School is starting for many students now that Labor Day is here. They will be encouraged to give it their best because that’s what it takes to succeed in life and in a career.
Not so fast. Maybe it’s OK to be just average and still excel.
Take the recent news-making story of the Superintendent’s performance evaluations by the Sarasota County School Board. Members gave him a rating of 3 on a scale of 1 to 5. But they had to round up their combined rating of 2.7. With this boost, they approved a more than $12,000 pay raise, upping his salary to almost $200,000.
Not a bad day’s pay for someone entrusted to provide the best teachers and promote best in student performance.
But are these teachers now entitled to boost their students’ performance by inflating their grades so that average becomes excellent? After having worked for a number of companies and agencies, I don’t recall any of my managers ever patting me on the back and saying, “…not a great job, Jeannette, but it was OK so you’re going to get a raise and a promotion.”
Dangers of Overpraising
No, dear reader, in the real world average performance in a job doesn’t get rounded up to excellent. Grade inflation is prevalent at the highest levels of education, including Harvard, where the most frequent grade is an A. I guess even grading on the curve is a bygone practice. True, that did inflate some grades at the high end of the bell curve but at least some students were acknowledged to be average or below average.
Nowadays, children are overpraised for almost everything they do. As this article in Parents notes, “Most parents end up saying (great job) about a hundred times a day—no judgment, but it’s not actually an effective way to motivate kids. This only creates a praise junkie who needs constant reassurance.”
If you’re praised for every little thing you do, and rewarded for a performance that falls short of excellence, then how do the really stand-out performers get rewarded? What’s the incentive to do your best?
Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York, my former hometown, elevated his former bodyguard and chauffeur Bernard Kerik to head the prison system, and named him the Police Commissioner even though he lacked a college degree. His nomination to head the Department of Homeland Security was torpedoed when he was convicted of corruption and making false statements to the federal government.
Not in the Real World
The above examples illustrate that in almost every situation, it’s not OK to be just average. The real world rewards those who actually excel at what they do. That’s the incentive to do your best.
If you land in a job you’re not prepared for, you’ve either got to gain the necessary skills to keep it or you’ll be forced to move over or out.
That’s the real world.