After a month at home, our daughter has returned to college. Her mother and I couldn’t be more proud. In her first semester at Western Carolina University, our daughter made friends, became active in campus life and, most important, came home for the holidays with a grade point average that made me envious.
To put my envy in perspective, I graduated second in my high school class, behind only a guy who made 1600 on the SAT. But the first semester of college kicked me up one side of Chapel Hill and down the other. No one needed a degree in math to calculate my GPA.
My high school, in all honesty, was partly to blame because it wasn’t always challenging. For just one example, my chemistry teacher was also the track coach, and he much preferred talking about the 400 relay than remorse osmosis.
But it was mostly my fault; I didn’t challenge myself. While friends were taking physics in high school, I was taking anthropology. In my defense, I had no fear of physics; I simply found anthropology more interesting. But in hindsight, I should have better prepared myself for college by taking more-challenging classes. Instead, I used a good memory to skate by in mostly easy classes. Honestly, I can’t remember ever taking a textbook home to study.
So I entered college with poor study habits and a mind that wasn’t as sharp as it could have been. Not surprisingly then, the salutatorian of the South Stokes High School class of 1979 came home from his first semester at Carolina with a 2.0 grade point average, or something close to that.
These days, because of federal privacy laws, I’m not entitled to see my daughter’s college grades; seriously, though I’m largely paying for my daughter’s education, I have no legal right to see what my money is buying. I know my daughter’s first-semester grades only because she showed them to me, and I might have threatened to cut off college funding.
But back then, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, colleges sent your grades via mail to your house. So as you might imagine, I dreaded the day my first college grades arrived in the Post Office box in Germanton.
But arrive they did, and then my parents did something totally unexpected: They told me, almost in unison, to do the best I could. I had expected at least a lecture, perhaps even an admonition to quit school and get a job; after all, my mom had wanted to know, months earlier, why I had not finished ahead of the guy who made 1600 on the SAT. But neither of my parents had gone to college, so perhaps they didn’t know what to expect of me.
I will be forever grateful to my now-late parents for their understanding, and I didn’t let their reprieve go to waste. I quickly surmised that the success to college was to go to class, keep up with the reading and study for the exams. So that’s what I did, and the 2.0 climbed every semester, eventually reaching 3.95. For the record, I deserved the A- that kept me from a 4.0 that one semester.
I passed the secret to success along to my daughter, and whether she followed it or not, she posted a first semester GPA of nearly 3.3. I was probably a second semester sophomore before I saw that number.
This semester is likely to be more challenging for our daughter because she will be fully immersed in classes required for her major in elementary education. But she is leaps and bounds ahead of her father after one semester, so I’m hopeful.
And I know I’m proud.
Faith should be strong
I don’t pretend to know much about faith, but it seems to me that faith in God ought to be strong, steadfast, self-assured. It should, in other words, be able to withstand insult, criticism, ridicule.
So why doesn’t it? Why do people who profess to have unwavering faith kill people who poke fun at their faith?
I get it: No one likes to be insulted, criticized or ridiculed. But when people react violently to insults to their faith, that suggests to me they are insecure in what they believe; that maybe they have their own doubts about what the preacher, rabbi or imam has been saying all these years.
What was it Shakespeare wrote? The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
Instead, what if we all had the faith to move a mountain or to walk, however briefly, on water? What could rattle our faith? What could cause us to protest too much?
We all know what happened in France earlier this month. Islamist terrorists entered the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 staff members. I wonder if the killers were strong and steadfast in their faith.
This isn’t just about Islamist terrorists, by the way. History is replete with examples of people of many faiths, Christians included, committing acts of violence against people of other faiths.
Instead it is a call for all believers in God to do a little soul searching, to honestly explore for themselves whether their faith is all they profess it to be.