I have heard the "A students work for C students" saying and it's simply very dismissive.
School is made for everyone who goes through the system. It is designed as the standard (the bare minimum) so they can succeed in a more specialized labor force regardless of their capabilities, talents and learning styles. Graduating college is easy. PhDs and some Master's degree are a little bit more complicated because if you have to proof your knowledge (some degrees) to get your degree. Not your usual regurgitated back content to prove to the accrediting board that lawfully you know that data or your future employer that you know the bare minimum of your subject.
Those who are creative, ambitious, and life learners realize this early on and get disappointed and disincentivized. This usually happens the moment they realize college is pretty much an instruction manual with little creativity involved. That's why "C students" get so excited when a professor aims to stimulate the mind, and allows for free-from discussion. They finally get to use their brain!
But let's go back to the "A students work for C students thing". I am both students at once. I know that me doing the bare minimum I will make a C, I chose not to because I wanted to push myself, and expand my education creatively by adding layers of complexity for myself, even if nobody asked. Because I already paid money and separated the time to do this, why not make the most of it (even if nobody expects me to). That's that "self learning" you speak of in your article.
Your article is spot on in a lot of things. I agree with most of it. When you say the "A students work for C students", the underline sentiment it gives me is: "A students are a cog in the academia machine only the kids who think they're too cool for school are the real thought leaders".
It's toxic and simply not true. I think we should change the conversation to a more honest discussion: "Should there be a difference between degree churning education and critical thinking education? Is there a place for critical thinking in the work force?"
Thank you for sharing!