This is supposed to be a tremendous scandal, although I will humbly suggest that one small reason some grades are higher now is that students have gotten smarter.
Conservatives, of course, like to shake their fists in the air about grade inflation, seeing in the abundance of A’s and B’s more evidence that our society is in decline. Maybe after the Trump administration does away with marriage equality, abortion access, asylum for immigrants, civil rights, affordable health care, civil discourse and solar power, it can get to work bringing back C’s and Ds.
When I was in college, there were two different kinds of flops: an F, which meant you’d failed, and an E (yes, some schools gave E’s), which was a “good failure.” My future wife, Deirdre, in fact, managed to get an E in a course she took titled “Self-Paced Calculus.” She asked her resident adviser what it meant that she’d gotten an E, and he replied, “It means you did all the work and you tried really hard and really showed dedication but you failed anyway.” Later, she had to explain this to her mother, who was not exactly impressed by this subtlety.
Which brings us back to the president and his days at Wharton. What was it that prevented the man from graduating with honors, one wonders. Was his G.P.A. that low? Was he bad at statistics, like measuring crowd size? Is it possible they refused to give him honors because, even then, they had reservations about his performance in Self-Paced Narcissism?
Here’s a hint: If you fail at governance because the issues we face are incredibly complex, well, that’s an E, a good failure. But if you simply don’t care? And see no difference between a lie and the truth? Well, that’s an F, the same grade you might give a businessman if he’d lost more money, year after year, than any other American taxpayer.
You’d think anyone failing on such a gargantuan scale would never amount to anything. But you’d be wrong. As Bob Dylan — who left the University of Minnesota, and his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Mu, after one undistinguished year — observed: “there’s no success like failure/And that failure’s no success at all.”
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