“Give me an A!”

inflated A“You can get an A in that class just by breathing.”

I heard this said in passing and wondered what class this might be: Life Studies 101? Introduction to Asthma? But surely, these would be graded pass/fail. Maybe the class was part of the yoga sequence: Ujjayi Breathing.

But alas no, this comment was an indictment of higher education in this country. Not that the speaker meant it that way. I’m sure this particular member of the blue-ribbon generation raced right off to enroll. A’s for everyone! Achievement without effort! Grade without learning: Score!

Everyone knows that college is the gold standard of achievement in America. It’s part of the American dream. It’s the gateway to life-success. It’s a rite of passage.

But students aren’t paying to be educated, they’re paying for the “College Experience.” Those pesky classes and professors always harassing them with bothersome homework just get in the way of enjoying campus life. By this I mean: sleep in, go to parties, support the team – “GO, Banana Slugs! (I didn’t even have to make this one up, honestly!) And when will the students have time for sex and mind altering drug experiments (preferably at the same time)? The supplies for these don’t even come with tuition. Surely, they should be covered under lab fees.

College time
Distribution of a college student’s time

It’s hard to have the College Experience without the college, lying around on the sofa chomping chips and pushing buttons (remote or game controller) generally isn’t accepted as appropriate adult behavior unless you’re enrolled in classes. Even the most tolerant parent will eventually expect little Jhonnie or Snoozie to one day find a job and leave home. College just postpones this for a while. It’s like a gap-year in life.

That and you can’t get into a frat unless you take at least one class.

A few college professors resist and expect students enrolled in their classes to learn something – or at least pass a test – which is a sneaky way to find out if students have learned something. Students are on to this trick, though. They’ve perfected the art of holding information in their brains long enough to vomit it onto an answer sheet and then dumping it, leaving the brain completely clean – ready for the next big Hollywood scandal.

Other students have perfected the art of Grade Persuasion – using unlikely excuses, emotional blackmail or guilt to raise their grade. Professors are usually very insulated people and haven’t been trained in anti-brainwashing techniques, so are unable to resist.

frog excuse
The best excuse from http://ladye.hubpages.com/hub/40-Procrastinating-Excuses-to-Ignore-Creative-Ideas

Learning might be optional, but grades are very important – all students know that, even the wee ones. Grades lead to degrees and degrees may be useful one day – maybe when applying for a job at Starbucks. But with so many college graduates on the job market, even McDonalds can be a bit choosy (“Sorry, we’re hiring the candidate with a Masters in Philosophy”).

Paying for a college education is like buying chips at a casino – non-refundable chips – it doesn’t come with a money back guarantee. The value of the chips at the end of the day depends on what you do with them.

So, crack open another beer. Maybe one day you can work for Coors.

I’m Jae and I wrote this message for my American Sarcasm class – can I have an A?

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