The Difference Between Good Grades and Being Well-Educated - FROM THE ARCHIVES

[originally published on October 30, 2014]

(according to me, who is completely underqualified to make this assessment, except as a student).

My ideas that sound contradictory, and won't by the end of this blog post:

1. The most well-educated student in a class may not have the best grades. 

2. The most rebellious (think, questions authority) might be asking for the best education. 

3. The person with the best piece of paper might not be as well educated as the people with inferior paper. 

I think grades are important for societal things, like getting into college and finding jobs out of high school. Also, I understand the need for standards. They make things easier for assessors, and a grade is a decent indicator of how someone is doing compared to the ideal circumstance.

Here's the problem: Good grades do not equal a good education.

I KNOW. I'm talking crazy talk. Let me explain:

Grades are a marker of your progress against the standards your school has established. Completing the standard set of informational memorization and mastery of your school's prescribed skill set is called "graduating." So far, I have successfully done that twice.


However, once I got a job, I started seeing a lot of people who were... hmm.... less than well-educated. Adults. People who had successfully graduated. 

I personally think I got a great education at my tiny school, and here's why: 

I can think. 

That's it. That's the difference. Good grades are not an indicator of someone's ability to think

There is no measure for someone's critical/creative thinking ability in standardized testing, or at least, I haven't seen one. There's something great about telling kids, "there's no wrong answer, just go for it," and meaning it. 

I was talking to a friend from junior high/high school, and we realized we are good at learning. As in, I feel comfortable talking about a subject I know very little about, because I know I'll learn. I feel comfortable relating a new subject to one I know. 

So this is a non-comprehensive list of things I think well-educated people should be able to do/qualities of well educated people (disclaimer: this is an opinion piece by a college student. I am sure I will come back to this topic in ten years and wonder what I was thinking).

1. Well-educated people know the difference between their tastes and what is good/bad. 

I don't like certain shows. I just don't get the appeal of certain books/movies/bands/subjects/shows/art pieces, etc. However, I do know that my taste is not the be-all/end-all taste. If I tell you a book is good, I mean it was well-written overall. That might not mean I like it. Hence, I think The Pearl by John Steinbeck is a fantastic piece of American literature and you would have to pay me to ever read it again. 

2. Well-educated people can relate A to B. 

What? I think it is a mark of a well-educated person to be able to take new knowledge and contextualize it by using knowledge they already have. For example: A student learning about A Midsummer Night's Dream might do well to pull in their historical knowledge about Athens and Grek Mythology, and just let it set up shop in the back of their mind. 

3. Well-educated people know they don't know a lot. 

I'm not an expert in any field. Period. I had the same job for three years and constantly learned about the inner workings of my job, more effective sales techniques, etc. I still don't know anything about anything. 

4. Well-educated people aren't scared of educators. 

I've started to think of teachers as teachers. As in, people who are present in my life for the sole purpose of helping me gain knowledge. As in: they don't hate me. They probably want me to pass and do well. They want me to master the subject they have spent their lives mastering, to the extent that the class is taught, and then beyond that. I used to be afraid of teachers in real life, like they wanted to be superior to me. That's not how that works. 

Look! A teacher! I touched one! 

5. Well-educated people want to be taught more than they want to be right.

I think it is a mark of a well-educated person to jump into situations where they know they will be the least knowledgable person. They would rather make mistakes that lead to mastery, then be perfect and mediocre. My youth pastor on Maui is fluent in 7 languages. I've been listening to him be bad at a language my entire life. Sure, it's a different language every few years, but the point is, he sits there and does badly until he gets it.

So in conclusion: good grades show you learned some thing. Being well-educated means you learned to love learning.