Monday, January 23, 2012

Is the entire country grading on a curve?


There's a widespread epidemic I must address today. I'm sure you've seen it, lamented and wondered what can be done about it. I'm talking about the acceptance of things that are just so-so and calling them excellent. Taking C-level work and calling it A+. It's everywhere - music, movies, schools, work ethics, books, actors, politicians, opinions - people are cosigning and elevating some regular-assed shiggity to legendary status. It must stop.

I have to accept my part of the blame in this. There have definitely been times when I have described things as "epic" or "uber" or "best ever" when they really, truly weren't. They were good, maybe even great but greatest of all time? No. Here are a few pop culture examples of what I'm talking about:

Exhibit one from Facebook: "I think Fantasia is the next Etta James." And someone co-signing! Okay now, Tasia Mae is talented but ur.. uh... Etta James (RIP) level? Stop it. Let Tasia stand on her own and leave Etta out of it. If Tasia belts out classics that stand the test of time for 40+ years, then we'll talk.

Exhibit two from Twitter: Tyrese comparing his contributions to society to those of Martin Luther King. And someone telling him he was "just as inspirational". (You know how angry it makes me me to put those two names in the same sentence?)

Exhibit three from Politics: Newt Gingrich challenging Obama to debates. And a news guy on a channel that shall not be named saying Newt matched up evenly with Obama on intelligence and speech. New-New-G? Obeezy. Will. Slaughter. You. Trust me Gingy. You don't want none.

Exhibit four from a blog: Chick describes herself as a best-selling author and folks congratule her. Someone else asks "Where are you ranked?" and is called a hater. Um... selling 100 books at your church bazaar does not a bestseller make. Unless an accredited outlet awards you with the "bestselling" title, just stay humble and be glad someone bought your ish.

Exhibit five overheard in Target: "Drake is the best rapper ever" Me: "Really tho? Not Pac or Jay or Biggie or Em?" Uninformed dude: "Man, Drake would smoke Tupac." His friend nods. Me: "Oh." That sound you hear is Biggie & Pac backflipping in their graves.

People, I'm sorry. It must be said - a lot of the stuff that we're exposed to right now? C+ at best, yet folks seem determined to assign A's across the board. I don't kid myself, I'm a good writer with a nice career and a decent blog. On a good day I'll grade myself 92, on a so-so day 82. I'm not creating American Classics or dropping life-alerting blog posts but dammit I'm entertaining. I know my niche. 

Seriously, take this a level deeper - have we (as a nation) just gotten so used to basic-basic being elevated that we no longer recognize or expect excellence? Let's face it - people are not so smart. And they share their "not so smartness" with us everyday and we just nod because it's easier. People are not so talented and no one tells them that they suck. Folks declare themselves fabulous and we cosign if it's shiny enough. When is enough enough? Are we so happy not to be a nation of F's that we're giddy at a C?

When do we start pushing back on half-baked half-assedness and begin demanding that people try a little harder, dig a little deeper and give a little more? I'm not saying there is not excellence out there, I see it all around. I'm saying, let's not nominate racist narrow-minded cheating-azz bigots for the Presidency let's keep it real, shall we? Let's stop calling stainless steel platinum.

Does anyone know what I'm talking about or am I dancing with myself (<~~also the title of Billy Idol song which is decent but not epic. See what I did there?)... Bougie out. Ya'll share your thoughts on this...

75 comments:

Grace said...

*Lights a Bic and sways from side to side*
I am feeling you on this one. It's like trifling is the norm and a step above that is applauded. I'm sick of it.
#NoCountryForHalfAssedness

taut_7 said...

"And a news guy on a channel that shall not be named"

fox news huh?

and those teenagers in target just don't know. ignorance is bliss. if i were born in the 90s i'd probably think drake or t.i. was the best rapper to ever live. i'm glad i was born in the era i was because i'm able to discern between hip-hop and garbage. 

"Let's stop calling stainless steel platinum." <--- this right here! i know exactly what you're talking about sadly. 

Carolyn said...

"You are in for a cinematic treat of epic proportions!"-real response from someone on Twitter to my announcing I was going to see Red Tails. Umm...not so much.

Michele said...

