Do grades reward talent…?

Ben Casnocha asks

“So do college students get spoiled by the constant information delivery and assessments that’s part of structured education? Is there a risk that such an explicit reward system will retard a student’s ability to be intrinsically motivated? Will a student, upon graduation, be able to apply consistent effort without receiving a decisive “A” or “B” for each of his tasks?”

I react –

Looking at it from the side of College management, there’s a business angle to it. If students (or their parents that fund them) are not constantly reminded through their scores / grades that *you are improving*, many might as well drop out midway realizing that it’s been a big mistake. [My money is down the drain, It won’t get me there!]. The college stands to lose out on the tuition / other fee revenue for the rest of the session and it’s hard to get another sitting duck midway to recoup the lost fees. Indian students that can’t make it through stiff IIT entrance, but can afford the mind boggling fees of foreign universities, easily manage to secure admission to expensive colleges in US and Europe – all for emitting a signal at the end of the term by waving a degree that’s not much. At the workplace, their emptiness is exposed and the enormity of their foolishness allows them a silent grief, though a few have admitted it aloud later.

From the student perspective, most creative and entrepreneurial minds find structured curriculum dull and would like to fit into something on their own. They get into college with an expectation of refining their traits / skills with high quality external inputs to power their own heuristics. The periodic grades in most structured systems instill an illusory sense of accomplishment and the average student passes out, enters the real world to find that it’s not helping him much. That’s exactly why Harvard MBAs spend their first two years running errands to copiers at Goldman Sachs and pull more charts out than doing meaningful analysis that track down multibagger investment ideas. That’s their way of retraining with real life systems.

Till they learn how to take out a good copy, in the process unlearn all their Harvard illusions and distil down to brass tacks, the fund managers don’t let them get within a mile of a client account. If and when they are allowed a violation and let in as green horns without these filters, you get LTCM, Bear Stearns like meltdowns.

What do you think…? 

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