If C’s get degrees and A’s make your parents happy, what do B’s do?

Aidan Kenealy
5 min readAug 6, 2019

The only A+ I received at school was when I obtained my blood type result… I was very much a B student.

Even though I never achieved perfect marks, I left school with eleven university entrance papers. This is what I cherish the most about my education. I had the opportunity to learn about a diverse range of subjects, including classics, the languages, art, and the sciences, on top of mathematics and English, all at a time where I had no other option but to learn such things.

It’s an unfortunate reality of our society, however, that we don’t celebrate the diversity of one’s education as much as we do the grades one achieves. Academic grades are still very much a surrogate predictor of future success, which goes on to reinforce the dogma that to succeed in life, one needs to achieve good grades at school.

There was an unwritten understanding at the school I attended that certain subjects were superior, and therefore more ‘becoming’ for certain students to take than others. To be considered a “success” at the school, these subjects must be taken, and excelled at, over the ‘easier’ subjects such as classics and art. To me, belittling students who want to learn subjects outside of ‘the Asian five’ (their term, not mine), for fear of being considered a failure, seemed to contradict the point of what an academic institution should be trying to achieve. I always felt this was a problem with the school, not the students.

To me, studying papers that vary so much in subject matter is a sign of a genuine desire to learn. Taking a risk to learn something one doesn’t ‘need’ to know is precisely what we want our young people to be doing. If they achieve an A grade in the process, then great, but B’s and C’s are still commendable.

What got me thinking about all of this was an article written by Dr Adam Grant. In his article, Dr Grant argues that academic excellence is not a strong predictor of career excellence and that a determination for academic success, mainly through university, produces non-useful people. Dr Grant points out that if your mission is to only succeed in school, you’re not setting yourself up for success in life. It’s a sentiment that resonates with me.

Aidan Kenealy

Professional startup advisor for founders of high growth startups. More details @ https://aidankenealy.com/