Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs

"A" students tend to become professors, and "C" students become wealthy donors...

CJ Westerberg, June 22, 2012 3:55 PM

Larry Summers. WSJ.winners.education.jpg


"Creativity, he said, might be an even more valuable asset
that educators and parents should emphasize.
  
At Harvard, he quipped, the A students tend to become professors
and the C students become wealthy donors.
"
----WSJ quoting Larry Summers
                              about Chinese Tiger Mom, Amy Chua's parenting


"Entrepreneurs and Innovators,
no need to apply.
"
-C.J. Westerberg


Tiger Mom Challenged

by C.J. Westerberg

I'm falling off my chair, again. 

About the responses to the story. . . you know the Amy Chua authored book that created the firestorm article in the Wall Street Journal how Chinese moms were "superior" to American moms, , "Chinese Tiger Mom" story, the one that keeps on going. . .
 


Now Larry Summers, with ties to Wall Street, Harvard, and, of course, the Obama administration, with today's post in the WSJ, Larry Summers vs. The Tiger Mom.


Here an excerpt, from Summers, which is an unexpected wow:

"In a world where things that require discipline and steadiness can be done increasingly by computers, is the traditional educational emphasis on discipline, accuracy and successful performance and regularity really what we want?" he asked.   Creativity, he said, might be an even more valuable asset that educators and parents should emphasize.   At Harvard, he quipped, the A students tend to become professors and the C students become wealthy donors.

"It is not entirely clear that your veneration of traditional academic achievement is exactly well placed," he said to Ms. Chua. "Which two freshmen at Harvard have arguably been most transformative of the world in the last 25 years?" he asked. "You can make a reasonable case for Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, neither of whom graduated."   Demanding tiger moms, he said, might not be very supportive of their kids dropping out of school."

There is a second issue, he said. "People on average live a quarter of their lives as children. That's a lot. It's important that they be as happy as possible during those 18 years. That counts too."

If you can eliminate the possible knee-jerk summation of the Summers' analogy, of "having the money of being a donor" as being better than the role of professor, think about what he may really be saying about how we educate our students, even at the level of a marquee name, such as Harvard.

Summers may be emphasizing a different point -  that is  - not everyone is geared to becoming a professor, nor want to be one, yet the institution of school is generally built around this premise (been to a school awards ceremony, lately?  It's either "smart" or "jocks", with maybe
some arts-oriented award thrown in).

Yeah, he is using success as an illustration, through the lens of  innovation, by calling out the worlds of  Facebook and Microsoft.  Some may say he is using money as the barometer of success.  Maybe he is - and who is a fan of this?   Check out The Daily Riff's MIA list (Missing In Action - those who dropped out or never entered college) who are among the most  "accomplished" in America  (accomplished in this sense of some notable achievement).    
Not everyone is a stellar college drop-out, like Steve Jobs or Harry S. Truman.   Some of us want/need college (and who are lucky enough to afford/scholarship), to expand our knowledge and refine our skills, whether they be thinking, writing, creating or building.    But there may be a  college "lie" that has come to haunt us.   We can't use college as the only reason to do well in school.  And, those who are close to many entrepreneurs and "creative types," money is
more often NOT the driver for their purpose (as with Zuckerberg of Facebook).

What Summers may be saying is that it's time to value learning and accomplishment that may come in different packages, rather than the one-size-measures-all, (i.e. how effective are our standardized assessments?), compliance-oriented education system.  Maybe I'm cutting Summers a break here, but his quotes sound a lot like Sir Ken Robinson in the latter's  viral TED video,  where Robinson, who was a professor, claims the education system is geared toward producing college professors, which doesn't serve everyone to their full potential.

School is geared for how smart are you, rather than how are you smart (credit to Howard
Gardner).

What's your riff on this?


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  • Megan Pledger

    I don't think his point was that earning money is better than being a professor.

    I think his point was that A students buy into the system and become systemised and thus can only become the thing that the system has an ultimate end point in producing - professors.

    The C-students haven't bought into the system (or else they'd work harder and get the A's) or can't buy into the system (becaue they lack the ability to get A's) and so they have chance to see the system more objectively (you see more of the race when you're not in the lead) which gives them an easier transition into the world and to be successful. They appreciate the value of system by donating money back to the system.

    The point is that tiger moming makes you a believer in the system rather than give you the flexibility of mind to view it objectively.

  • vincent

    being a professor would require you to have good study habits, we all know that having such a trait will generate good grades; this will allow you to impart that study habits to your students as well. having these traits is crucial if you want to be an effective professor. while its not entirely true that 'C' students tend to be wealthy donors because 'A' students have great potentials in being wealthy donors as well. if you want to be an educator, http://resumes-for-teachers.com/ that writes excellent resumes, is a great site for aspiring teachers.

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