March 14, 2005

Learning Curve

Finals week- some of us are pulling our hair out, and others are already on spring break. I’m a little of both. Two finals and 4 papers due before this week is over. Fortunately, I got a little bit ahead last week and can chill this week. After all, the Bobcats are going to the NCAA tourney. I’ve got more important things to think about than class.

CJ and I were discussing classes earlier. He was trying to beat Mario 1 in under 10 minutes again, and I had just got home from turning in our ticket lottery papers at the Convo. We talked about grades and how they could vary so greatly between professors.

Some professors work your ass off all quarter with hundreds of pages of reading, papers, and impossible tests. No matter how hard you struggle, getting a decent grade is nearly impossible. Another teacher with the same class, but a different section may hand out A’s like that’s all there was. Either way, after the completion of the classes, credit is given for the same course. This is the reason why websites like “Pick-a-Prof” are so useful.

Often in my college career, difficult classes have proven to be the best ones. My favorite classes have been the ones I have learned the most in, and simultaneously have gotten the lowest grades.

The best class I have taken at OU was the late Professor Frank Henderson’s POLS 270: Political Theory. He was considered the most difficult professors in the Political Science department, but he was also named Professor of the Year so many times that they named him University Professor in Perpetuity so that someone else could win. He deserved it. In that class, I learned more about myself, my political views, and why than ever before or since. I learned the viewpoints of many political theorists from Plato to Machiavelli and compared them to modern activists.

The tests were impossible: 80 True/False, and 80 matching. That sounds easy, but believe me, that kind of test is very deceptive. I had never taken a harder test, despite ACT, SAT, AP tests and countless other college classes. No other tests came close to being as challenging as Henderson’s. In the end, I received the most difficult C- ever. It was my only grade that low, and it stands as my worst grade ever, including high school and college. Sadly, Professor Henderson died hardly three weeks after the completion of that class, and I never had the chance to see him again.

I ended up retaking the class last summer for a much, much better grade.

I guess I’m saying that grades are misleading. They often don’t reflect how much you learned, nor how hard you worked. I do believe it is what you learn that is more important. I wish there was a way to quantify that.

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