What straight-A students get wrong

Adam Grant’s recent New York Times op-ed, “What Straight-A Students Get Wrong,” is pitched to college students. But just about all of the messages contained within (1) are equally true for high school students, and (2) make some people deeply uncomfortable.

You can see it in the article’s comments. The defensiveness and outright anger from current and former straight-A students (and the parents of those in both groups) is palpable. But many of those readers missed the point.

Grant isn’t arguing that learning isn’t important, that academics don’t deserve attention, or that lofty goals aren’t worthy of pursuit. He’s arguing that chasing perfection for perfection’s sake is too narrow and restrictive. He’s arguing that students’ current and future potential aren’t encapsulated in a perfect GPA. And he’s arguing that budding greatness might be better nurtured by more time spent developing the person and less time spent perfecting the person’s transcript. Some students can do both simultaneously. But it’s worth pausing occasionally to check your balance.

For more on this, see my past post, “You can’t earn straight A’s in life,” and “What happens to high school valedictorians?