The Straight A Report
In many companies
nowadays, progressive companies, companies who think ahead and
need their staff to perform somewhere beyond jockeying a cash
register, employees are given an annual or semi-annual review.
This review details in what areas of the company skill set,
one excels and in which there is room for improvement. In times
of booming economy it is often accompanied by a raise in salary,
a bonus, or other cash incentive that will encourage the employee
to work even harder, redoubling his or her efforts in areas deemed
as needing improving, smiling and taking praise in areas where
one excels. Through this assessment employees are schooled in
how best to serve the company and so push the corporate machine
on to new heights of greatness.
This is generally a highly effective tool. Employees who desire
to advance in the company want to please. They are anxious to
see how they fit in, anxious to see how they are
seen by their superiors and delighted to know that their efforts
are being noticed. They are more than happy to address their
short-comings towards the ultimate goal of advancement in the
There exists, however, a small minority on the fringes of the
bell curve. These people look at their reviews and
think wow, this is the stuff Im good at. And its
the stuff I really enjoy doing. I must put in more time to truly
build on these strengths They are aware of the less sterling
side of the report card. They make quick notes about improving
their professional demeanor or knowledge of company policy.
No true professional wants to deliberately fail at anything.
But, on the whole, they focus on the bright side and redouble
their efforts to strengthen their strengths.
Ultimately these workers dont become good company men or
women. They outgrow their cubicle very quickly and are snatched
up by other companies who see how strong their strengths have
become. They are given working situations with professionals
and assistants whose job it is to shore up their weaknesses while
they go on doing what they are truly good at. These are the
innovators. These are the leaders of our work force, our economy,
and our nation. They are the men and women who know who they
are, know what they want, and believe in themselves enough to
follow their dreams. On the coat-tail of these dreams ride the
vast majority of good corporate workers; the secretaries, the
accountants, the sales people, the lawyers, the employees who
would not find themselves employed at all had not some innovative
soul created Ford Motor Company or Arnold Meat or IBM or Kentucky
If we can take that company
report card to a grander scale we will notice that America is
falling behind in the global economy in the areas of math, science,
and the general measurables. No argument here. But I feel our
response must be, as it always has been in America, So
What?! We have never been a culture made strong by a cooperative
assembly line of willing workers who are happy to walk with goose-step
precision along paths laid out for us by a nameless, faceless
dictator. We have never been a culture of conformists. Rather,
the greatness of America has always rested firmly on the foundation
of innovations and ideas created by that handful of citizens
who have been encouraged by an underlying current in our culture
to think outside the box.
We would all be pleased with a straight A report card. Everyone
would like to believe that we can actually excel in every subject.
But many, maybe most of us with a passionate interest in some
area find that we must cut some other areas in order to pursue
that which is truly meaningful to us. The flute player who cuts
classes to practice. The budding scientist who forgets chores
or even meals while engrossed in experiments. The future football
coach who is diagramming plays secretly behind his English assignment.
These are the stars who are being, ultimately, forced into the
box so that America can shine on the world stage as the beaming
parent with the child of the straight A report card when our
strength has always been leading the world in innovation.
Grades, particularly in math and science, are easily measurable.
But in all our measuring, let us not forget to reward the innovation
that is the foundation of this country. Human beings achieve
greatness when they have freedom. Freedom to fail if necessary,
but freedom. Let us, whenever possible, offer that freedom to
those among us who would pursue learning in their own way. And,
when we review their performance, let us recognize not only the
math and English scores, but the ardor with which they have pursued