Very well said and your examples were perfect.  I find that whenever I make a comment about someone who is actually a "C", I'm accused of being a hater.  It's easier to just say nothing and allow others to be deluded. 

thinklikeRiley said...

My Gramps says, "Time was, we knew ignant folks was ignant and we left them fools alone. Now they got a microphone and a TV show and we da fools watching."
Nuff said.

ShawnSoze said...

Hyperbole and hubris are what's hot in the streets these days.

Jason P said...

Dude, these C students don't know nothing about hyperbole and hubris. More like hype and swag. And doesn't that say it all? SMH

M Dot said...

This current state of affairs was almost inevitable.  

It's the product of the "over-coddling" of America.  Everything is great, to criticize means your a hater, and being PC rules over all.  Look at a show like American Idol or any of those other TV "talent shows."  Some of the people are horrible and generally shocked when they're told they can't sing a lick. Why? Because nobody close to them ever told them to sit it down.

Now me, I can SANG! ...in the shower, when nobody's around, I am the bomb. In public, not so much. Like, not at all. Hey look everybody can't be Pres O at the Apollo.

Just like all playground equipment now being made with plastic, we are scared to let kids fall, get hurt and disappointed. This mentality carries over into everything you written in your blog post. Even in church, sometimes the Pastor has to stand up during the hymn and give an aspiring soloist a little side-eye.

The new normal is that we must tell everyone that everything is great lest someone get their feelings hurt with a well-deserved dose of reality.

Miz JJ said...

As my best friend's mom use to say "Just because you pour syrup on shit don't make it pancakes". At this point I am not sure what is worse. That someone pours syrup shit on pancakes and serves it up or that the masses gobble it up and claim they're the Best!Pancakes!Ever!

tishatweets said...

I'm a member of another forum. In that forum we were discussing everybody's favorite (lol)--dealbreakers for singles. One poster shared that she knew a man who demanded that any woman that he dated have her own income, car and place to live. She wanted to know whether we thought he was being unreasonable.

Ma'am.

In what world would this be so? How are these not very, very ground-level basic requirements for a grown up who is in a position to date and search for a mate (car thing aside--in places like New York where I understand your really not needing one)?

The truth is that it is so because so many people who don't have the basics are *winning.* Because Ghetto Girl or Guy down the street who doesn't have a form of employment verifiable by W-2s, has access to Pookie'nem car, and has 8 kids that are being taken care of by various family members, is yet gettin' chose. Because that's true, those of us who acquire the basics and really don't think too much of them--because they are, you know, BASIC--are sometimes elevated to superstar status when we really shouldn't be. 

As you shared, this phenomenon is perpetuated in music, politics, and various other forms of our culture.

Maddening. 

MidwestDominicana said...

Girl, you betta preach!!!! This message is long, long, long overdue and should be shouted from rooftops all across this great U.S. of A.  It is shameful the way that we are force-fed all manner of terribleness and then told we are the ones in the wrong for not accepting it as bottled greatness. 

When truly talented people, works, ideas, etc come forward, they are railroaded and brushed aside as elitist, bourgeoisie or over-intellectual and tamped down so that the average citizen doesn't get a brain injury stretching themselves to understand. ~sigh~

It's a very, very sad state of affairs when people want Newt for president and think that Tyrese is a balm for societal injustice and the building of positive civil movement. WDDDA?!!!

TrulyPC said...

It is horrible that it is as bad as it is.  I tell my daughter all the time that throw-away (in all areas of society) has always existed but there was enough substance to counter it.  Now?  There is significantly less substance and throw-away has taken over the world and people call it greatness. 

Current thought says that playing to the bottom is where success is but it is also where intellect, originality,  initiative and hard work have gone to die. *frustration alert is high*

maureen said...

If Newt becomes the president, we can't say OneChele did not call us on accepting C+ for A+.  Love it(post).

keishabrown said...

i was home sick the other day and watched the biography on chelsea handler.
her friend actually said OUTLOUD: she's the Martin Luther King of hot, drunk white chicks.
O_O

i quit television, unplugged the cable and prayed after that. 

Only1DivaC said...

And the church said AMEN!!

CaliGirlED said...

