Let's Drink to Good Grades

tags: higher education, alcohol, drinking culture



Jonathan Zimmerman (jlzimm@aol.com), the author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory, teaches history at New York University. He lives in Narbeth, Pa., and writes regularly for the Post-Gazette.

A few years ago, during a discussion in my office, one of my undergraduate students volunteered that she did not drink alcohol. "Between the bar-hopping and the hangovers, it takes up too much time," she told me. "I need to study."

But at most of our colleges today, students can drink -- some of them quite heavily -- and still succeed academically. That's because we don't require them to study very much....

Studying hard at college marked you as a grind, a wimp and a suck-up to the uptight prigs who ran the place. As one observer wrote in 1905, there was "a secret disdain for high scholarship and a feeling that just 'getting by' on examination and final term standings is good enough." He went on to quote a typical student: "Scholarship isn't very important -- good fellowship and school spirit count for a lot more."

Fast-forward to today's college students, who routinely tell pollsters that social skills and networking are more important to them than academics are. The big difference is that they are succeeding in school -- not simply "getting by" -- while doing even less schoolwork. The Gentleman's C of a century ago has become the Easy A....



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