While searching through my word document files, trying to find post material, I came upon something I had jotted down freshman year, shortly after finals week:
May 25th, 2010
For his biology final, my friend Sean had no idea what some of the short answer answers were. So he made up answers. He wrote stories in the blanks. He told puns and jokes. He drew pictures. He generally had fun with the fact that he was drawing a biology blank.
I know all of this because he told be about it shortly after taking the final, on one of the last days we were all freshman together in Morris. I was probably stressed and carrying a heavy load of anthropology flash cards in my pocket. Despite my state of mind, however, I was struck by what he did, and even more struck when he sent me the note his professor wrote on his graded final. Enjoy:
“I doubt that your grade for Fun Gen will come as a great surprise, but (from the footnote you wrote) I did want to reassure you that I took no offense at your answers on the final exam. I scored the answers to written questions starting with the back section (rather than the front page), and your answer to “Why are you a chordate?” made me laugh out loud. I trust you won’t mind that I shared it with a few other people, including one prof who then commented “now that makes me want to start grading exams”. So your good humor brought a little light to others as well. And so this brings me to what I most want to say. Sure, I am sorry that I could not inspire you with the fire of curiosity to understand how living things work, but knowing biology is not terribly important for most people’s lives. On the other hand, being able to maintain, in the face of adversity, a sense of humor, charity, and respect, are wonderful qualities that anyone would aspire to but too few people have. They are a gift you will bring to people throughout your life, and I am grateful for the chance to have met you. You will know, then, that the grade you got in Fun Gen was solely a measure of what you learned in the course, and in no way my judgment of you. And I trust you will recognize my sincerity in wishing you the very best.”