A For Effort! F In Life – Why trying your best doesn’t mean you excel

Over the past ten years or so, Americans have become obsessed with protecting their children from failure. Parents and educators feel they take up sword and shield to defend children against all the unpleasant things in life. Everyone needs to be a winner, otherwise a child’s fragile psyche could be damaged beyond repair. “First he didn’t place in the science fair. The next thing I knew Jimmy was arrested freebasing on Avenue D.”

Does this kind of attitude really keep our kids from climbing the bell-tower with a high powered rifle or does it drive them right up it?

Recent studies of college students have shown many have unrealistic expectations about the kind of work it takes to get an A.

From New York Times

“I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.”

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.

“I noticed an increased sense of entitlement in my students and wanted to discover what was causing it,” said Ellen Greenberger, the lead author of the study, called “Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors,” which appeared last year in The Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

I suspect one of the culprits is lack of standards in K-12. Many children do not know what is expected of them. Just telling children to “try their best” isn’t helpful in every situation. A clear set of expectations leaves no one questioning why they got a particular grade. This is something that should be instilled throughout school.

There is also a difference between simply working hard and producing quality work. I could spend fourteen hours on a project get a C, while you spend two and get an A. If you exceeded the requirements of the project you deserve that A. If it took me that much longer to only meet the requirements then I still only deserve a C.

People are not equal in ability. Some children will be better at certain things then others, just as some adults are. Those who excel should be rewarded accordingly. Would you rather your brain surgeon just tried his best or that he was at the top of his game?

These unrealistic levels of achievement we place on our children hinder their lives. It holds them back from really reaching for that A, from working hard and well to exceed their goals. If your child wants to be in the FBI, less that high quality of work wont cut it. The FBI doesn’t recruit people who tried their best. Those people get cut.

Put an end to this culture of entitlement now! It has become far too pervasive in our society. Don’t believe me? Just watch the American Idol auditions. You’ll see my point.

Read more at The New Republic