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Sep 14, 2004 2:29 am

Academic Business

Documents - those are something historians ought to talk about. GPAs - those are of some interest, too; less, I hasten to suggest, than grade grubbers and law school admissions officers seem to believe. Rick Shenkman, the editor of HNN has his own blog in the righ thand column now, POTUS. On it he has a a posting on Bush debate tactics which ends with a parting shot: If Kerry doesn't change his ways at the debates he will find that the C student from Yale has defeated the A student from Yale just as he earlier defeated the A student from Harvard.

I remembered there being considerable discussion in academe about our C students and Bush. I also remembered that Al Gore was no straight A student. I also thought I remembered that no one has seen Kerry's Yale transcript.

I went poking around. I found a jog for my memory at the Wikipedia entry (academic record is section 1.2) -- though the article still has some confusion about Gore's sophomore year at Harvard, when he might have worked at some other paper, and his 2nd year at Vanderbilt Divinity School, when he was working for the Nashville Tennessean. I'd like to see the cumulative GPA, but the Washington Post website isn't cooperating. Anyone have a link?

Kerry is a different matter. I turned up a Boston Globeprofile of Kerry as young man that makes it tricky to think he was good at class work. He was a great debater, but the high school Latin teacher doesn't remember anything about classroom performance. The introduction to the article implies that he slacked off mightily at Yale his senior year (having been tapped for Skull & Bones his junior year he, in his own words,"majored in flying").

I found a September 10th, 2004, link that says flat out that there's no transcript for Kerry yet. It's from a college paper in Texas, but in the next entry down we see that Ralph is feeling queasy about distributed journalism as practiced by the blogosphere, so I'm linking to a"print" source for his sake.

By the way, I don't particularly care, other than to deflate the grade-interest. I am one of those faculty members who has figured out that some students who really weren't very good at the material I care about have grown up to be quite good at other things."Good at school" is far from a perfect predictor of"good at life." Let's talk about Iran or North Korea, not Vietnam and Yale.

Let's also not assume in the absence of evidence that attributed brilliance equals A average. It didn't for Al Gore.

crossposted, with more speculation on the law school admissions side of things at The Cranky Professor.

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chris l pettit - 9/13/2004

Just to elaborate on the points made by Dr. Tinkler...

In US law schools, those students most likely to earn the highest GPAs are those who treat the law like a black and white practically unchangeable object that can only be applied and law school like a trade school..."here is your box, now get inside it and repeat what I tell you." THose willing to think outside the box, progressively looking at the law as an ever changing interdisciplinary subject that draws its roots from many of the social sciences, often end up clashing with professors who were not bright enough to hack it in the real world so they retreated to the classroom (cliche, I know...but often true). The "A" lawyers that I know often times cannot see the ambiguities in the law and consider the law to be this magical cloud that has no relationship to common day situations in terms of being affected by them.

This of course, is not to support the Prez in any I find most anyone who engages in politics, with few exceptions, to be long in bullshit and short in any intellectual capacity whatsoever when it comes to the way the international community functions and the relationship between all facets of learning.

I can tell you that law school admissions are a sham. Too much emphasis on grades and a test that has nothing to do with what you learned before law school, nothing to do with what you learn in law school, and nothing to do with what happens outside of law school. That and, as with Georgie and his Skull and Bones playmate, money and names get you further than brains and ability.

If one want to compare Bush and Kerry in school, I suspect that both went to class because they had to...crammed at the last minute to try and pass exams...and then forgot most of what they learned, thinking that a lightning bolt would suddenly hit them later in life and that they would instantly know what they needed to about the world. Unfortunately, I have found that a great percentage of students are like this nowadays, and law students are even worse than most. My question is: why go to school as something you have to do not to actually learn anything...hoping that by some miracle you will learn everything after school?

I do know that many academics functioned the same way, and that this is reflected in the paucity of their writings and their need to commit plagarism since they cannot come up with anything original or at least do their own work (Alan Dershowitz is a great example in the legal sphere). It is also reflected on this website from time to time.

So I do feel that grades are highly irrelevant in the national debate, since both candidates are pretty impaired when it comes to seeing past their own selfish objectives for the short term. It is just sad that the public is too ignorant and undereducated themselves to even question whether the debate is worth having.


Richard Henry Morgan - 9/13/2004

From what I understand, Gore had five F's out of eight courses at Vandy Divinity -- I think he had a incomplete from his first semester, never made it up (and later turned to an F), enrolled in a second semester, and essentially withdrew past the withdrawal date, thereby receiving four more F's. He did start up at Vandy Law, with middling results, and then dropped out of there too.

I'm not aware either that Kerry has posted grades anywhere. Hell, I'm still waiting for the entire corpus of his military records to be released, as per his promise to Tim Russert.

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