Saturday, September 22, 2007

Good grades are overrated!

On a very basic level, I guess I can appreciate what the Foundation for a Better Life is trying to do. Their mission statement, according to their website, is "to encourage adherence to a set of quality values through personal accountability and by raising the level of expectations of performance of all individuals regardless of religion or race." Nothing wrong with that, right?

Here's the problem I have with this: the reason it's not a big deal that Einstein didn't have good grades in grammar school is that he turned out to be Albert Fucking Einstein. I know what they're trying to do with this billboard, but it ends up being counterintuitive - the unintentional message is that there's nothing wrong with getting bad grades, which is of course total horseshit. There is nothing wrong with getting bad grades, I suppose, if you're so much of a genius that you're capable of writing equations that sum up grand, sweeping laws of the universe. To how many people does this actually apply?

Also, "As a student, he was no Einstein" is dumb because of course he was. The reason Einstein didn't always do well in school is because he was far too smart for the teaching methods being used at the schools he attended. It's important to remember that this is almost certainly not true of your kid. Moreover, the amorphous notion of "confidence" has fuck-all to do with it, as I think Einstein himself would probably tell you.

This one just annoys me. "Believe in yourself?" Look, I don't care how many movies they made, Shrek is not a real person. He is a movie character, and everything that happens to him was scripted that way. This isn't like, "Queen Elizabeth was once a lowly maid until she saved a prince's life and he decided to marry her!" Some screenwriter said, "Hey, Shrek is the main character in our kids' movie; do you think, as the hero, he should succeed?" And then the others said, "Of course!" And now it's on a billboard. Sure, it's important to believe in yourself. But we really couldn't find anyone who actually exists in real life to illustrate this point? I'm actually kind of offended that the Foundation thinks a cartoon character is a better illustration of the human spirit than a genuine human being is.

For example, wouldn't "Believe in Yourself" have worked pretty well on this one? Instead they went with the one that makes me laugh in that "going straight to hell" sort of way. "Vision! Pass it on! Seriously, pass it to this guy. Clearly he could use some."


Quivering P. Landmass said...

That Einstein one has bugged me ever since I saw it on a bus stop. The message, to me, seems to be "If you kid is getting bad grades, don't worry - he's secretly a super genius." This is pathetic and wrong.

Also, by the age of 12, Einstein had learned Euclidean geometry and was beginning calculus. The only difficulty in his schooling that Wikipedia describes is, "Rather than completing high school, Albert decided to apply directly to the ETH Z├╝rich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. Without a school certificate, he was required to take an entrance examination. He did not pass. Einstein wrote that it was in that same year, at age 16, that he first performed his famous thought experiment, visualizing traveling alongside a beam of light."

Anonymous said...

First of all. The design of the poster gives you the message that you believe which is, "it's okay for kids to get bad grades" when in reality the main direction of though is to reflect it's concept! The concept is:
(((in the case of an already declining grade student with negative thoughts)))This ad campaign says to them: "although you got a bad grade, you shouldn't instantly remove the whole subject from you future." I found this extremely effective in my own thoughts within college. I need to be more confident.

Anonymous said...

I think the above comments and the post itself has a narrow view of the subject.
Confidence plays a big factor on how many high school students decide to pursue a career in science.
This is one of the many factors why in the USA we are lagging behind the number of science awarded Ph D's; not to mention the woman and minority disparity on scientific fields that the USA is suffering in comparison with other industrialized nations (Japan not Included)

I don't find anything wrong with those ads, nor a see it as a promotion bad grades.
I see it as an attempt to have a wider scope on other traits, not just grades- who do not necessarily reflect the potential of someones intellectual ability, but rather their success in navigating through a culturally biased system-. How many students I have met that can have perfect A's in an exam just to forget all they have learned the minute after that exam was finished.

Einstein is a prime example, If you read his now proliferating biographies, you will see that while his mathematical abilities were quite respected, he was also lacking on other equally important aspects of education at the time (which are different now, certainly in the US and other countries.) Nevertheless, the one trait he had, as it is evident in his work and his manner of writing, was Confidence.

I am not alone in thinking that encouraging young people and giving them more confidence on their performance will definitely boost not only their morale but also their overall achievement, not by telling them getting a “C” is great, but by telling them: So you got a “C”, no, you are an stupid and you should not quit because of this. You can do better if you just try and know that you can do better.

Anonymous said...

So, as seen through your very narrow and close-minded, pessimistic reaction, you will never understand the true meaning of these billboards. They are supposed to encourage good morals through people/figures that every day people can relate to. For example, every one knows who Einstein was and most know that he never did well in school. Also, pretty much everyone and their brother has seen Shrek - ergo, can relate to the second. Lastly, walking through New York City I see dozens of blind people daily and it never ceases to amaze me how they can navigate NYC without site. The third billboard just further exemplifies this thought. So overall, opposed to your awful way of thinking, these billboards are solely meant to give hope and a sense of well being to people. Get over it

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved seeing that campaign and thought it really clever. It was uplifting and encouraging and especially rang true to me as the parent of a learning-disabled child who struggled in school but with the right attitude and the right teaching is making a success of his life.