A failure to make the grade

Alan Lupo

October 19, 1992|By Alan Lupo

AH, Chukwu Azubuko, where were you when I needed you?

You are suing your Framingham State College professor for having allegedly misgraded your exam and for having refused to change the C-plus grade even after the mistake was cleared up. Now comes before the court the state attorney general's office to defend the college.

You truly have started something big here, Chukwu. If only you could take it one step further and turn it into a class action suit on behalf of every college and public school student who has uttered the plaintive cry that his or her teacher did not understand him or her.

Then, should the courts find for you, the grade-point average in America would zoom stratospherically past that of Japan, Sweden and whatever other nation to which we are compared.

Would that I were younger, Chukwu, I would have joined in such a suit. I knew Cs intimately. And a couple of Ds, and in junior high algebra, an F. But for the accident of time, it could have been Azubuko, Lupo et al v. Comm. of Mass.

I could have added a new dimension to your case. You plead that professors are going after you. I could have pleaded that the whole world was against me. Why else did I have to take freshman math and two years of science in college.

I would have used, in the court room, the very same lines of logic I had uttered in 1955 and 1956:

"Who cares about this (expletive deleted) anyway?"

"I'm gonna be a bigtime writer, very big, so what do I need with trig?"

"Get me out of biology and save a frog's life."

And, finally, that devastating rhetorical question that would stun professors and juries alike:

"Who's gonna build the fraternity float if I hafta be in class?"

On the other hand, and, believe me, on this subject, there is most definitely another hand, I have taught also, and in so doing, I have handed out Cs, Ds and Fs. I did not do so lightly. I did so because the cherubs deserved those particular letters. Had any of them sued me, we most certainly would have ended up in court, for I would have assaulted and battered the brat.


An F would have been too high a grade for those who recently have tortured the English language.

Culprit No. 1 was James Schlesinger, a former defense secretary under President Nixon, who testified before a Senate committee that U.S. airmen probably were left behind in Laos at the end of the Vietnam War.

"I have a high-probability assessment that people were left behind in Laos," he said, "and a medium-probability assessment with regard to Vietnam."

In other words, he thinks it highly probable that men were left behind in Laos and somewhat probable that men were left behind in Vietnam? Why not say so?

Culprit No. 2 was Nikki Richardson, a Digital spokeswoman quoted in a story about layoffs at that company. She said such job losses were not layoffs, but, rather, "separations."

In other words, when the laid-off spouse comes home two hours earlier than expected and yells, "Hi, honey, I'm really not laid off, just separated," this is not going to affect the family, right?

"You mean you lost your job?"

"Well, I haven't been fired, and I haven't been laid off. I've just been separated."

"So are you working or not?"

"Uhhhhh, not exactly."

If workers feel better with that word, then, fine. But if I were let go, I'd want it straight: "Lupo, you're fired."

"Big deal," I'd tell them, "with my math and science background, I can get a job anywhere."

Alan Lupo is a Boston Globe columnist.

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