School achievements are not the final score

''John graduated in the lowest third of his high school class. Scott is in eighth grade, just average in everything. I'm not optimistic about their futures ,'' a friend complained recently.

Despite the unimpressive academic evidence, John and Scott are bright boys.

The end of the school year - awards assemblies, graduations, final report cards - brings into focus strengths and weaknesses.

Sometimes, it is discouraging, both for youngsters and parents.

But life is not high school - or junior high - or even college. It's important that parents and students remember that school awards, honors, and recognition are not the final score.

''Although our behavior may not change after high school,'' writes Ralph Keynes in ''Is There Life After High School?,'' ''the setting does.

''. . . Those qualities that can lose you status in high school - aggressiveness, imagination, and an independent turn of mind - may be just the qualities needed to make it in the larger setting.''

School is not, for some, their finest hour. Still, many youngsters who don't excel during their school years, who never won an academic or citizenship award, or even a sports trophy, may nevertheless do pretty well in life.

There were no awards for Heywood Allen. He has said that his grades at PS 99 and Midwood High School ''varied from below average to way below average.'' His parents were frequently summoned to the principal's office.

He briefly attended both New York University and City College of New York before abandoning the academic world to pursue a career in comedy - as Woody Allen.

Charles Schulz, the cartoonist, showed early academic promise - and skipped two grades. Later, he failed eighth grade. At Central High School in St. Paul, Minn., he failed algebra, Latin, English, and physics. The cartoons he submitted for the high school yearbook were rejected.

Like his comic strip character Charlie Brown, Charles Schulz was ''the epitome of unachievement.''

Art Buchwald, the syndicated colunmist and recent Pulitzer Prize-winner, left high school before earning a diploma. So did Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and Noel Coward.

Werner von Braun, considered a mathematical dunce in school, later became Germany's top rocket designer.

Albert Einstein, irritated at the inflexibility of the school system and a drill-sergeant approach to teaching, annoyed his teachers with his rebellious attitude.

One teacher told him, ''You will never amount to anything!''

Having difficulty getting into a first-choice college? Einstein had the same problem. When he applied for admission to Zurich's Polytechnical Institute, he failed the entrance exam.

He didn't fail in just one subject - but several - zoology, botany, and languages other than German.

He studied, applied again, and a year later was admitted.

Louis Pasteur's diploma for his bachelor of science degree had a rider attached. Next to the word chemistry was the designation: Mediocre.

A chubby, red-haired boy who stuttered, lisped, did poorly in his schoolwork, and annoyed his parents and teachers with his stubbornness doesn't sound very promising, does he?

But the boy grew up to be prime minister. Sir Winston Churchill recalled that he stayed in the lowest grades ''three times longer than anyone else.''

Bill Lear, who developed the first practical car radio, the miniature auto pilot used in jet fighters and in small planes, and the Lear Jet, never went to college - or high school.

School problems? Josiah Franklin knew about those.

His 10th son, Benjamin, recalled in his autobiography being sent ''. . . to a school for writing and arithmetic kept by a then famous man, Mr. George Brownell. He was a skillful master and successful in his profession, employing the mildest and most encouraging methods. Under him I learned to write a good hand pretty soon, but I failed in the arithmetic and made no progress in it. At 10 years old I was taken home to help my father in his business. . . .''

Later, Benjamin Franklin learned math on his own and was so successful in business that he retired from it at 42.

Certainly, many who are outstanding academically, who graduate with honors, do go on to succeed. Gen. Douglas MacArthur did. At West Point, he graduated first in a class of 93.

At this time of year, it's good to remember that the awards, the place in the graduation line, are not the final score - but points in the first quarter.

And some of the youngsters who didn't make many points in the first quarter may still rack up a very respectable score in life.

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