The Ugly Grade of F in Schools and Colleges

Posted on September 10, 2021


Many schools and colleges have done away with the F grade as too demeaning and demoralizing for students. I don’t know what the rules are today since I retired from teaching almost ten years ago, but I do remember that UA got rid of Fs for introductory English courses, and other discipline entry-level courses did the same thing, and simply require you to retake the course. So, I looked at UA’s catalog.

BTW, I’m not picking on UA, but I taught there for over forty years, and I know it better than any other university or college. I suspect same kind of rules prevail elsewhere.

It turns out the mathematicians also feel a bit sorry for freshmen, and sophomores, and juniors and seniors for that matter, who can’t pass freshman math. The kiddies all get an NC in half a dozen introductory level English and Mathematics courses if they fail to earn at least a C-. I met one young math-challenged student a few years ago who had taken one of the pre-calculus or pre-trig classes six or seven times. His last time was with an instructor from Asia, perhaps China, whose grasp of mathematics was probably ok, but not of English.

Sigh. In my college days I flunked calculus fair and square and the F went into my record, along with one for Introductory French which I took as a lark my senior year. My French instructor, a snob from Paris, awarded me what I probably deserved for so mangling his precious French with my Peruvian accent I learned as a child growing up in Lima, Peru.

And I mastered a chemistry course, organic or physical, in the first semester of a summer school, dominating the first week, but, alas, only by the fifth week of the course. This sank my proposition to be a pre-med and go on to medical school. I took a philosophy and a history course the second semester to soothe my feelings.

I don’t remember my ego being damaged by the Fs although I did have to negotiate for a D- from my calculus instructor the second time around on the promise “never again to sign up for a math course at Duke,” an easy promise to make and keep.

So, why are we so tender-hearted towards English and math students today, and I suspect a bunch of other fields that throw easy ground balls to incoming freshman, and then give them plenty of other chances to move through to graduation with a degree that really doesn’t do a lot for them in the job market, or impress me—and others– with its value? That for another column on practical education today. What do they indeed learn about the real world, past and present?

Let’s examine socialism and Communism as the cancel culture zealots, like AOC and her lot, are preaching as the new America if they get past Freshman English. I bet most of them wouldn’t know Karl Marx from the Marx brothers and have almost no idea of the failure of every modern experiment with Communism, or Marxism if you prefer. Same thing.

Let me write that again. NONE have made life better for their peoples and nations, like Russia, China, Cuba, Cambodia, Venezuela and maybe a dozen or so across the span of the twentieth and twenty first centuries and across the geography of the world. And some of the monsters like Joseph Stalin in the old Soviet Union and Mao Zedong in China caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and millions at one point or another in their dominance of the powers of government under Communism.

And don’t disguise Communism as “Progressivism,” or some other nice sounding claptrap. Teddy Roosevelt would rise out of his grave and knock you silly with his big stick if he heard you equating his progressivism and trust busting with what passes for truth and thinking today.

Before you history mavens turn around and clobber me with historical perspective, like, “you support the Tsar and monarchy and nobility that kept Russians by the millions in misery?” or Fidel Castro “was sure better than the corrupt regime he replaced?” etc., think about it. We’re not speaking of misery indices here; “this was better than that, see the data”, etc.

We’re speaking of a model that has placed liberty, equality, opportunity, individuality, Christianity, the power of the vote, individual rights, etc. before the invariable, let me stress that adjective, the invariable corruption of power by socialists/Communists/Marxists who grabbed power. Remember the adage or truism: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The misery of life under Communism is off the charts when compared to life in the U. S.

Let me give you a short quiz to prove my point. How many people want to emigrate to Russia, Red China, Cuba, or Venezuela these days? And how many want to come to the U. S.? Answer that and you will arrive at some understanding of why liberty is better than tyranny, and the individual immensely more important than the ultimate sovereignty of the State.

Published as “Giving the ugly grade of F to schools and colleges” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday Aug. 28, 2021