My daughter received 4 A's, 3 B's and a C. Pretty good, but not great. The C was in Health, a class where the tests were open book. My thoughts, "How in the hell are you getting A's in Algebra, Spanish and English and a C in Health, WITH the book open???" But what I said to her was to not rely on the "open book" and to study and learn the material as if she had to take the test "closed book" (advice from a friend). I told her that although her other grades were good (well getting 4 A's was actually great), I was not going to overlook the "C". My mother, on the other hand, said that it was all good in her eyes!...Le Sigh

I love this, "Let's stop calling stainless steel platinum."...While stainless steel has it's use and importance in the world, it IS NOT platinum. Everyone can't be stellar, I get that. But let's not call those you are not as though they are!

rozb said...

We live in a country where they celebrate mediocrity. Just look at the news and entertainment (what passes for it anyway). We currently have some guys who are running for President who have the intellect of ADHD squirrels, and say some of the most racist, misogynist crap and a whole audience cheers as if the Messiah just spoke. And then they give the mic to some local yokel who says "He is just like me, and I want someone like me in the White House!" *We won't even get into what that all means, but you and I do know...* Okay - I'll say it. We had somebody like you in the White House for almost always, and we are in this mess because of it. Ah well - you can lead a fool to education, but you can't make him (or her) think.

Organizations that are supposed to speak loudly against the foolish rhetoric are quiet as church mice. Where is the outrage and the presenting of real facts from our "leaders"? Guess what - waiting on them is not gonna make things happen. Be educated enough to shut bufoonery down wherever you encounter it. Arm yourself with relevant facts and research, and you just might make an average American a little smarter.

We have a current crop of public figures who take pride in being ignorant, loud, abusive, and single-minded. When you have mind-blowing world event headlines overshadowed by the latest celebrity divorce, or the latest wardrobe malfunction, it makes you almost wanna weep for what we are becoming.

With that said, we need to DRAG ninjas out to vote, and educate people every chance we get. If America is getting dumber and more mediocre by the minute, it won't be because of me. When we expect and demand excellence from our leaders, peers, and kinfolk, we may be disappointed, but we might also wake somebody up.

BTW, speaking of mediocrity - why do I wanna smush Newt in the face so bad everytime I see him? He pretty much told the world I screwed my wives, I screwed America when I held office, but so what? Give me a chance to screw everybody globally as POTUS!

Imma go siddown somewhere now...

OneChele said...

This comment is awesomeness.

Slimuel L. Jackson said...

I'm chiming in after a significant and healthy amount of laughter at the church bazaar line. 

I've been saying this for a while. But every time I voice something like this, I get hit with at least 1 "You think you're better than" because I have high expectations whether black, white, yellow, orange, green, or indigo. 

We promote mediocrity and encourage lameness. We don't know how to acknowledge someone's efforts and convey that there's still room for improvement. People think a product or completion of a task is the end all be all, but don't give thought to whether or not it's actually good. 

This ish is a pandemic online. It's why you see trained  journalists getting replaced by folks with huge social followings. In music, this is why the conscious artist is cast aside for the commercial. It's all about appealing to the largest audience at the lowest acceptable level. 

I really wish this "hater" business would go away. Constructive feedback is becoming a lost art form because people don't wanna be labeled, or they know their words won't be taken seriously. 

**sigh** I'ma read a book.

GuessImJay said...

I would say this post is epic but that would be playing right into your hands, huh?

Listen, it's one thing to pump yourself up a little bit (pause) for a confidence boost. It's another thing to be totally ignorant of your worth as a human being. People need to shoot straight with each other. One or two heartfelt "You suck but I love you anyway" would save the rest of us from a whole lot of idiocy.

M Dot said...

you're too kind *tips hat*

blackprofessor said...

This comment made me spit out my water and then I died!

David Parrish, Jr.(Inkognegro) said...

People LOVE to say there were there for the latest greatest, blah blah blah. 

The only thing better Than saying the latest and greatest is that you say it FIRST.


In the rush to be first, People say REALLY STUPID things....Bless their ahistorical hearts. 

Superwoman said...

Wow, i was having this EXACT conversation with a friend this evening!! The Africa Cup of Nations (soccer) is currently on, and South Africa's team didn't qualify, despite being SO well resourced compared to the nations they're competing against. 

