On grades: we can measure anything, but so what?

James Bach, son of author Richard Bach, dropped out of high school and taught himself computer programming, which led to a successful career in that industry. His Goodreads profile reads as follows:

I am the second son of author Richard Bach. I’ve been on my own since 14. I quit school at 16. I taught myself computing, and became a software testing expert.

I have made my way among educated people as an educated man, but I have shunned institutional education. I developed methods of teaching myself what I need and want to know. So can you.

I’ve done all this while suffering from a mild disability: I have almost none of what my teachers used to call “self-discipline.” Instead of discipline, I am driven by passion. Now that I’m in my forties, I want to share what I’ve learned about learning.

He has written about self-education in the autobiographical Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: How Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion Can Lead to a Lifetime of Success.

In this post over at Cooperative Catalyst he provides some interesting reflections on the problems of using grades as a means of evaluating educational progress. It’s also worth reading the comments.

It may be the case that we can measure anything, but it’s more important to ask what the measurement actually tells us. In reality, it may not tell us anything useful.

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