A / B Test
November 2, 2023
November 2, 2023
It was the first paper for my History of the French Enlightenment class my sophomore year, and it came back a B-minus. B-minus! I could see from my classmates' faces as they received their graded papers that I wasn't the only student dismayed. I was used to figuring out what professors wanted to hear, putting pretty phrases next to each other, and strolling out with an easy A. But Professor Kors explained that at minimum, for an essay to merit anything close to an A, "the reasoning must be yours."
The reasoning must be yours. I didn't really know what that meant. So that semester, as I got busy trying to figure out the distance between a B-minus paper and an A paper, Professor Kors got busy showing us how (but not what) to think. Eventually, I came to see that good work required not only that the reasoning should be mine, but that it needed also to be sound. I discovered, too, that other professors were not like Professor Kors: They proved far less interested in the reasoning being mine than in having their words parroted back to them. When I discussed this with Professor Kors, he reminded me that I was paying for an education, and that I needed to decide what that meant. And that's how I came to understand the distance between B-minus integrity and A integrity. Choosing A integrity is rarely easy, but it's right.
Over the years, I came to understand that Professor Kors's students had been gifted a life-lesson shortcut: The distance between a B-minus paper and an A paper in his French Enlightenment class is much like the distance between a B-minus life and an A life. Is the reasoning mine? Is the reasoning sound? Am I true to my principles or do I take the easier shortcut around them to get the approval of others? When I had kids, these lessons echoed even louder in my mind: Did I want to a) create little Deb clones or b) create conditions where my kids could learn to think for themselves?
In this case, I chose B. It hasn't been easy, but it's right.