Can Every Child Get Straight A's?

Over the weekend you missed a stellar debate I had with Amy. It started from the piece, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, by Amy Chua in the Wall Street Journal. You have to read it and then come back and tell me how deeply it offended you.

The thing that got us going was a debate over straight A’s.

My point of view is that I will demand straight A’s, no matter what. I mean with the ultra-low requirements of our schools getting an ‘A’ simply means turning in homework. It is amazing how few can even do that. Just thinking about it makes me want to set the bar even higher, with honors classes and extra projects.

Simply put, I do not see any reason why students in America should not get A’s. I think that striving to do so is the only way to fix our schools because it requires resetting parental expectations – both to get parents more involved in homework and to get us as a group and a nation to expect nothing but the best.

I don’t know, maybe I’m being naive about this. Maybe I should consider those students who have trouble in math and let them off.

What do you think, am I a complete tyrant for thinking this? Will you hold your children to the same standard that I and “Chinese Mothers” do/will?

If not, please give a reason why.

Update: a response to this post was added: No! Every Child Cannot Get Straight A’s


Join the Conversation


  1. You are such a millennial @robotchampion. There has to be losers in life, which is one reason why the bell curve, or some variation thereof, is popular in American academia.

    1. @Chris – only popular in universities right? And not universally adopted either, like just a few teachers employing it?

      I can tell you that in my middle school class I employed a version of it. On a few tests the kids outdid me and scored nearly all A’s. In response I made the following tests harder (raised the bar). To which they all did worse on.

      Rather than pass out all C’s and D’s I used the bell curve to find the mean. So instead of 100% correct being the top, I used 80% correct as the top. From their I passed out grades. It def did not match what a bell curve would say it did but it helped me understand where I should grade at.

      Plus, all the kids knew I upped the ante. They even asked me about it. To which I had to provide this exact explanation.

      In the end it worked out fairly well. I challenged them to think more and study harder. We were able to cover more concepts. But it also taught me that I forced them to do more homework and was taking up more of their time than other teachers. So I had to learn to slightly increase the standard while employing the bell analysis and not overwhelming the kids.

    1. @Dan – that is actually a urban legend or what have you. Nearly all classes up until the university level are graded on a minimum expectation standard. Meaning that you turn in your homework and answer the questions right on the test and you have an A. The point system is the most popular. You know like 90 or above is an A.

      The thought that there has to be a certain amount of B, C, D’s is actually a rare thing. It is certainly popular in universities as the Bell curve. But even then that is for individual tests/essays and usually in combination with other grading mechanisms (attendance, projects).

    1. @Witty Wife

      Thx for responding. The answer to that is both yes and no. Right now, no, because getting an A means simply achieving the minimum amount of skill needed in a subject. Those students who easily get A’s and can do far more are expected to learn elsewhere or do extra projects for no grade.

      Until we have more students achieving A’s it is a valuable standard and expectation. I guess it can’t be devalued until it actually happens.

      I guess if it did happen then we would need to change. Maybe raise the bar or establish a pass/fail standard for basic skills and then have grading for higher level conceptual work.

      More importantly getting an A is not about how many kids don’t get A’s. Or, how their is supposed to be a certain amount of failures. I don’t know where that belief came from and it seems like the worst kind of environment we can perpetuate for learners.

  2. Pingback:  | 1×57
    1. @Foster – lol, ur comment is from the IP address for the Boulder Valley School District. I guess this means that you are a student? Or, a teacher/librarian?

      I’m sorry to offend you. Shoot me an email with your complaint, maybe I can help: steve @ 1×

  3. The problem IS that it’s easy to get A’s. So if everyone gets A’s it doesn’t really prove much, What if I solved a really simpe puzzle? Not much of an accomplishment, I wasn’t challenged and I didn’t learn much.

    I think we need to change how we measure what kids learn. Not sure how… But a system of achieving high marks doesn’t necessarily mean that kids are learning. It means they can beat the system.

    Good discussion!

    1. Thanks Jim.

      One good point I would say is that with everyone getting A’s that doesn’t have to mean dilution. It can be a shared achievement that then frees up our kids to explore other things, like hobbies, inventing, sports, drama, etc.

