Thursday Born

The everyday life of a psychiatry resident (who was born on a Thursday).

Archive for January 27th, 2011

Ignorance is Frustrating

with 7 comments

I’ve been following the responses to Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” excerpt with much interest, which is what made me finally get around to writing this post. My parents have always pushed me quite hard, and it’s had a net positive effect on my life. While I think that Amy Chua was excessive in her methods, I believe in the idea that it is okay to push your kids. To know that they can do better and to tell them so. Honestly, I just wish I’d had slightly more emphasis on work ethic versus innate intelligence. That when you “work smart, not hard,” you still have to work. Still, my complaining about that is a bit like complaining about getting a 98% on a test.

From first to ninth grade, I knew my class rank. I knew if I was first, second, tenth or fifteenth or whatever in my class (and continuing to have cable or internet was contingent upon my maintaining an approximate rank; I never found out if my mother actually would have canceled either subscription, because that was incredibly strong motivation for me!). Even though the lists weren’t posted anywhere, people weren’t so shy about it so you knew approximately where everyone else in your class was (roughly 90-100 of us in each grade). You also found out who was at the top of each subject. One year a new guy won all but one of the prizes; we were all very relieved when he skipped a grade the next year.

High school, in the US, was a bit different. No more exact ranks, but at the end of every semester, there was a list posted of the students who made Honors (GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5) and High Honors (3.5 and above). I can’t imagine that this is at all common in the US, but I liked it. Unlike in Ghana, I wasn’t taking the exact same classes as everyone in my grade. Here, there were Advanced classes and AP classes and people were pretty stratified academically, so this allowed me to get a sense of how the people I was taking classes with were doing compared to me.

College was a bit of a grab bag. Some classes I had no idea where I fell, and in others it was very clear. For various reasons, college was my least favorite educational experience. Moving on to medical school. The first year was all Pass/Fail, which I loved, but our professors were fairly generous with the statistics of how people did.

There has been none of that this year, now that we have grades (Honors, High Pass, Pass and Fail). Not a single course has given us even the mean. We had a class meeting in November, and the official stance is that it’s up to the Course Masters to decide to release that information or not, which is fair. What surprised me is that someone else then stated that they don’t want that this information released, because they worry that it will change the friendly atmosphere of our class.

Really? … Really?! That was my immediate mental response. That’s still my response. We’re not graded on a curve and everyone can get honors if everyone does well. Why would knowing, roughly, where everyone else is, suddenly turn us into monsters? It’s not like we’re asking for a list to be posted with everyone’s exam score.

Knowing where I fall in my class has never been a bad thing. It’s either an ego boost, or needed motivation. Are our self esteems so fragile that we can’t handle knowing that almost everyone got Honors but we only got a High Pass?

Any thoughts on this matter? Do I feel this way only because of how I was raised by my parents and because of my educational background?

Written by Aba

January 27, 2011 at 11:55 am

Posted in Medical School

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