“Earning” a good grade

Posted: November 28, 2012 in Philosophy

It’s interesting to me that we treat good grades like money–you earn your grades, and if you don’t, you pay the price. If you think of it in terms of socio-economic status, doing well in high school gives you have access to higher-class institutions in college. There’s a lot of emphasis on doing well in school so you will be better off in life, and it’s largely true. Sure, there are some folks with jobs that weren’t determined by school-specific training. And there are others who have graduate degrees in areas that have nothing to do with their day-to-day industry. But in general, the more training you have, the better off you will be.

Today Janine brought up the subject of paying your kids when they receive A’s, and how she was against it. “Virtue and pride in your work should be payment enough,” she thinks. “When we were going to school, you were given assignments and expected to complete them. And that’s how it was. I don’t understand why that idea is lost to so many kids today.”
But here’s how I think of it: Consider the movie The Breakfast Club. While it played into stereotypes a lot, I know that my high school wasn’t quite the same as that one from a half-generation earlier–in my eyes, it was better. Sure, there are always “in” groups and “not in” groups, but I didn’t feel like there were that many kids that were just flat-out bad students. I remember hearing stories from my older relatives about kids getting high in the bathroom, and I never saw it happen…not once. That’s not to say it didn’t, rather, it didn’t seem to be as prevalent. So if the trend holds true, it would make sense to me that there are less and less bad students as the years go on. Or perhaps it’s the gap that has shifted–instead of an even spread, the bad students now are so bad that they make up for the middle-of-the-road students of yesteryear that had more bad tendencies than their modern counterparts, and the good students are better than their former counterparts. For me personally, current teenage intelligence (“book smarts”–not common sense) is very impressive, and seems leaps and bounds beyond where I was at that age (and I was one of those “good” students), which either means I’m right, I’m old, or both.

But at the end of the day, the purpose of school is to prepare kids, in one way or another, for real life. Whether or not the public education system can accomplish that is not relevant here, although I’m sure a long conversation could be had about that. When they get to real life, do we want them to think that virtue and pride are the only things they’re working for? Hell no! I do my job, and dammit, I do it well. I take pride in my work, and know that I add value to the company. But that is only secondary for me–the only reason

I work every day is to get paid. If there weren’t any money in it, I’d be doing something else much more fun with my time. And if I was told today that there were no more raises–I’d be looking for a new job.

So if we hope to prepare kids for a life of working every day, shouldn’t they expect to be compensated in some way for their hard work right now? This is what we expect of them. And yes, I understand that without pride and virtue, they wouldn’t be trying at all–but there’s no reason why we can’t reward kids who earn it while they reward themselves with pride and their legacy with virtue.

I’m going to try to conduct my own little social experiment on someone I know who has less-than-acceptable grades right now, just for fun. Money is motivation enough for me to get out of bed every morning and go to work–so it might be motivation to get someone to improve their grades. And if you remove the “responsible for family” thing from the picture and compare the everyday life of a high school student to a typical adult, I’d say without hesitation that the adult has it easier. Responsibility for one’s family is non-negotiable…but take that away, and just have an 8-, 10- or 12-hour a day job versus the normal goings-on of a high school student throughout the school day, and it makes a little more sense to me why it always seems like teenagers act like everything is such a big deal. My mom always used to say, “man, your life is so hard, isn’t it?” Well, yeah, it was.

But that’s just my take on it.

Be well and stay tuned!

  1. […] And I’ve said before, in one of my very first posts on this blog over 4 years ago, it isn’t actually easier to be a kid.  It’s different, sure, but as my friends and family constantly remind me, discounting your experience in favor of someone else’s, merely because you think their experience “worse,” actually has the effect of demeaning your own experience.  And that’s something that we simply shouldn’t do—since our experience is so important to who we become. […]

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