Monday, April 26, 2010

Thirty Day Challenge: Day Fifteen - Current Grades

I thought today I would tell a story about the worst grades I ever got in university.

I was not much of a studier in high school because I could always skate by pretty well by paying attention in class. Math being the exception, I did pretty well by my grades - well enough to get into college.

The coolest thing about college and university is that they have a ton of classes you can take to fulfill your degree requirements. Finally you could take something you were interested in and you weren't forced into classes like in high school.

The minute I saw that they had film studies I was all over that class. I figured that I knew movies and if the requirements meant that I had to go watch films once a week for my 'lab' then it was all gravy time. After all, in my group, I was the 'movie guy'.

It was terrific at first. The class was interesting and the teacher knew his stuff. Sure he was one of those professors who wore a turtleneck sweater every day and who slept with his female teaching assistant and female students. He reminded me of Dean Martin. I overlooked his rumored extracurricular activities because he just had the 'look' of someone who would get away with shit like that. I was not going to rock the boat and damage the easy A (or 9) that I was sure I was going to receive.

The time in the 'lab' allowed me to see films right from the dawn of cinema - films I had never been exposed to before. From silent films right to the present day we charted the changing trends and viewing preferences of the movie going audience.

Then came the two papers we had to write. The first one I did was on science fiction movies of the 50s and how they perpetuated a fear of nuclear power and the 'red' menace (using such films as 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' and all those 'giant bug' movies). I thought it was brilliant but he gave me a 5 (on a nine point scale).

Everyone got slammed for their first paper so I let that one go thinking that is was ME that had gotten it wrong. Maybe I was the non-turtleneck wearing arrogant one and didn't know all I thought I knew. Next time I would nail it.

My second paper was about how America was trying to win the war in Vietnam through the movies. Films like 'Rambo' and 'First Blood' and all those 'Chuck Norris in Vietnam' movies were very popular at the time. They certainly portrayed a view that America was strong and tough and if given another chance could have kicked VC butt.

These movies were cathartic for a nation still stinging from the outcome of that war. You have to remember that this was the time of the Reagan Presidency and Reagan played it tough with the country's enemies like the Soviet Union and Iran. He made America feel good about itself after the 'malaise' of Jimmy Carter's presidency and Watergate. Not bad right? This time he gave me a FOUR. A FUCKING FOUR!!!

I went home that day and was incensed. It didn't help that my roommate at the time had also had the worst day of his university career. Both of us (with the help of some rum and a couple of doobies) spent the night swearing about the unfairness of the 'elite' university system that only kept a brother down. All grades were subjective and therefor you had to kiss ass or screw your way to the top of the Dean's List. We had too much integrity to do that we told ourselves.

And then it happened. On TV we watched a documentary about the California Condor - the brave and nearly extinct California Condor. Look at how beautifully they soared through the sky with their magnificent wingspan. How selfless the people saving this species were. Certainly we could be doing more with our lives. Certainly we too should save these majestic birds.

Before we passed out we had all but convinced ourselves that we needed to get two bus tickets and make our way to California. Despite the hardship and danger we HAD to save the noble Condor. Thank the gods that there is such a thing a sober second thought. The next morning we agreed that if the Condor was going extinct then it was because they couldn't hack it in the wild and nothing we could do could save them from natural selection.

So the condors continued to go extinct. I got a five for the course and just missed making the Dean's List that year (you needed a 7.5 average). The next two years I got the grades to be so recognized but have always remembered the sting of those grades in that film studies class.

p.s. Our teacher quit at the end of the year and said a number of really nasty things about the university. He really burned his bridges because he had a new job hosting a movie review and analysis show on ACCESS, the education channel. He thought he was going to be the next Roger Ebert but that show barely lasted 12 episodes. I guess arrogant turtleneck wearing douche bags were not who the public wanted to see. So you see kids, it all works out in the end, well, except for the Condors.


Wings1295 said...

Condors aside, you can at least put it in context now that it might have had more to do with the dink of a teacher than anything else. Doesn't change anything, but hey. Least you ain't a Condor.


M. D. Jackson said...

Your analysis of the films sounds intriguing and was probably spot on. I had similar arguments with my film professor in university. She was an older woman who was certain that this whole video thing was a fad that would eventually die out.

The problem with university is that it is not the real world and does not resemble it in the least.

But that's another rant.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I never took any film studies, but can tell you history is just as subjective. In the States, however, good use of English alone will garner good grades. I think so many professors are happy to read something they don't have to decipher that they just say "A."

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

But then again I had a classics prof who really challenged me and sent me to the bowels of the library collections to find books with the dust of a thousand years on them. He taught the history of Rome by using the coinage from that time and I actually wrote a paper for him on 'Greek Influences On Roman Imperial Administration' and LOVED the whole process. It's always ONLY about the teacher.

Megan said...

@ Darius' comment - My very first ever College English Essay was so covered with red marks I almost collapsed when I saw it. I, who had gone to Catholic School! (snort!)

(Need I mention that "tense shift" was one of the major problems?)

I got an A on that essay. And I never went back to that class afterward.