When did elementary and middle school promotions become such big events? We have parents arriving an hour or two early to get a good seat with balloons and flowers in hand. I’m not sure why or how these promotions became such a phenomenon.
Perhaps it has something to do with the idea that school is a big deal. Promotions, graduations, grades, honors programs, advanced placement courses and many others have become a central focus for thousands of families.
We are conditioned around beliefs and norms about education that remain accepted and unchallenged for more than a century.
One of the most accepted norms is this: children go to school and get good grades in order to go to college and get a good job. This equation ensures a happy, successful life… or does it?
Do those who follow the formula necessarily end up happy? What about hugely successful college dropouts like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs?
The formula worked before the Information Age. Prior to instant accessibility of information, extremely knowledgeable people (almost always as a result of schooling) were in high demand. Not so much now.
“The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind—creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers.” ~Daniel H. Pink, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future
If we are to rethink education, we must first consider grades.
We are told grades are a way teachers evaluate and communicate learning. Surprisingly, decades of research confirm grades are not a reliable method of measuring learning or intelligence. In fact, there are numerous negative effects, including fear of failure, decreased tolerance for risk, and less interest in learning.
Admittedly, letting go of the value we place on grades is challenging. But, not letting go can lead to children who believe their parent’s love for them is dependent on achieving good grades.
For example, according to a study by the University of Michigan, 80 percent of students surveyed believe their self-worth is based on academic performance.
The 21st century requires a different kind of thinker. Companies now hire people who can think outside the box, collaborate with folks who may be different than them, and who lead balanced lives.
“The more we want our children to be (1) lifelong learners, genuinely excited about words and numbers and ideas, (2) avoid sticking with what’s easy and safe, and (3) become sophisticated thinkers, the more we should do everything possible to help them forget about grades.” ~Alfie Kohn
We must challenge the norm in order to best prepare children for this vastly different world.
Take a risk. Worry less. Encourage more.