The WORST part is.... when our team, Bafana Bafana, played their qualifying match, they drew (tied)- and the idiots had the nerve to do a dance of jubilation at the end of the game.... for a ZERO-ALL GAME!!! and why? because their idiot coach, who hadn't read the rules properly, told them that all they had to do was draw the game to qualify.  This is what it's come to - we're satisfied with a zero-zero draw.The embarrassment when they were told that actually, the draw did NOT qualify them entry into the tournament!!! my thing is.... even if it did, what team worth it's salt celebrates a draw with such glee?? it was honestly a shameful day for South African soccer. bloody ridiculous. Now we're watching from the sidelines as teams who have so much less than ours are making great things happen at the tournament in Gabon. *IRRITATED*

OneChele said...

Don't get me started on the whole "blogger vs. author vs. journalist" thing. Not saying one person can't be all of those but they are certainly not hot swappable skillsets. A great blogger may not make a great journalist who may not make a great author... oh, I got started didn't I? Never mind.

OneChele said...

No. I can be epic ;-) HA!

JaymeC said...

This is the problem with relationships as well. People buy into the hype about each other, not the reality and then when forced to deal with the real day in and day out... they want to hit reset and start over. Life doesn't work that way. If people would take a second to see what they were cosigning before jumping in with a praise dance, wouldn't that be something to see?

OneChele said...

Anytime someone calls themselves the MLK of something I feel brain cells dying.

Leo the Yardie Chick said...

Fanny on par with Etta James? Drake smoking Tupac? Tyrese leveling with MLK?

Get me off this crazy planet! I knew all this 'special snowflake' coddling would bite us in the booty one day!

blackprofessor said...

My undergraduate students ALWAYS ask if I grade on a curve.  My response - Life doesn't grade on a curve so neither do I. You get what you earn!

I am simply amazed at what passes for adulthood today!  I often feel like I am in the Twilight Zone but it is good to know that there are other folks who feel like me. Good post!

blackprofessor said...

We promote mediocrity and encourage lameness. - This in a nutshell!

CaliGirlED said...

"One or two heartfelt "You suck but I love you anyway" would save the rest of us from a whole lot of idiocy."...Straight no chaser huh? Yep it burns when it first goes down, but you'll be alright!

ClayJones said...

You don't have to tell this much truth, Ms. Jayme.

BklynBajan said...

You better preach! I was APPALLED when I looked at the notebook of one of my mentees and saw what was passing for C work - I would have returned and not even graded (& she was mad that I thought she didn't deserve more than the C)! I still have some book reports from 8th grade that were better quality than her HS work.

Even in my MBA program - my teacher returned a paper to everyone (but two of us) and was pissed that he had to even state at this point in the program that googling a question and copying answer from wikipedia was not acceptable. The school wouldn't let him fail the entire class (but 2 of us) so he gave them chance to redo. After my first semester (when I ended up doing an entire presentation by myself because the other sections were so bad) I refused to do any group work with the young kids in my class. Why bother if I was going to have to edit so much and practically write myself?

The same week people in South Africa were stampeding to register for school the news here showed (some) Americans stampeding for 20 year old Jordans.... When China takes over we'll have no one to blame but ourselves.

Duchess K said...

I have been saying the exact same thing. Actually I just had a conversation with my coworker about his god son that proclaimed over the holidays he wanted to be a rapper. Never mind he is a freshman in college and has no previous music experience. I blame people handing out partcipation awards to folks that just showed up and telling kids they can be anything they dream of to build confiedence. There are a few additional lessons that go along with that.  It is not good enough to just show up. You need to put in work and effort and even then you are not guranteed to be the best. I think people got lazy and comfortable with being barely average.

ClayJones said...

I think it's because everyone wants a short cut or a fast track. Few want to do the work to be excellent when "good" is getting by just fine.

GrownAzzMan said...

At what point did it become the thing for our leaders to be 'just like us'. I want a President who is a lot better then me. Otherwise I would do it myself...

CaliGirlED said...

^^THIS^^

Duchess K said...

EXACTLY! This is why there has been a major back slide in expectations. Teachers are overwhelmed, parents dont know how to be realistic, friends dont want to hurt feelings... no one is willing to be disliked by being honest.

Pure Choco said...

Right! No one wants to have the hard conversation.

Pure Choco said...

Um *wincing* hitting close to home today

rozb said...

You go to the professionals to get the real job done. This whole "we need somebody like us up in there" is the reason the Tea Party exists, and fails on so many levels.

