whole thing here. Carter ties calls this the Lake Woebegone effect. I like the description. You can read it all but I am struck by one paragraph:
In the study, the authors also argue that intellectual confidence may have been bolstered by grade inflation, noting that, in 1966, only 19 percent of college students who were surveyed earned an “A” or “A-minus” average in high school, compared with 48 percent in 2009.
Perhaps this is a result of the deliberate intention to use the public school system to impart self-esteem in our children. We grade up because it makes the kids feel better, it makes our educational system look better (on paper), and it makes us look better as teachers, administrators and parents. This has not improved education nor has it equipped our children any better for work or for college. What it has done is made degrees less valuable. As so many have said before me, the high school diploma has been replaced by the bachelor's degree. The masters now replaces the bachelors and the doctoral degree has become the equivalent of the masters a generation or two ago. We are neither smarter nor well educated but we certainly feel better about ourselves.
Grade inflation has been pressed upon teachers by the way they are rated and evaluated and administrators who seek to make their institutions look better and by governments and parents who have to justify the huge costs invested in education. Parents expect their kids to do better in part because they live vicariously through their children and in part because they have paid big bills (especially in college) and expect big results.
In the end we have robbed our children of real self-esteem and handicapped their identity and their growth into adulthood by this culture of what is owed to them. As a parent of three children who are all very intelligent but not always equally motivated, I have tried to separate their self-esteem from the judgement of others or even their achievements. Christians draw our self-esteem from the cross. Our value is set not by society or even our parents but by the God whose love endured suffering and death to retrieve us as His own and restore us into communion with the Father.
The whole nature of this gracious gift reminds us that despite our failures and not because of our successes, God loves us. He loves us where we are and as we are but too much to leave us under death's long dark shadow and captive to sin's grasp. This is the self-esteem that endures, that motivates the joyful and noble response, and that does not bounce around like a ping pong ball with the ups and downs of ordinary life.
We have failed our children by failing to teach them how to fail, what failure means, and from whence redemption comes. We have left them with a distorted sense of self-worth in which they deserve good things, a superior attitude about nearly everything in life, the convoluted sense of failure corrected by a reset button and a restart, and the expectation that they should always succeed or their failure is due to the stupidity of others. It is no wonder that the Word of the Cross does not square with them. On the other hand, when they wake up to reality, the Word of the Cross is the one Word that really does speak to them.
I was not a straight A student. I was a child of the 1950s in which "Father Knows Best" and I was sent to school because I did not know everything. I was taught that even when you work hard you can fail and that failure was a teacher. My parents constantly reminded me that their love was constant but that God's love was redemptive and restored those who fall. I grew up confessing that I was a poor, miserable sinner but that God's gracious love came to me in my sin and death and saved me. I am not saying this like the old curmudgeon who talks about walking 17 miles one way to a one room school and how it made him a better person. I am saying this to identity how recently this shift has taken place. In less than 50 years a revolution has taken place in education and the end result of this revolt has not been better educated children better equipped to serve as productive citizens. Maybe it is time to relieve schools of the responsibility for imparting self-esteem and let them get back to teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic (and a host of new disciplines not even conceived when I was in school)....