  4. Wow. I’d heard about the original WSJ article, but hadn’t read it. Interesting, and thanks for posting.

    To me the “money quotes” from that article were these:

    “What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work…”

    “They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.”

    “Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them.”

    “But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child’s self-esteem is to let them give up.”

    Actually, all these also apply to ADULTS. The last three are basically statement of the self-fulfilling prophecy of low expectations.

    1. lol, so true about adults!

      The only one I slightly disagree with is that kids “never want to work”. I would say they do and often show us how hard to work. Maybe it’s just that sometimes they need to be taught perseverance.

  5. Robot, I have a Chinese mom. Trust me you don’t want a Chinese mom. Lol. On a serious note, while it seems like it’s not very hard to get straight a’s in school, I believe is still is. The problem is society, technology, sports, etc. Pretty much every heading you have for the site. There are too many extra curricular activities outside our school system in society that consume a child’s attention span. Apart from stressing about what the latest fashion is promoted by pop culture icons lady gaga or Justin bieber, kids have iPods, iPads, playstations, xboxs, gameboys, wiis, the Internet, etc etc to consume their time that is supposed to be for homework. In the past generations, and I’m talking about our parents, not us becaue we have/had the same things, there wasn’t much to worry about. You dressed up, you drive a cool car, or fix up a beater, and that was it. You concentrate on school and your parents were there looking after you. Most of our moms didn’t have to work. It’s not like that anymore. Because every family today needs one vehicle per person and everyone needs a house to call their own, our generation has caused the prices to grow where in our generation both parents need to work. No longer is mom there to cook dinner because mom has to work late, no longer is dad helping you fix that car or teaching you how the engine works on his 72 mustang because not even Henry ford knows how a 2011 mustang works. I literally can’t even change the oil on my own car anymore because I need to invest 600 dollars for tools I can’t use anywhere else along with a computer thingy that resets codes or else my car will beep and honk itself until I unplug the battery. Which then resets my navigation system and etc etc where I will need to take it to the dealership for a 300 diagnosis to tell me I need new brakes and tires and other computer crap I have never heard of. (I may have gotten off course) The point is, what kids learn today and the work/homework they do up until high school can be helped by the parents, if they had the time. Parents have compensated quality time together with their kids by having conversations via text message and checking if their kids are home by checking their playstations home login location. We are a victim of our own success as a country. I just got back from china. You know why kids are better in school in china, because there is so much poverty that it is visible. There are not as many distractions for kids because parents can’t afford an ipad. 1 out of 10 homes have a video game console and you’d be lucky if you have a motorola razor right now if you haven’t graduated college. Every school starting from high school is paid for. There is nothing free. If your parents have to give up their house or have to drive one kia spectra for a family of 4, and you know they are doing it for your education, ypu better believe more kids value their education. Every school has a dress code, it
    doesn’t matter what popular icon wore this week or if getting a tattoo or lip ring is in, if you have one, you are expelled. There are almost no continuation schools and the ones that are available are twice as expensive. Life is harder. So you strive to achieve more. Poverty in this country is what, 32k per year? Do you know what povery is in china? Like 5k per year per family. Kids strive in school because hopefully one day they can afford an iPad of their own, they can maybe buy a car, save enough for a house. In the US, that’s pretty much a must. If you have a two year old 3G phone you get 8 out of 10 friends asking why you haven’t upgraded to 4g. And what? You don’t have unlimited Internet? Whats wrong with you? That’s what you get here. So in conclussion, why are we lagging in education. Because we as a country have become complacent in our success as a world leader. There is no to look up to. Other countries on the whole have used america as a target to surpass. We on the other hand are trying to figure out if fios is really faster than road runner because I need to stream hulu and netflix together on the same network. I think I will stop there, there is a lot more on the complications of everyone getting straight a’s also where I won’t even get to. But you are right, is it possible or achievable to expect straight a’s from our kids, yes, but we also need to slow down our own creations and ambitions for that to happen. It’s like an oxymoron. Why create something for leisure that no one else has and not use it? But when you are spending your free time leisuring, expect others that don’t have what you created to surpass you in their creations.

    1. Great points Ned. I think we would definitely be in a different position if we had something to fight for. At the top the only thing to fight for is to stay on top.

      Right now the only thing we sacrifice for is appetizer or entree.

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