To All of the Students Who Have Failed My Class…

ReportCardAs another Academic Year draws to a close let us review:

1. Your parents paying a quarter of a million dollars for your college education does not entitle you to a diploma. You earn that through your work.
Yes, the money is obscene. Yes, as NEAL GABLER put it in last month’s article in the THE ATLANTIC [Link may be found here:

], “I’m not saying that universities are extortionist, but, well…universities are extortionist” — Educational institutions can be a lot like the Profiteering Insurance Companies that call themselves “Health Care.”  They don’t care about your Health. They are there to take your money.

A Meme from the Internet

A Meme from the Internet

Nevertheless, Tuition Payment does not entitle you to a degree.
It entitles you to something much better: an Education.

2. When you get out into the real world and hold a job for 6 months, that does not qualify you as an expert in your field. It merely qualifies you as an expert in the shortest route to the restroom of that particular office, and possibly one or two decent neighborhood spots to get lunch. All of this information will be invalidated once your company moves locations. Expertise requires Time and Sweat Equity.
Oh, and you are not qualified to teach yet.

3. It does not give me pleasure to give you a failing grade. It pains me. What pains me more is to see the work you are willing to put into manipulating me into changing your grade. If you had been willing to put as much work into getting your assignments done, we would not have the need for any further discourse now.
Penny Arcade4. If it were up to me, I would not fail you based on assignments. I would fail you only for your lack of curiosity. Interestingly enough, the ones who fail are often the ones lacking curiosity. This is the real failure. The students who achieve the highest grades are the most curious. As noted performance artist PENNY ARCADE puts it, “In order to be an interesting person, first be an interested person.”

5. Never stop learning. Never Never Never stop Learning. It’s not like you graduate from school, get yourself a diploma, and then you’re done. You’re never done. We are all learning, always. We have manifested here, and we are all in school, so to speak. So enjoy the learning process. More importantly, embrace your failures as well as your successes.

6. “Don’t just start slapping paint on canvas. Learn it first. Take some Lessons.” This is the advice given to me by my Wise & Brilliant Friend JAMES HOUSTON when I said that I wanted to paint. Soon afterward, I made my first trip to Barcelona and visited the Picasso Museum. There I found Picasso’s 1939 magical Portrait of his friend, JAIME SABARTES.
As I continued through the museum, I came upon his 1901 painting of the same subject, during his Blue Period.
JAMES’ point was well taken.

Portrait of Jaime Sabartes by Pablo Picasso, 1901 Blue Period

Portrait of Jaime Sabartes by Pablo Picasso, 1901 Blue Period

PICASSO did not just start slapping paint on canvas.

Portrait of Jaime Sabartes by Pablo Picasso, 1939

Portrait of Jaime Sabartes by Pablo Picasso, 1939

He learned it first.
He mastered his art.
Then, he varied it, with the variance of a True Master.
I see in the classes of recent years an awful lot of just slapping paint on canvas.
Pass Your Course.
Get an A Plus.
Master It.

Then, vary it with the variance of a Master.

7. As I say at the very first class, I do not judge your talent. There are plenty of people working on Broadway whom I don’t think half as talented as some others. There are people who’ve never booked a Broadway Show whom I believe to be more talented than most. It is all about completing the assignments. Leave judgement out of it. Do the Work that is before you to be done Today. Just Show Up and Do the Work.
You may feel free to adapt this formula for yourself after Graduation and out in the World, as well.

8. “Youth is the Gift of Nature, but Age is a Work of Art,” wrote the Polish poet, STANISLAW JERZY LEC. You are celebrating your Gift of Nature, and I think that is Wonderful. I envy you. But it is never too early to start creating your Work of Art. Start Now.
You will be Older for much longer than you are Younger.
What would you like that to be like?
Rely on Nothing.
Everything goes, including Life itself.
As the American Poet MARY OLIVER puts it,
“Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”

9. So, you’ve failed my Class. Could I have simply fudged it and given you a passing grade? Sure. But that would be to steal from you a great and powerful Gift. It is my job, my duty…nay, my Sacred Responsibility — to allow you that Gift — to Give to You every Gift that I can. It can be a Great Learning Experience, Failure. I have heard HAROLD CLURMAN, ARTHUR MILLER, and STEPHEN SONDHEIM all speaking in person say some version of the following: “It is only your failures that teach you anything. You learn from your failures. You don’t learn anything from your successes. You really don’t. It is your failures that hold value for you.”
And so, it is with Great Love and Care for you that I give you the Grade you have earned.

10. There is a student who failed my class, some years ago — stopped showing up mid-semester and didn’t complete half the course assignments. The department chair at a certain university has the power to change a grade. This particular dolt did so — in spite of my profound protestations, the chair gave this student a passing grade, graduated the student, and thus crippled this student for Life.
Do not let this happen to you!
Own your Failure.
Learn from it.
Rise Up Again and Succeed, knowing More
For this is what it is to be Human.

%22Just Show Up and do the Work!%22#  #  #

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  1. Susan Cottingham

     /  June 22, 2016

    When did these children become so entitled. Their parents are our age. It is disgraceful. I can’t wait to show this to my brother who is a teacher in Dobbs Ferry. I am so glad I am retired from the NYPD, the lack of respect for all is scary. Parents, teachers, law enforcement, elderly, religious, animals, I could go on and on. Sad

    • Ah, Dear SUSAN. I understand your feelings. But I imagine being a Teacher has always involved bringing Life Lessons into it (even with the perfect Little Darlings that we were, way back when! 😉 Still, there is much to be Grateful For in the exchange. And these Kids have much to Offer us too… As I said, and it’s for all of us, we never stop learning! 🙂 XXOO


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