Summer 2002


Grade conflation


Every December and May, tens of thousands of students in the United States face the possible humiliation of failing their courses. Only one thing can save them: the Great American Paper, one just beyond their reach. Littl­e did the scientists who devised ARPANET—the early prototype for the Internet—know that their tool for the dissemination of knowledge would one day forever alter the political economy of college education. Thousands of websites now hustle millions of college papers waiting to be downloaded and handed in as one’s own. Or, for only $24.95 a page, you can make someone else in America pull an all-nighter and write a brand-new paper for you on the topic you know nothing about but should.

Having run into a deadline problem with this issue, it occurred to us that we too might benefit from some help. We commissione­d [link defunct—Eds.] (we liked their forthrightness) to write two papers for us in response to the following topic: “One can only understand one’s true inner self by experiencing failure. Discuss.” We asked that one paper be written to get a C, and one be devised to score the elusive A. To both our shame and delight, the rates charged per page made these essays cost roughly the same as the honoraria we pay to our illustrious writers. We offer these two essays here as they arrived to us.

Essay 1
Projected Grade: C

It is a widely held belief that many people succeed in life due to luck, in-born abilities or some other factors such as social connections and support from parents, relatives and friends. It is difficult to disagree with that assertion simply because such factors as luck, innate talents and abilities do play a very important role. I do not think that Mozart would have become nearly as brilliant had he not have that talent for music he acquired at birth. Nevertheless, people who accept such a view tend to disregard the other component which in my view happens to be even more important than luck or outside support. That component is labor or hard work or personal effort that you put in. I am determined that a person no matter how talented he or she is and how much support he or she is given from the outside can hardly ever achieve anything in life without hard work. Hard work is what drives us to the goal. It is the fuel that we need to keep the engine running. Any talent is like a precious jewel but regardless of the case that jewel is rough uncut and unpolished. Hard labor lets a talented person polish that jewel and thus master certain abilities and skills. Most people who have achieved something in life agree that hard work is the necessary component. Another point that I want to get across is that the thorny path to success is accompanied by failures. Moreover, it is only by experiencing failure that you can begin to understand your true, inner self.

The path to success through hard work is usually accompanied by failures. It is needless to say that failures are always out there to entrap us and bring us back to the ground. No matter what you do and how you do it you are very likely to fail. In my experiences failure is a rather common occurrence. I used to play guitar and as I learned I experienced many difficulties and failed many times to deliver performance which I thought was necessary. In the beginning failures devastated me and detracted from my motivation and inspiration. Many times I thought that the reason I failed was my inadequacy or lack of proficiency and talent. However, as I progressed in my learning I realized that time and effort can heal. Furthermore, I realized that failure was a true indicator of the fact that something was done the wrong way. To be honest I began to appreciate failures because they showed me the area of my weakness. It was important because I knew what I needed to work a little more on and where I had to put an extra effort. Now I understand that as a person matures one begins to understand the whole idea behind failure and even appreciate it because it is a way to know your inner self.

At present I am convinced that no matter how talented and determined a person is failure will always be there. It is important not to attempt to avoid failures but rather to learn to react to failures in a certain manner. It is no secret that most people perceive failure as something negative, something bad that can happen to a person. Generally, people are afraid of failures. I talked to many college students and many told me that they were afraid of taking scholastic tests because they knew they could fail. Most students are nervous when they go take a test. It may sound surprising but I am rarely nervous when I take a test in school. The reason I am not afraid of failing a test is not because I do not care about my academic performance but rather because I have mastered the skill of controlling failure and actually using it to my advantage. I do not allow failure to overwhelm me. If I fail a test I know that next time I will have to study harder to improve my grade.

I have learned to appreciate failure because it helped me learn more about myself and have a more accurate, more objective opinion of myself as a person. Failure enables me to assess my abilities objectively and never overestimate myself. Whenever I begin to think that I am extremely good at something an occasional failure is like a shock therapy which brings my feet back to the ground and tells me that I have yet to walk a long way. Many talented people I have read about report very similar observations. Failure helped them improve themselves. I believe that a person must know that mistakes and failures are a valuable source of learning. They show where the weakness is. Everything else is hard work and labor. Once you fail it is important to stay focused on the goal and keep going never allowing failure to depress or devastate your mind.

Essay 2
Projected Grade: A

To understand your true inner self is a rather complicated task, especially taking into consideration the fact that every person is capable of having different emotional modes, which significantly influences the way one is able to assess himself/herself. If a person is successful for a substantial part of his or her life, it is impossible to realistically evaluate and even try to understand your true inner self, since the “winner attitude” that results from past successes and high self-confidence level prevents such a person from evaluating various aspects of self due to the fact that those aspects are something that has never been revealed before. Thus, in order to understand him/herself truly, one needs to experience failure at some point, since it is an inherent part of people’s perception of themselves and something that enables any person to get rid of the biases that result because of the “winner attitude”.

The thing is, once a person experiences failure in anything, (certainly, the degree of that failure does matter, however not that much as the fact of failure itself), his/her perception of his/her inner self undergoes some drastic changes, and that very person now assesses the situation from a completely different point of view. During my own life, I have seen some people that truly understood themselves and their inner desires and wants when they experienced failure in something, since when they were successful and prosperous, a lot of things were simply impossible for them to understand.

One of my close friends, whom I knew since we were going together to the elementary school, was always preoccupied in performing at his best, trying to overachieve, trying to be the best. Although it took him a lot of efforts, he succeeded in almost everything he was doing, which formed his perception of himself, his understanding of his true inner self and the way he saw his future. He was assured that his self-confidence and willingness to reach his objectives and goals whatever the costs were made him immutable to all the bad thighs that could possibly happen in his life. He perceived himself as a person that could never possibly fail, and his past successes were the solid base for such an assumption. He thought that failure was something that could never happen to him, and his inner self for him was limited to his goals and objectives that he was trying to achieve all his life.

However, he became a completely different person when he did actually experience failure. During the last three years of high school he dreamed of entering the university of Michigan. This became his preliminary goal, he thought that his past successes were enough to take any challenge, therefore when his application was rejected it became really a turning point in his life. He had to reassess completely his values and attitudes, since now his perception of himself changed due to the fact that he realized that he, like most of the other people, could possibly fail, and that failure actually occurred in his life. After that incident, he never claimed to be always successful, he was able to understand his inner self truly, and he realized that he was a vulnerable person after all, that success was not his only goal in life, and that there were a lot of other important things that he neglected while they could have actually changed his life for better.

Definitely, only through experiencing failure one can truly understand his/her true inner self, the chain of successes and victories is inevitably going to end at some point in life, which is bad if one looks at it from a rational prospective, but quite good if he/she looks at it from the prospective of inner harmony. The harmony, both inner harmony and harmony and complete understanding with other people, is one of the most important things in life, thus getting to know one’s true inner self is really important. To understand one’s true inner self is to be able to assess completely all the aspects of self that are not correlated with success or failure, thus failure at some point in life is really helpful for realizing that fact, and thus realizing one’s true inner self.

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