam Grant piece in The New York Times, “What Straight A Students Get Wrong.” It’s the same thing many parents get wrong, the idea  that A’s = success, and anything less = less success. But, as Grant notes:

Getting straight A’s requires conformity. Having an influential career demands originality. In a study of students who graduated at the top of their class, the education researcher Karen Arnold found that although they usually had successful careers, they rarely reached the upper echelons. “Valedictorians aren’t likely to be the future’s visionaries,” Dr. Arnold explained. “They typically settle into the system instead of shaking it up.”

This might explain why Steve Jobs finished high school with a 2.65 G.P.A., J.K. Rowling graduated from the University of Exeter with roughly a C average, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. got only one A in his four years at Morehouse.

The corollary to this?

Kids need free, unstructured time to discover what they find intrinsically — extraordinarily — motivating. It is in childhood that kids have, or used to have, the most time to look around, wander around, goof around, thus discovering what they love to do. I just met a paleontologist who spent his childhood looking for dinosaur bones. He’s still doing the same thing about 70 years later, having become a professor of paleontology without ever getting his college degree!

Free time can take kids far. Unfree time keeps them unfree. Maybe they’ll get more A’s. But maybe that isn’t what they need to succeed. – L.



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