Friday, August 19, 2005

Great expectations

Yesterday the A-level results were released in England. These are kind of like taking all the grades from your final two years of high school plus your SAT score and rolling them all into one. Everybody gets their results on the same day. And every year it provokes two reactions.

1. A-levels are getting easier. "Back in my day they were tough. Why we had to take ours in a opensided shelter with little burnt twigs as our only writing implement..." And so on. The marks and pass rates have been getting higher every year for 23 years and there is such a problem with grade inflation that universities are no longer able to distinguish the best from the rest.

2. A storm of reminiscing over the day when others received their results. At the office yesterday, most people spoke about their disastrous A-level results and their parents' rather blase reactions. I can't relate to that on several levels. First off, I never took A-levels. Secondly, I was a bit of a grade whore in high school, so it's extremely unlikely I would have had disastrous results. And finally, my parents were never blase about grades.

In response to one colleague's "My parents were just happy I passed", I say "My parents gave me a whippin' and cancelled my birthday party when I got a C in math in 5th grade." You should have seen their shocked little faces. They were genuinely appalled. Then I told them I had to write an essay on "Why math will be important later in life" and they were stunned. "An essay!" They cried. "How horrible!" You woulda thought my parents had cut off the tip of my pinkie or maybe taken a whole digit from the way they looked.

The Vol-in-Law, who took far more GCSEs than normal (the results level two years before A-levels) and who did very well and whose Mum woke him up on results morning by screaming and flinging his results paper at him because there was a C amidst all his As, even he thought the essay was excessive. (Though nothing was said about the licks or the birthday party cancellation). "That's very Stalinist of them isn't it, making you do an essay? All that self-denunciation. It doesn't seem right."

In defense of my parents, I did say to the Vol-in-Law that I didn't think it was Stalinist at all. I reckon it was more kind of Maoist.


Vol-Mom says

Now hold on a minute, we did not give you a spanking,
although we probably did cancel your birthday party. And the essay was NOT
Stalinist or Maoist. It made you think about the importance of something
that you were blowing off. Also it helped prepare you to become a
blogger. Yeah rah essays!

Oh - yes y'all did Vol-Mom! I remember it well. Vol-Dad used the yard stick from some hardware store, the one that was sort of cube shaped, with the really sharp edges and you witnessed it.

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