Moni said...

One of my friends is a student teacher at a "public ivy" and is constantly frustrated by the work that his undergrads hand in that shows that they just don't gibbadamn. And then he's even more frustrated when the professor forces him to curve the (already undeserved) grades upward.  If university is supposed to prepare you for the real world, no wonder so many people are confusing mediocrity with excellence.

Leon X said...

Smart is the new stupid. Stupid is the new smart.

We are a country that places value in mediocrity. We like our television reality, our books street, and our music with swag. The Internet has allowed everyone's opinion to be heard. We no longer trust the opinion of those who think critically. That has been replaced with groupthink and hyperbole.

invectiva said...

Ohmygoodness. I have a few employees like this, all in the same age range. They'll do mediocre work and want to be praised all day every day because they showed up. Have a seat, kids. You're supposed to do your best work all the time. That's what we pay you to do.

Duchess K said...

SMH it's sad. I use to manage the these "kids" that expect everything for nothing. They really think they are cooking if they show up to work on time. Unfortunately the only way the tides will turn is for people to keep being honest with the delusional ones. *looks at occupy anything but a seat movement.*

Duchess K said...

That's the problem. I hate when logic is dismissed with being a hater and obviously disingenuous laughs and grin. Its called constructive feedback.

C Nelson said...

I've been pulling my hair out over this since I was in high school. I went straight from an academically-rigorous British-system country to 9th grade in the US, and the difference made my head spin all the way around. Not only were they doing work that was two years behind the work I'd been doing, but they weren't successfully doing that, either. I was so glad when I got into an academic magnet school and away from the local high school, you have no idea. And then came college, and professors who were more shocked that I could write a proper essay than that most of those other students couldn't.  Work that would have gotten me beaten with a switch -- in school, mind you, and we won't discuss what my parents would have done to me when I got home -- actually got passing grades. Made all my As seem so very, very cheap.

invectiva said...

Wait wait wait... I "liked" your comment. I didn't mean that. I agree with what you said, 100%. I don't *like* anything about it, though. Internet semantics. Augh. 

C Nelson said...

Enh. Depends on where you are, I guess.  My eyesight's bad enough you don't want me behind the wheel of a car. I choose to live in places where I don't need to own a car, because I don't want to drive.  Happily, my fiance didn't have "owns her own car" on his list -- in fact, he doesn't bother to own one either. I view it as a big problem with the US that we don't build walkable communities and effective public transit except under duress. Other than that, though, yes, you want someone self-supporting.

tishatweets said...

Right. Depends where you are--which I alluded to in my answer. :)

T.

tiffanyinhouston said...

I'm grown enough to realize and actually ADMIT when my shit is subpar (even though I really don't want to). Wish other folks would do the same.

Rubie said...

I will take Fantasia's singing over Etta's but that it just a matter of personal opinion

Rubie said...

I agree Red Tails was just ok. I thought it was well acted and somewhat entertaining if you will but the plot/storyline needed help. 

CaliGirlED said...

Yes!!!

aishao1122 said...

I agree with just about everything here, especially the "drake', I just can't with these young kids now a days (making myself sound way older than i am) but yes, i do think many have decided not getting an F is better than striving for the A, it's one of the reason we went from being a nation of producers to just consumers. 

Anthony said...

Fantasia? Is that the whiny dark skinned chick with Dumb Donald lips who was on American Idol a few years back? 

rhenewal said...

Same experience here, to a tee.

Queendbw1 said...

I LOVE YOU!!  Can I just say that your post mirrors almost word for word conversations that I've had with my friends.  We all know what "Take back the country means" and we all know what neighborhood "Avenue K" represents and we all know what the "welfare President" means.

That person (cannot in good conscience call him a man) has the morals and intellect of a retarded slug!

Monica said...

I cosign this whole post. We are raising a nation of weak whiny cry babies who can't handle any kind of criticism. These people are supposed to be our leaders in a few decades, that's scary.

Monica said...

People wonder why I'm so hardcore on the "I'm not sending my kids to public school" stance. I'd be dooming them to sub par thinking which produces sub par output. 

Ivory Tabb said...

