Tuesday, September 27, 2011

America, popularity, good grades

Last week Azer and I were talking about how we should invest our money.  Cash?  Gold?  Stocks?

One crux of this decision is how the American economy will fare.  Azer's view was that America is no longer the land of innovation that it once was, except in high tech.

I am more optimistic about America.  But the only thing that makes me more bearish is the way that America denigrates intelligence and studying.  It's taken for granted that in America, there is mutual exclusion between being well-liked growing up and having very academic hobbies.  The captain of the chess team is assumed to have trouble getting dates.  If you are in high school and win lots of math competitions, people assume you're below average in admiration by peers.

In China, getting good grades makes you MORE popular.  The valedictorian is usually very popular.  And respected.  It automatically gets you points.  In America, it automatically drags you down in the eyes of your peers.

I think this is the single biggest factor that could lead to America's decline.  Everyone wants to be loved and respected by their peers.  Making that at odds with pursuing intellectual activities is very damaging to maintaining the status as the land of innovation.

13 comments:

indifferent children said...

Perhaps the problem that you identify is lessened by the extreme "cliquishness" of American schools (and society). Yes, I wanted the respect of my peers, but my peers were the other members of the Chess Club and the Varsity Academics team. I would rather have had the respect of any one of them than that of the entire football team.

Anonymous said...

+1

Luke said...

Very astute point and I wholeheartedly agree. However, I wonder if there's anything we can do to fix it. I wonder what perpetuates the problem and how to stop it.

Kevin said...

Tho the "cliquishness" does let the nerdy outcasts have some sense of pride among peers, it still doesn't change the fact they are just that, outcasts. America as a society does NOT celebrate academics like other first world countries.

Sports and entertainment are what are popular almost throughout the population. Dorks/Jocks alike (for the most part) celebrate and have some aspirations for athletic achievements. Academic ones are rarely celebrated outside of those that are immediately related.

Kids grow up hope to be the next Miley Cyrus or Michael Jordan, not the next Dean Kamen or Eric Schmidt. I'm actually curious how many people reading this immediately know who the latter two are. :/

Niniane said...

I didn't know who Dean Kamen was. But I am of course familiar with his Segway invention.

Kevin said...

As for a solution, Dean Kamen is actually attempting to work towards one. He's created this competition called FIRST (http://www.usfirst.org/) that tries to celebrate STEM (science tech engin. math) achievements as the NFL/NBA celebrate athletic achievements in the real world. Teams of students backed/mentored by real world tech companies/universities work to design robots to achieve some tasks during live competition.

FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com said...

I was in all the geeky school activities and was not considered popular. Those who were popular, did drugs, smoked and blew off school because they called themselves 'too dumb for it'

Paul Myers said...

Have you spoke with students from China? The ones I've spoke to say they don't have social lives growing up. The competition for good grades is so fierce that there's very little time left over to actually socialize while growing up...

Don't get me wrong, I see the point you're trying to make, I just don't know if it's as cut and dry and you stated...

Kevin said...

@Paul:

You're right about free time of Asian students, but it's a moot point. It just reflects difference in levels of dedication as opposed to the society's aspirations. If American students as a whole were as committed to sports/entertainment as Chinese are to academics, the problem would still be there (though we'd have better athletes).

Anonymous said...

hm .. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest and the valedictorians/top students were very well liked. It depends on where you come from I guess.

Joshua L. Lyle said...

Ditto previous annonymous comment. In the midwest small town I went to school in the grade achievers tended to be fairly popular with strong non-academic performance as well (usually music or athletics). A lot of the unpopular geeky types like myself got mediocre grades, although most of us went on to respectable achievements in the STEM fields, as did many of the popular high-achievers.

Anecdote is not data, etc.

Mike said...

Isn't it interesting that the most dynamic states are the ones that are most open to immigration? That has been key to our growth and is the key to our future.

By the way, I am 'native-born', though my Mom immigrated here.

Anonymous said...

Asian culture, in general, value education and that value has been probably rooted since Confucius and in Confucianism and in China's imperial / civil service examination.

Yes, Dean Kaman created FIRST and has longed tried to make STEM exciting through FIRST competitions since the early 1990s.