Grades are bullshit

~~~gradesYesterday I came across a poster on FaceBook.

Your child’s mental health is more

important than their grades,

it said.

I love that poster.

Sounds like common sense, no?  

Yet the number of parents who don’t believe it is truly frightening.

I meet such parents all the time.  Especially in spring, as the school year grinds towards its exhausting conclusion, and they come to me panicked because Janey or Johnny are at risk of failing something.  

And I tell them,


Grades are mostly bullshit.

They don’t measure real knowledge or intelligence or understanding or creativity or anything people really need to be successful.  

They don’t measure honesty or courage or kindness or compassion or self-awareness or whether a kid knows the difference between right and wrong or what’s important and what’s not.  

More often they measure memory (short-term at that), obedience, conformity, fear of failure, need for approval, or the results of parental coercion.  

Thus academic success is not the predictor of success in adult life everyone pretends it is.  Einstein, Edison, Newton, Churchill and Steven Speilberg were all lousy students.

So try not to stress over Janey’s D in Social Studies or Johnny’s F in Math.

Don’t get angry, and don’t get scared.

Give your kid a hug.  Make them feel loved and accepted just as they are, and that you have faith that they will grow just as they need to.

That’s what they need from you. 

Not lectures.  Not warnings.  Not dire predictions.

They’ll get plenty of those elsewhere.

From you they need a sense of how unique and valuable they are.

And that school is just school.

And that grades are mostly bullshit.

8 responses to “Grades are bullshit

  • Brenda

    In a perfect world. Yes, if passing grades weren’t a requirement in our society, then why bother. Completing tasks and striving for a goal in school prepare one for completing tasks and striving for goals out of school. Grades teach discipline.

    • Steve Hauptman

      I suppose that’s true for some kids.
      Those aren’t the kids I worry about.
      The kids I worry about are the ones that learn, not discipline, but fear, obedience, self-doubt, conformity and a hunger for external approval — all the hallmarks of a well-socialized neurotic.

  • Pd

    Steve. That is a wonderful post at a great time. I wish my parents heard this When I was younger. Thank you

  • Eunice

    Steve, this is totally true and I’ve been saying this for a long time. Thank God my youngest will graduate in 2 years. The only important test/s of the child/student’s school life are the A.C.T. and the S.A.T.’s. (and they take those in highschool.) If a child scores high on one or both tests, the child/student has it made with all sorts of scholarships, IF AND ONLY IF THEY WANT TO GO TO COLLEGE. If not, there is always work, or community colleges or Vo-Tech schools.

  • Kathleen

    Love this Steve! Even if you only get this message through to a handful of parents, their children will spared from suffering a life long sense of inadequacy. That’s a beautiful thing.

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