The problem that I have with all this grading curve in areas of life means that average folks now think they are above average and don't know how to stay in their lane.  Just cause you have the basics covered and just barely that doesn't mean that you are the best thing since slice bread. 
Average men have this problem real bad and woman cosign it daily cause america got them thinking that they are so desperate and they cosign everything just to have a man.

Monica said...

"her friend actually said OUTLOUD: she's the Martin Luther King of hot, drunk white chicks." o_O
We are not a monolith, but on behalf of black folks everywhere,  I want to give that chick a virtual pimp slap. Stop invoking MLK's name in vain dagnabbit.

PatriciaW said...

It's all about popularity and celebrity, and mistaking those two things for excellence.

Because one is famous doesn't make them exceptional.  But our current society seems to think so.

I'd argue that this started when we moved toward passing kids rather than keeping them back a grade because it was supposedly detrimental to their psyche to discover that they hadn't met the grade.  It would be embarrassing, as if getting an F on a test  or being unable to read in high school were not embarrassment enough.   The thinking was keep them feeling good about themselves even if they unable to demonstrate the skills required for promotion.  

Thankfully, I think some school districts are beginning to back off this social promotion thing.  Maybe in another generation or so, we'll go back, as a society, to celebrating that which deserves celebration.

Monica said...

 People not having the faculties to recognize that the pancakes are being served with merde is far worse.

CaliGirlED said...

Dear Sweet 8 lb Baby Jesus I pray that these words DO NOT slip out of my mouth during my "Quality Conversation (annual review) next month, "Just because you pour syrup on shit don't make it pancakes."!...That's a good one JJ!!!

CaliGirlED said...

Straight no chaser some hell! You didn't even pour it in a glass huh? Straight out the bottle!!!

Monica said...

Another example of the **** Effort Generation:  I just read a pseudo journalistic blog post where the word nuts was misspelled. "Nuts", y'all. You don't need spell check to know there is only one t in the word.  I'm sure the writer saw it and thought, "My readers will know what I meant, so why change it?"

Ugh. I wish I didn't care. I wish I didn't have STANDARDS. Then I can just glide through life oblivious. Do dee do dee doo...

Saran said...

I chalk this up to straight Laziness!   Today's young folk are so used to being spoon-fed everything that they don't even bother to find out about anything else.  They believe everything they hear on the radio and see on TV.   Pick up a book?  Nah, Wikipedia is their "reliable" source for everything.  Music groups to them consist of 3 or 4 folks singing (with studio help), and no one playing an actual instrument.  Today, if you're fairly decent looking, can dance, and can half-way carry a tune, then you're hot.  As for REAL talent, we'll just continue to see them on shows like Unsung.

BklynBajan said...

Depending on where you live you'll get no argument from me on that one. 

Crazy thing is this morning they had HS my mentee went to on news as scheduled to be closed. Somehow they got an A rating then mysteriously back to F. There is NO WAY in hades that school could have fixed all that was wrong to ever earn that A. Meanwhile kids are graduating HS with a rudimentary understanding of anything. At mentees graduation the validictorian had a 76% avg. Have you EVER heard of such foolishness?? (Yes she had a hard life an overcame a lot but if that's the best your school is producing then everyone has failed.) The whole system is flawed and kids are suffering because of it.

JoycelynC said...

I am late to the party and I am sure this has already been said but when they started giving out awards for participation, they started mobilizing a nation wanting a cookie for being average.  Teaching kids that you are deserving just for being on the team creates adults who feel a hard days' work is not necessary and they should be rewarded for breathing.  Not in this lifetime people, step ya game up

Ivory Tabb said...

Cali that's how I do it don't give you no lube either. These average ass dudes got the game all messed up. What I want to say to the woman who made it that way- is do you owe Sallie Mae all that money for nothing?

CaliGirlED said...

Yes!!!...My daughter's track coach to the parents, "This is a competitive sport. Your child must step on the track ready to compete and prepared to win. I will decide whether or not she is ready and what event(s) she will participate in."...You better tell 'em girl!!!...In other words she will not be "giving out awards for participation".

Monica said...

"In other words she will not be "giving out awards for participation".  Thank goodness. The madness needs to stop. To paraphrase Smith and Barney, we need to start awarding things the old fashioned way: Earrrn It.

Marioned said...

Depends on where you live.  My son's school outranks most private schools.

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