Now class, before I return the papers you turned in last week, I’d just like to make a few comments that apply to everyone. First of all, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you for managing to stay on the topic that I assigned you for this paper. Of course, the topic ‘Magic in Harry Potter‘ was far less open to misinterpretation than the previous assignment: ‘What was great about The Great Gatsby?’. I’m still hoping that the majority of you who wrote at length on the topic of ‘nothing’ were doing so out of an exploitation of the openness of the prompt, and not because you didn’t read the novel.
But this time, everyone in the class did a superb job. In fact, only three of you didn’t get As on this assignment. For two of you, John and Marco, it was because you obviously started writing the paper the night before it was due and turned in papers that were about half as long as I had requested. “Just slap a conclusion on there and it’s good” — I’ve been there; I know. But please, would you put in a little more effort? The other non-A paper was just so horribly-written that I could not, in good conscience, award it anything above a B+. So, sorry Daisy. It’s OK to give up.
You may well ask: “Professor Lumberjacques, if we all got the same grade”—(aside from the three previously noted exceptions)—“if we all got the same grade, how will we be able to compare ourselves to one another? It is very important for me to be the best, but the honor is somewhat diminished when it is split thirty-seven ways.” I acknowledge your need to succeed, your drive to dominate, your hunger to have the upper hand — but I urge you to look at John, Marco and Daisy for guidance on this issue. They don’t need to be the best. They’re perfectly happy to hang out at the bottom of the barrel, quietly rotting away as the better apples rise to the top to be baked into pies of success. Theirs is an approach to life that does not hinge on personal achievement so much as it hinges on getting up in the morning, buttoning up your shirt, tying your shoe laces and putting one foot in front of the other. Ah, to be simple.
But for those of you for whom this is just not good enough, I have left you some clues as to how your grade-A papers stack up against one another. No, you will not find it scrawled in the margin in red ink. Instead, you will find it saturating the pages in coffee stains. Let me lay it out for you: the more coffee on your paper, the better it was. Why is this a valid measure? Because I am a tired and overworked man. The only time I can find to grade your papers is well into the night, when most sane and, yes Daisy, simple people are fast asleep in their beds. And I need coffee to fuel me through those hours. When your paper catches my attention, makes me want to keep reading, I grab a cup of coffee. If I couldn’t care any less about anything you’ve written, I’m happy to bluff my way through it in a half-tired state.
And I am a sloppy coffee drinker. I spill, I splash, I spit. I let rivulets of coffee run down the side of my mug until they pool around the bottom and leave a ring on whatever is below. So the more I like your paper, the more coffee I drink. And the more coffee I drink, the more of it ends up soaked into the pages of your paper. It’s like a handshake: you write a paper that gets my attention, and I’ll make sure that my attention is awake enough to be gotten.
So there’s no formal breakdown of how good your paper was as a function of the surface area covered in coffee. You’ll have to all hold up your papers next to one another to see who was the true victor on this assignment. And though that is not a thing that you can put on your resumé, it is certainly something that you can carry in your heart.
Just one final note: don’t compare your paper to Suzy’s. While it may look like hers has the most coffee marks of honor, I really just spilled a full cup of coffee on it while reading Roy’s paper. In fact, Suzy’s paper was so wet, I just waited for it to dry and gave it an A without reading it. Maybe it really was the best; but don’t count on it.
So once again, good job most of you. Now come collect your papers.