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 All right, I finally had to weigh in because while I love theory and
honestly believe even the most esoteric has its place even in
undergraduate education (and didn't particularly want to defend that
position), something in recent posts made me giggle. I attended a UC
school (Berkeley) for all of my university education, and taught as an
adjunct at both Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz (as well as at Cal State and
Community college campuses so I've encountered a range of California
undergrads) before moving to DC. I did my undergrad at Berkeley in Film
Studies, and my grad work in Rhetoric. In my 11 (fairly recent) years
studying and teaching in the UC system (1990-2000), I don't know of any
humanities professor who would regularly give out "C"'s to any
undergrad, much less a senior in what must have been an upper-division
course (since it sounds like she needed three theory courses to
graduate). We (professors) have all learned that an "F" is only
appropriate these days in the most egregious cases, and is more likely
assigned when a student simply forgot to drop a course he or she never
attended.  A "C" generally communicates something more than pretty bad
scores on exams; I even managed a "C+" in a Latin class I rarely
attended and never prepared for (not my usual style, but the prof was so
dull) by writing an extra essay (in english) on the uses of some word in
Horace's work. And if any Humanities professor could have resisted grade
inflation, it would be a tenured classics professor. As has been so
astutely pointed out here, Film Studies has only gained legitimacy as a
discipline in the last twenty or so years, and more and more students
see a college education as equivalent to slightly more interesting high
school -- no one expects to actually fail (and she didn't), and we
(professors) do our absolute best not to let it happen (even if
"absolute best" can mean any range of things not limited to teaching
skills).

 Grade inflation is as rampant on UC campuses as at most other schools,
most especially those populated by high-achieving students likely to go
onto professional schools or to have parents who will write letters
(articles, lawsuits) in protest. If indeed most of the kids sitting
around this young woman made "C"s and "D"s, she was sitting in a
spectacularly unlucky section of the room, accidentally took organic
chemistry or electronic engineering, or was a) exaggerating for effect
or b) sitting with a number of other students whose senioritis
prohibited attending class regularly (or staying awake through it).

Amy Holberg
Catholic University
Media Studies Program

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