In Sociology class today, the professor put forward the statement that "A" students go to work for "C" students, a thesis recently popularized by a book with a similar title. In more detail, "A" students are trained to be good employees; to follow directions and work hard. "C" students, however, are those that are self-motivated and prefer to think outside of the box, so to speak. I can say this message really appeals to me as being true, though I hope that is not simply because I am a "C" student.
I have always had a strained relationship with the education system, primarily in its functions of teaching conformity and complacent direction-following. My initial troubles with school were simply because I had trouble following the classroom mentality of the early education system, where the students are to act as one group, spending every minute trying to grok what the teacher wants. But when I sought help from my middle school, it quickly turned that school year into the worst year of my life. Without going into details, I will say that the "help" they offered me was as successful as a quest to get a truck through a narrow tunnel by pushing it really hard.
It took several years without serious education and several great people to undo the resulting damage, and I owe much of my current happiness to those people. Foremost among those people was the lead teacher of the Foothill Middle College program, Mike Wilson; somehow he understood what I was, even though I could not comprehend myself. After the first month or so of Middle College, he stopped pushing me to try harder, and simply let me get Cs and Ds in his classes. I can confidently say that the two years I was in his program, despite my apparently poor academic performance, were the two happiest and most productive years of my educated life.
A few years later I came to Westmont College, attracted by its small and friendly Computer Science program. What I saw of the CS students surprised me. I had always thought my self-motivated attitude and contempt for homework were unique to myself, as the early education system had shown me. However, I saw that many of the most successful CS students were people who did not fight for straight As, and who would even skip a whole assignment if it was too much trouble, as long as they passed the class. And these people were majoring in a field known to be quite difficult and high-paying. This was the final factor that led me to believe immediately, once the idea was presented before me, that high grades have little if anything to do with success or happiness.