David Leavitt

She has no compassion. No humanity. I cannot fathom how her mind operates. She is like my mother. Everything for her is to be measured by results. There is no space for process, which is immeasurable. When I told her--mother, not Professor Massey--that a girl who lives in my dorm, a girl who grew up in Grosse Pointe but has never once, I would venture, stepped inside the city limits of Detroit; when I told mother that this girl's parents had bought her a car, a Miata to be specific, but were holding it in reserve, to be offered only if she managed a 4.0 GPA; when I told Mother about this girl, and her parents, and her never having set foot within the city limits of Detroit, Mother, I swear, a smirk of approval claimed her lips. Darren--the creative writing instructors here do not want to be called "Professor this" or "Doctor that"; most of them do not have PhDs, hence it would be a misnomer to address them as "Doctor that"; even so many of my fellow students make the error, and they (the creative writing instructors) do not bother to correct it--Darren would not approve of that sentence. He does not like it when organs or parts of faces do things, or when things are done to them. He would not appreciate a "smirk of approval" claiming mother's lips. He has no compassion, either. No humanity. He wasn't there. He didn't see it. I swear, it was if the smirk emerged from the ether and grabbed hold of her lips and turned them up into the faintest grin.

 Well, the bottom line is that, so far as Professor Massey is concerned, I can expect no sympathy from Mother. Not that she has bought me a car, or anything of the kind. Still, I know that she would approve of Professor Massey. I know she would agree that I should get the grade I deserve.

 All right, here's why I disagree:

 1. I have no intention of ever entering into any career that requires of me even the remotest grasp of medieval history. That I am taking medieval history in the first place I now recognize to be a great mistake. I should have taken, for my history requirement, something more relevant to my interests, such as the History of the Secessionist Movement in Vienna, or the History of How Grass Grows, or the History of the Invention of Writing Implements. Yes, I should have heeded the warnings of rateyourprofessor.com and steered clear of Professor Massey, who has to be in her nineties. But I'm in the course now, and failing, and Professor Massey ought to give me a break, because I do want, I do need, to get into law school and I can't do it with less than a B in medieval history.

 2. Grades should not be given. Period. Nor should prizes be awarded. "Achievement" is too subjective a thing to be adjudged in this crude manner. Once again, my mistake. I should have gone to Evergreen State in Washington, or Hampshire, or one of those other hippie schools that don't give grades or where  you grade yourself.

 3. Perhaps I might be more interested in medieval history if Professor Massey managed to invest the material with even the slightest spark of life, or if she gave us "creative" assignments, instead of multiple-choice and essay tests. Instead she just burbles and, because of her dentures, she is nearly impossible to understood. Really, she is a disgrace. I should complain to the Chair or the President.

 4. She is due to retire next year. Can't I be graded retroactively? Can I repeat the course with someone young and fresh? Hell, can't we just pretend that Professor Massey is already dead?

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