Wednesday, February 01, 2012

College Transcripts

Okay, this piece is definitely a rant, but it raises some interesting questions. Do we need to see presidential transcripts? Do college grades really mean anything in long term careers? I've certainly had to produce transcripts for jobs, but has anyone read them line by line to see what I got in every class? Probably not. My husband and I actually have had this argument as I tend to want a good grade, no matter what, where he is more concerned over what he learned in a class (yes, I care what I learned, but I also care what that grade is....a character failing I'm sure....at least my husband says so....) than what grade he gets in the end (we both have graduate degrees, let is suffice enough to say we do fine).

The example I found interested was Wilson. I usually bring this up to my students - that he was a Ph.D and a college president and some of his problems was his idealism over nitty-gritty politics:
Woodrow Wilson, one of our oh-so-few obviously intelligent presidents, was indeed highly educated, held a PhD, in fact, and was at one time president of Princeton University. Wilson is an important figure in our national history, in fact so important that I have a black-sheep great uncle, a bad-check-floating businessman and convicted moonshiner and thief, who was named for him. Despite my family’s bad luck with my uncle, the great Woodrow had many successes as president, but he also suffered a number of famous failures because, guess what, he may have been a little over-educated!

That possibility is backed up by a good many historians who often attribute Wilson’s failures to his professorial habit of falling into high-minded, theoretical, and too-often rigidly doctrinal modes of thinking, the kind all college grads know is rife within the groves of academe. Wilson’s professorial habit of living in the world inside his mind either produced or reinforced a stubborn and unrealistic leadership pattern that he characteristically fell into in times of crisis.

Now, I would never doubt for a moment that Wilson’s transcripts would probably reveal that he was a completely bright fellow. But I would also maintain that they would not contain a hint that any flaws reflected in his transcript would one day contribute mightily to the failure of the League of Nations, and, therefore, to the sickening march of tyranny in the 1930s.

While we have had some brillant presidents, we've also had some ones of mediocre "intelligence," yet that doesn't necessarily translate into "good" or "bad" presidents. I think we all can realize that book-smarts doen't always mean wisdom and vica versa. I firmly believe that some of the smartest people I know have far less "book learning" than I do, but I bow to their wisdom any day. My grandfather has an eighth grade education...he's one of the best businessmen and smartest men I've ever met and can add up numbers faster in his head than I can on my computer/calculator and I have a DEGREE in math! (Although I do argue with my husband that a degree is math doesn't mean I can add....that's accounting....I need letters!).

If we want to demand transcripts, then everyone needs to fork them over and I think most would prefer not to. And while we could pick them apart, in the long term, does it really matter? Anyway, up to you....you can probably see where my opinion is!

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