What follows is my story; a boy who was born too soon, who grew too slowly, and who was an alien by virtue of being a right-brain person in a left-brain world as well as a left-hander in a right handed world. The events depicted in this book are as I remember them. My life path, from beginning as a poor student, navigating through the ranks of academia, and finally having achieved the ultimate degree in education, was shaped by a series of accidental occurrences. The story also tells how grades one receives in school do not necessarily predict achievement. Academia can be both out of sync and out of touch with students.
Whether a straight-A student or one whose grades come in fuzzy shades, it is rare that one focuses on exactly where life’s journey will take him. For most, life is shaped by happenstance or a series of accidents; who or when to marry, when children come along, professional and personal oppor-
The story begins two generations earlier in a part of the world that was at various times called Austria, Hungary, The Austro-Hungarian Empire, Yugoslavia, and most recently a group of independent countries established after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. People of that era were graded on such things as their ability to earn a living, their physical attractiveness, or their level of commitment to a religion. They were also perniciously graded on their circumstance of birth – whether born with a silver spoon in their mouth or a pick and shovel in their hand.
Grades were also a benchmark of whether or not one’s work performance was “up to grade.” Students were not given grades but were tutored individually. Once their studies were complete they went into the work force with a recommendation from a tutor instead of a transcript.
William Farish, a tutor at Cambridge University in 1792, is given credit for developing the modern grading system. By assigning grades, he would not have to get to know his students as well as other teachers, thereby allowing him to process many more students in a shorter period of time. His clever “invention” caught on in America in the nineteenth century and ballooned in the twentieth.
These days, grades are typically assigned a letter value, A, B, C, D, or F. Some grading systems include percentages that may or may not translate to letter grades. A 70 percent can be equivalent to a “C” grade in one system or a “D” grade in another. Universities frequently assign a number grade point, meaning letter grades can be converted to or from a number value, (A=4.0, B=3.0, C=2.0, D=1.0, F=0.0). Grade points can be on a five-point scale, or a three-point scale.
Grades may be weighted or un-weighted, and might include plus (+) or minus (–) after each letter grade, with the exception of F. Grades might also be I (Incomplete), FN (Failure, Non-attendance), X (audit) or W (Withdrawal). Samford University, near Birmingham, Alabama, offers 21 different grades that could be earned by students.
Grades can also come in colors: A “Red 70” can be a passing grade that is on the verge of failure. Red and Blue Ribbon, Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Platinum medals, can be considered colored grades. It is clear that more than Fifty Shades of Grades can be identified in evaluating achievement. What William Farish began has become so scattered in education that it begs for a new name. Dictonary.com defines the word wacky as “odd, irrational, or crazy.” My own definition of the grading process in academic education is “Wacademia.”
I have had many failures in my life; earning failing grades among them. Indeed, my failures have far outnumbered my successes. However, over the years I have committed myself to the philosophy that failure is the tuition we pay for success, provided we learn from our failures. I have neither cited nor
focused on my failures in this book, rather, I’ve noted some of my successes and the joy they have provided.
A little book-writing music Maestro… “I Could Write a Book,” by Harry Conick, Jr