The authors talk about the fact that there was a course taught at the University of Southern California in which some of the most talented and outstanding students were culled from each department. The graders of the course were instructed, no matter how talented and gifted these 50 students were (and obviously they were at the top) to break the grades down into three segments and give one-third A's, one-third B's and one-third C's. Can you imagine if you were at the top of the the entire student body before being put into this group of 50 and knew that you would probably make top grades, only to possibly be receiving a grade of a C because you were now in this new group? What a huge disappointment that would be!
This experiment shows that in most cases, grades really do not matter. They are only a way to compare one student to another and usually does not say anything about how well the student has mastered the material. The Zander's point out that "most people are also aware that competition puts a strain on friendships and too often consigns students to a solitary journey." (p.26)
The Zander's talk about Michelangelo and how he is often quoted regarding finding a beautiful statue inside of every block of marble. Imagine the possibilities that exist if one just shifts their perspective from comparing one student to another in terms of a grade but instead, focusing on finding the beauty that exists within each and every person. They say that not only does it transform the student but the grader as well. And they also talk about this flowing over to all walks of life and to every person "...and can be given to anyone in any walk of life----to a waitress, to your employer, to your mother-in-law, to the members of the opposite team, and to the other drivers in traffic."
"When you give an A, you find yourself speaking to people not from a place of measuring how they stack up against your standards, but from a place of respect that gives them room to realize themselves. Your eye is on the statue within the roughness of the uncut stone. This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into." (p.26)
What an incredible idea the Zander's put forth here. Universal contribution; a purpose larger than ourselves; a chance to transform ourselves. They talk about being able to go into your past and re-assign people in your history a better grade...to be able to see what that person contributed to your life even if you had originally given them a failing grade. Imagine the possibilities of finally being able to be at peace about something that you have been dragging around inside of you forever, never knowing how to deal with it? These grades we are given (and that we have given others) are actually "just invented" as they so eloquently state.
What brought this to mind for me was something so simple as a post over at Brian's "WaystationOne" blog. He is such an incredible poet and writer. Many of you follow him and no matter when I check in on his blog I am always way down on the list. This last time I was # 51. I don't think that I have ever managed to be #1. So, I jokingly commented to him regarding that. It doesn't really bother me because I know that Brian reads every one's comments ("every last one of them" according to him) so I knew that no matter what I said to him, he would read it. Well, there in my email box that afternoon was a comment from him that basically said: even if you are #51 you are much higher than that in my books." Wow...that woke me up and made me remember this section of the book that I am reading.
I guess my point is this: it doesn't matter what grades we receive in life, where we fall in terms of pecking order, etc. but it is our universal contributions, our purpose in life (which should be larger than ourselves) and the chance to transform ourselves. It is never too late to chip away all that stone and find the beautiful statue inside. It has always been there...it is just a matter of finally being able to have it emerge and show itself. Thanks for the reminder to this part of the book, Brian, and thanks for always thinking of me being higher than #51...after all, that number is just "an invention". I am really an A!