Roger Sweeny: Academic rigor not necessary or sufficient for most students
In my last post, I did some hand-wringing about the low priority we put on academics in America. There were a number of very interesting comments made by various people about that post, but the one I found most interesting was one from Roger Sweeny. I hope Roger doesn't mind, but I found it so interesting that I decided to use it as a post. I thought it represented a very intelligent and unusual point of view, and I'm interested in what other people think of it. So here it is:
Why should public schools, schools that kids have to attend until they reach 16, be academically rigorous? It certainly isn't what most kids want.
The answer that is usually given is that academic rigor creates success later in life (usually defined as a higher income). But I think that is simply untrue.
There is no question that, generally, kids who do well in school make more money than kids that don't. But the direction of causation doesn't run from school to success.
Kids don't "do well" in life because they did well in school. The kids who will do well in life are the same kids who will do well in school. They are goal-oriented, hard working, etc. They make their schools look good.
No doubt schools can help develop some habits of hard work, etc.--but as Dennis pointed out a while ago, it is often athletics that does this more than academics.
Lots of things can develop qualities that will make a person more successful in life. Academic rigor can do this for some people. However, for most people it is neither necessary nor sufficient.