Academic Achievement
and the Concept of Success

Previous generations did not expect most citizens to advance much beyond a basic formal education. Knowing how to read, write, and how to perform fundamental arithmetical calculations would equip most people with the skills they needed. In the modern world, of course, much more than this is required.

Today, it is expected that most people will complete a high school program and then obtain training in some skill, trade, or profession in order to function in society as a useful citizen and a fulfilled individual. There is nothing wrong with this expectation, but along the way we have lost a sense of proportion, and our attitudes towards intelligence and success have become somewhat distorted.

Intelligence and success can be defined in a number of ways. Many people raised in North American and European cultures, however, tend to believe that intelligence should be defined primarily in terms of academic capability and achievement. Intelligent people, they believe, show academic excellence during their years of formal schooling, complete academic degrees in university, and eventually achieve recognition and success in the traditional professions or in the world of business. This may be one way to achieve success, certainly, and it may demonstrate one kind of intelligence. But it is by no means the only way, and society's stubborn focus on academic intelligence has caused some unnecessary deficiencies in our culture and our economy, and it continues to do so.

Until relatively recently, technical schools were a vital part of the general education systems of most countries in the western world. Societal wisdom considered that not all students are academically inclined and would benefit most from a concentrated program in trades and technology. This makes perfect sense, but the problem is that many parents today feel that their children have failed to make the grade if they are admitted into such programs. To their way of thinking, training in trades and technology is second best. They had expectations of high academic achievement and the road to university.

All educators agree that intelligence is demonstrated in different ways. Thomas Armstrong, in "Seven Kinds of Smart", identifies seven distinct kinds of intelligence in the human mind, and claims that all of them should be valued by society and recognized as vital and essential components in the development of our world. Apart from linguistic and logical intelligence, Armstrong believes that intelligence is also demonstrated through music, athletics, art, relationships, and self awareness.

The mechanic who can diagnose problems in modern engines, the carpenter, the plumber, and the electrician are all demonstrating high intelligence through the work they do. Technicians of all kinds, and especially those involved with computers, possess multiple skills that are vital in the modern world. As a society, we need to recognize this and support the training of students whose interests lie in these areas.

Too often, there is a tendency to rate success in terms of financial gain only. To be sure, the chance of establishing financial security is an important consideration, but job satisfaction, societal respect, and personal happiness need to be considered as well. But even from the viewpoint of financial success, who can deny that those in trade and technology are not successful? Their equality with academics is clear. Our governments need to recognize this, and they must ensure that our education systems continue to provide opportunities for trade and technical programs. Only then will societal attitudes change and, once again, students will feel free to follow their real interests, their natural intelligence, and their true roads to success.

Information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not be interpreted as financial or legal advice. This does not represent a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any security. Please consult your financial advisor.