Saturday, February 15, 2014

Grades and...

Okay. I'm a parent who has two high school graduated children. One is a college graduate and who knows if the younger will ever get to that thang.

With both of these kids, we have been unconventional parents, or at least so I think.We encouraged them to pursue their passions, to explore the arts, and we did not ride them or micromanage their grades or their academic performance. My dear wife and I are not academic people; or rather, a part of me is but it's not a major part.

We set them free in many ways. They might argue that, but when our daughter went to college she was the one in charge. She figured out her path, made decisions about changing it, and did so with our support and blessing.

When our son entered his Freshman year at a Nashville arts school, we backed off and worked to let him manage his high school work. Until Fall semester of his Junior year all went well. He failed four of his classes that semester. He had never failed any class, ever, in the history of his schooling. We all went into triage mode. This past December, my dear son graduated early from an alternative school here in Nashville, where he found teachers who cared about him and also who held high expectations for his work.

Heavy sigh. So. Looking back I hear my brother's sing-songy voice "Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda Shoulda, Woulda." I somewhat resentfully sort of wish that I had bought in more to the academic thing.


Well, take a look a last week's release of a Pew Foundation study that compared incomes of high school graduates with those of college graduates. It's profiled in Feb. 11th's "Is college worth it? New PEW study says yes" and I heard it discussed several times on NPR this week, with the repeated tagline "The only thing more expensive than going to college these days is not going to college." According to that article, there has never been more of an income gap between college graduates and millennials with a high school degree or less. Get it from the horse's mouth at if you're the sort of bloke who needs to bypass the synopsis.

After looking at all of this, my rational mind wants to keep on developing this train of thought. What if I had been more positive with my children about the benefits of high grades? What if I had more encouraged academic learning and performance? But I have a confession to make. My heart wants to go "yay." Both of our young adults are going to figure it out so that their lives work best for them. I believe that their experiences in the performing arts and their love of artistic expression (and more importantly and more subtly, the understandings they gained pursuing those paths) will serve them far better than any externally applied assessment or any paycheck. They will struggle and they will figure it out: Heck, so did their mom and I. The big difference, I have to admit, is that it's a much more dangerous world that it was when we were figuring it out.

They are golden, and if we've given them anything, it's love and support, and a healthy skepticism about how things are said to work in the world. Screw PEW. And screw the worship of the dollar. Life is about more than that. Listen to this live recording of a song I wrote on this topic -- God I do love Dana's harmonies.


CraigM said...

Rock on Scott. I'm a believer in education and also in living life one's own way. Your two will find their own path in life and as you have set them up with a good moral compass, they will "succeed". Cheers!

Tim McCormick said...

The machine only wants worker bees. But the wise child does not allow the machine to define them. Success is best left to self assessment.
The Information Age will destroy the advantage of institutinalized industrial centralization. The future belongs to the maverick entrepreneur.