Many years ago I went back to school to become an accountant and earn more money. I needed to feed two children, keep them housed and clothed. Mastering a profession seemed sensible, so I went back to the halls of ivy. Actually, a beautiful little undergraduate college, Lake Erie College in Painesville.
This was in the late seventies, I was in my mid thirties and an anomaly. I convinced the administration to give me a degree based only on taking core courses. I already had undergraduate and graduate degrees in English and didn’t have time to sit their requirements too! Toward June, after I had completed the accounting requirements I received a cap and gown order form in the mail. I wrote back to mail me the degree and the dean was so surprised he called me. I explained I’d been through the ceremony before and couldn’t see taking a day off work. “Oh,” he said, and mailed it.
I took evening classes, summer classes, weekend classes, and this yielded an interesting assortment of teachers. Summer professors especially might be from other schools, taking on a part time assignment. I remember a macro economics prof as if it were yesterday.
Very short, very stocky, from Boston. He looked like a fisherman. He dressed like a fisherman. Dark khaki pants, a motley blue fisherman style pullover sweater, a rib knit stocking cap he never took off, heavy boots. In my mind’s eye I associate a red bandana with him, too; pocket or neck, I don’t remember. There were no “r’s” in his words and he compensated with attitude. Instead of the usual desk chair at the front of the room he sat on a high stool beside the desk and lectured.
His was a six week summer course and he immediately assigned an essay to be completed and turned in at the end as our final grade. He gave some general requirements; I knew exactly what I would write about and started my research. The year was 1977, the country was suffering a gasoline crisis due to the Arab oil embargo. Conserving and recycling already were hot subjects and I thought it was time to put one of my pet ideas on paper.
The idea was people should be able to ride bicycles safely, to work, to shop, for recreation. I wanted bicycle roads built using abandoned rail ways, and extended into city centers. I located rail lines that could be used. I calculated oil savings that would put OPEC right out of business, in addition to making us a healthy nation. It was a very good paper and I was quite proud of it.
The dour little professor returned our papers the last night of class. Mine was on top and had a very large C+ scrawled across the front page in red ink. He held it high for all the room to see. He went on, “Grade inflation is epidemic in American colleges and universities. I am taking a stand against it. In any college, including Boston University, where I teach, this paper would be graded A+. Twenty years ago this paper would have received a C for average. I am very generous in giving it a C+.”
He walked about putting papers on desks. Each subsequent grade was lower than mine. The bastard.