Disciplined students aren’t ‘obsessed’

July 3, 2010

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RE “ELIOT at Harvard: Less bang than whimper’’ (editorial, June 28): The editorial on T.S. Eliot’s Harvard grades includes, rather casually, a throwaway slur contrasting his mediocre record with that of “grade-obsessed Harvardians like future Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.’’

Knowing little about Kagan’s psychological state while she was a student, I am loath to assume that she was “obsessed’’ with grades. More likely is that she was a normal, talented, and disciplined student who took interest in her courses, and was duly rewarded with high grades.

Or does the Globe mean to say — and not for the first time — that high grades imply a character or even mental disorder? Are they a disqualification for high public office? Do presumed geniuses like Eliot necessarily perform poorly in college? I hope you will give some thought to this matter, lest you be downgraded by your loyal readers, of which I am one.

Norman Fainstein
The writer is president emeritus of Connecticut College.

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