I’ve always been a bit of an academic nerd, so marks have never been a big deal for me. The school and university system of assignments and exams worked for me, which made life pretty easy. I do, however, know that there are tons of students who find the whole system very challenging. Last year, for example, I received a distraught email from a very bright student who had tanked his exam. He’d let the stress get to him, he said.
That’s why I was fascinated to read about the book “Why A students work for C students“. In it, the author Robert Kiyosaki explains that the school system rewards kids who read well, memorise and test well. These are the kids who generally churn out the As and go on to study book-smart subjects like accountancy and law.
The C kids are often those who don’t fit this mould. They are often, however, highly creative, out-of-the-box dreamers, and it is these individuals who go on to innovate, create, and change the world around them. Thus, A students often end up working for C students.
I LOVE this idea, and I bet that in many cases it’s true. However, it doesn’t help my student who failed his exam last year. There are real repercussions for poor performance at school and university, no matter how limited the system may be.
I came across a related idea in Stefan Collini’s (2012) book “What are universities for?“ Here he’s discussing the idea that one of university’s roles is to enable people to develop their potential:
… (but) what if the potential that people find they have to develop is to become unsaleable esoteric poets?
Kiyosaki says that parents shouldn’t be obsessed with their kids’ grades; they should rather help them find and follow their special gifts. But, what’s a parent to do if that gift is to be an unsaleable esoteric poet? In a world where people need to fill their cars with petrol and pay for health insurance, how idealistic is it to encourage students who may not be academically-minded to follow their (potentially unprofitable) dreams?
Since I left varsity, I don’t think anyone’s ever looked at my matric results, and job applications seldom ask for academic transcripts. So that leaves me wondering if, whether you’re an A or a C student, marks ultimately matter at all. Is it a case of “Nice work if you can get it, but if you can’t, don’t stress too much because you have other gifts”? I’d love to hear your thoughts.