Friday, February 15, 2013



For once the Toronto Star got it right when it attacked a Conservative leader. Generally their editorial writers are so blinded by Grit BS that their credibility would never get a passing mark.
The Star argued that Ontario Tory leader Tim Hudak got it wrong when he suggests that university and college students only get government loans when they have high enough marks.
Exactly how high their marks would have to be isn't specified, and heavens knows that in this day of mark inflation, I'm no guide. I survived to my degree only because the old C, a 66, was considered a decent mark if you were enjoying school and doing reasonably well without being one of the mark hounds in the class hoping to be a doctor, lawyer or teacher so they could order people around.
For many in the academic world before marks were goosed, a C was fashionable if you weren't Rhodes material.  It got that universal nickname of the gentleman C because it was said to indicate a person smart enough to pass but not dumb enough to work 24/7 at it.
The Star gave the apt quotation from a great president while falling into the trap that any old copy editor would have spotted. They have Truman observing that "C students run the world."
(They call him Harry S. Truman when any student of grammar and American history knows that there was no period after S because it didn't stand for any name. Truman, the haberdasher, thought the voters would like him better with an initial rather than just being plain Harry. Turned out the voters like plain-spoken Harry just fine.)
But back to Hudak's idea of injecting the student financial aid program with more market discipline. Be very careful about screwing around with student aid if you cut off the late bloomers and all the men and women who go on to be great successes while being a mark flop at university.
I've been there. I have been at both the top and the bottom of the class. It depended on whether I liked the subject and the prof.
There used to be something called the dominion-provincial bursary where in second and third year you could apply for $300. To put that sum in perspective, I got $150 on my first attempt but that was enough to pay for my tuition.
I had a good year and anticipated getting the entire $300 the second time around. Nope, another $150. So I wrote a rather graceless thank you note. I pointed out that I was an orphan, president of the student body and first or second in my class in all the courses. What did I have to do to get the full amount, I asked sarcastically? Did I have to be crippled and blind too?
I think there are too many universities. I think it is a mistake for the colleges to sneak up and try to be universities too. I think too many young men and women go for useless post-secondary education which prepares them for absolutely nothing while the country cries out for more electricians, plumbers, carpenters and other trades.
But please, please, please, as someone who could either scrape by or be the class leader,  never judge only by marks, and give student aid to everyone who is managing to keep afloat.
As an Editor, I hired everyone from columnists, reporters and secretaries to photographers, technicians and copy editors. I never asked and didn't care a damn about marks because the people around me at school who got high marks were often those with whom I would never want to share a desert island.
The Star quoted U.S. president George W. Bush in a 2008 speech to the graduating class at his alma mater, Yale. Bush said: 'To those of you who received high honours, awards and distinctions, I say, well done. And to the C students, I say, you too, can be president of the United States."
What takes the edge off the anecdote is that the great American universities are notorious for their "kind" treatment of the sons and daughters of illustrious and rich graduates and what we used to call captains of industry. There's also little doubt that in an age of routine 85s and 90s, the old-fashioned gentleman C has vanished into history because any prof who dared give such a low mark would probably have the parents suing the university.
It's so obvious that reasonable student aid is investing in the future of the country that I suggest Hudak find easier and more galling targets, such as Grit corruption and ineptitude. We should ask any MPPs who deal with this issue to make public a transcript of their marks. Betcha some were real duds and got into politics because they couldn't make a living in the real world.

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