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Volume 70, Issue 147, Thursday, June 16, 2005


Remember, GPA is just a number

David Salinas
Opinion columnist

Recently the grades of both President George W. Bush and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry were released to the public. Although the election is over, for some reason the media deemed this newsworthy. The grades showed that both the president and Massachusetts senator were mediocre students at Yale University, with cumulative grades of 77 and 76, respectively. 

Neither Kerry nor Bush managed to get an A in a single class, with Kerry's highest being an 89 in political science and an Bush's an 88 in anthropology. However interesting this may be to a political trivia junkie, there is nothing of great importance in either man's grades. The real story here is how irrelevant Ivy League colleges and other institutes of "high esteem" are when dealing with the academic success of those who walk their hallowed halls.

As mentioned, Bush averaged a C in college, never managing an A once, yet he got into Harvard's business school after he graduated. There was a huge fuss made about University of Michigan's affirmative action policy a couple of years ago, with students holding ridiculous bake sales and offering lower prices for those of a minority race. I wonder if they gave cookies away to those who couldn't read the menu. Bush wasn't the first person who got into Harvard or Yale because of the weight of his father's pocketbook rather than the caliber of his mind. Kerry probably did as well. None of this is breaking news, but it doesn't get said enough: Where you go to college doesn't matter.

Obviously, on some superficial level of pretentiousness the status of your college will matter, but it doesn't determine how successful you will become. The "elite" will always have its own system, and on occasion someone can come along and break in, like President Clinton, but you don't have to break in, either. You can succeed at any college anywhere and have a completely fulfilling life. I don't like the man or his politics, but Texas Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Sugar Land) graduated from this university and he's the most powerful man in the House of Representatives, ethics investigation notwithstanding. Bill Gates dropped out of college, and he is one of the richest men on the planet. But those are exceptions to the rule, and deal with power and money, which aren't what's most important in life.

After Kerry's grades were revealed, Republicans went on television and started blathering on and on about how wrong Democrats were for their assertion that Kerry was more intelligent than Bush. They failed to understand that what you accomplish in college, whatever grades you may get, don't determine or even represent the kind of person you will become. After Kerry graduated from Yale he volunteered for the Navy, got three purple hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star for saving a green beret's life. After he left the Navy, he protested the war, went to law school and became a prosecutor, then lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, then senator for two decades and counting. What he experienced in the real world, not in his cozy Yale dorm room, is what made him intelligent.

In saying all of this, I am not trying to demean the importance of college. Nor am I trying to belittle people who try to get into Ivy League schools. I think college is an important step for whatever paths we choose in the future. I'm not here to torture myself. My grade-point average is fairly high and I've made the dean's list nearly every semester I've been here, but even saying that makes me roll my eyes -- I could graduate with a 4.0 and move back home and live in my parents' attic. 

Grades don't determine how valuable we are -- they're just numbers that signify how much we care about them. What matters in life is not what rank you graduated with or how much money you make. It's how you positively affect those around you, if you left your little piece of the world better than you found it. Apologies to those who find that overly sentimental.

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