On 'insults' to students' intellect
The current controversy over grade inflation at Princeton has prompted a number of newspaper articles and letters to the editor, from the front-page story in The New York Times to the recent statements of Mr. Corwin in Friday's 'Prince.' Everything that I have come across in respect to this situation has disturbed me greatly.
The first insult was learning from The Times that every good grade that I have earned at Princeton is meaningless. According to the author of the article and the students he quoted, average or tolerable work is all that is required to earn an A at Princeton.
I would like to believe that my work here has been more than merely passable. It is deeply offensive that The Times would insinuate that students at Princeton simply earn easy A's for four years. I believe that a tremendous amount is expected of Princeton students by our professors, our parents and ourselves, and we rise to the challenge by working as hard, or harder, than students at any other university.
The second insult was delivered by Mr. Corwin, a graduate of the Class of 1962. He asserts that students nowadays are less smart than their predecessors – a claim which he bases upon his high school history students' inability understand E.H. Carr's "What is History?," a text he once assigned in its entirety. To explain this occurrence, Mr. Corwin chooses the hackneyed and overly simple recourse of pointing fingers at television for making children less intelligent today. Nevertheless, I believe that the fault lies partially with educators like Mr. Corwin who simply give up if they find that the task of education becomes more difficult.
Just because television exists, it does not mean that the teaching community can simply resign itself to failure. Rather, it is the duty of educators to continually strive to produce better educated students. This includes the responsibility to make material more interesting to capture the attention of those students who are distracted by television. A truly devoted educator should not find this task too demanding.
I would suggest that Mr. Corwin heed the words of a great figure of history, Confucius (which I paraphrase from memory): "The great man blames himself. The weak man blames others." I was taught this by my high school history teacher – a man who cared about and believed in his students. I can only hope that Mr. Corwin and the entire teaching community take this advice to heart before condemning students today as inferior to their predecessors. Jonathan E. Gordon '99