"The Gentleman's Grade" (1907)
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Mon Nov 15 02:40:48 UTC 1999
"When President Lowell declared war on the Gentleman C, he was acting in the
correct and powerful conviction that the basic attitude toward learning which
it represented was a denial of the purpose of the institution."
--McGeorge Bundy, "Were Those the Days?", HARPER'S, Summer 1970, pg. 560.
All these citations are from Harvard.
"The Gentleman's Grade" by William Trufant Foster (Bowdoin College,
Brunswick, ME), EDUCATIONAL REVIEW, April 1907, pp. 386-392, is the leading
article. It begins:
"The saying that 'C is a gentleman's grade' is evidently an imperfect
defense for the idler in Harvard College." So says the report of the
President. (...) The grade C stands for Commonplace Lane, no doubt: and, by
a kind of majority vote, it stands for "the gentleman's grade." All students
like to be considered gentlemen, and a majority would attain no such
distinction if the demands of scholarship were higher. Indeed the C men
would win every time on a (pg. 387) two-thirds vote. President Eliot, in
praising what has been done at Harvard to raise the standard of daily work
among the less ambitious students, taken alphabetically from the class of
1905, only 36 attained A or B in even half their courses.
From AT WAR WITH ACADEMIC TRADITIONS IN AMERICA (1934) by A. Lawrence
Pg. 73 (from a 1910 speech): A generation ago he was called "grind," but now
he is often referred to as a "greasy grind."
Pg. 349 (from Annual Report, 1931-1932): We do not hear the term "greasy
grind" or "greaser," so commonly applied to men of high rank a generation
ago. "C is the gentleman's mark" is no longer a phrase to express a belief,
or excuse indolence.
From WHAT A UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT HAS LEARNED (1938) by A. Lawrence
Lowell, pg. 69:
This was the time when "C was the gentleman's mark"; when, in
fashionable groups, outsiders of scholarly rank were as a class often
referred to as "greasy grinds"; when "prizes should be left to greasers."
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