Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Since my older son is going through the financial and other fires of getting to college in September, I realize anew that I have not asked the one question I can think of that might give some yardstick against which to measure the institution's seriousness about learning.

"How many students flunked out last year, based on academics?"

Every year, along the AP news wire, there is some brief about how many students have gotten A's at Harvard. It is a very high number. But far from making me salivate over the excellence of such a good institution, I wonder how much they have lowered their standards. My suspicious mind views it as being a little like kindergarten teachers who can offer little more than a sappy, "good jooooob!"

Not that my son is going to Harvard, but the questions are pretty much the same. How many flunked out? And what sorts of bell curves were employed in the collation of all those A's? How much of any yardstick is just a sigh and a reflection that "it's human after all?"

Scientists have less room for head-patting. As often as not, their answers are either "right" or "wrong:" two plus two does not equal five. But for the softer disciplines -- history, English, psychology, anthropology, etc. -- what yardstick is there that encourages the notion that investigation is an unceasing matter and not just a sigh and a "good jooooob!"?

It's the same in spiritual endeavor, I think. There are the scientific approaches -- two plus two equals four, period! (let's have another war!) -- and the approaches that take certain things as given and certain others as open to investigation ... and then there is the approach that the whole thing, from muzzle to butt plate, is nothing BUT investigation ... always.

Pick your poison. But beware of the words, "good joooob!"

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