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This entry revisits the matter of grades and school.

A few people (Hauerwas, Willimon) have influenced me to believe that
competency is a moral matter.  For example, as a lawyer, it is
immoral to lie.  But it is also immoral to be an incompetent
lawyer (or doctor, etc.).  In my case, it is a matter of morality
that I become a competent minister.

I am currently in seminary and am under the conviction that I must do
well.  I engage with the material–so I am not just working the
system.  But I strive to do well so that I can be trained to be a
competent minister.

Interestingly enough, one of my professors recently said in class, “If
any of you get all A’s you should be shot.  No one should get all
A’s.”  What he was saying was that if we were straight A students,
we weren’t really living life; school would be consuming our life and
that would be very short-sighted.  And that made sense.

So I am in a bit of a bind.  The former view advocates a dedicated
student.  The latter advocates doing well in interesting classes
and blowing off less interesting ones.  I wouldn’t mind hearing
some different views on how I might approach my situation.

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6 thoughts on “

  1. Studying for the CPA exam, I almost feel like I need to “know everything” since I’m afraid someone’s gonna ask me something in the future and I’m not gonna know the answer. I feel like it’s not enough to just pass the test.
    That’s my fear of failure, my fear of looking stupid, or “imcompetent,” in front of people who come to me for answers.
    Yet, it’s impossible to know everything, and my lack of long-term memory ability will virtually ensure that I’d need to restudy what I’m learning now anyways.
    Anyhoo, I think it’s all about finding a balance given your priorities in life. Study hard, but if you feel you’re neglecting your other priorities (such as Caleb), then maybe taking a “B” in a class isn’t so bad.
    Just my 2 cents.

  2. living a competent life doesn’t mean that one can’t excell extra-curricularly as well as get straight A’s – it’s something called being well-rounded (supposedly what we were all supposed to be in getting into a university). as we know, the grading system is but man’s attempt to calibrate how well one is performing (competence weighted) based upon the professor’s expectations for the class, and not the effort actually put into the class.
    now if we were to do away with the grading system and simply judge a person’s performance based upon the amount of time and energy one puts into a class, then we have a somewhat more pure look at who is learning for the sake of learning the actual material, and who simply wants to pass. it does not however show how competent one is.
    so unless someone comes up with a way to find a common ground judging both competency as well as effort and time, it’s too narrow to say that, because one is doing exceptionally well (getting striaght A’s) in class, they are not enjoying life because they have spent too much time with their studies.
    how i view things as a Christian though, is that as long as we are faithful (giving it as much as we deem reasonable) with the things that God has given us (this obviously includes schooling and family) then we are doing the will of God and hence doing what pleases Him. this is what i believe is imporant.

  3. the statement “you should be shot if you are getting all A’s” only seems to be some manifestation of suppressed envy or victimization (or some other similar complex) from their past.  somehow, doing extremely well in school is commonly associated with having “no life” in the U.S. while the same is viewed as potentially having a life (equated with a future) in other countries.  we all have our passions.  receiving straight A’s in school can be just as pleasurable as michael jordan receiving his mvp awards if that is the passion.  i know for certain that you love what you study and you read and write not only with your mind, but with your heart. 
    my friends who attended mission often fell victim to such generalizations as the one your professor made.  their obsession with academic success was often minterpreted to be only the products of “predictable” chinese culture, being programmed to be so, having no self-respect, blindly following orders from parents, and ultimately, having “no life”.  the (envious) classmates who labelled my friends to have “no life” overlooked their passions to be doctors in order to help the sick, lawyers to help the oppressed, wealthy to enjoy life, and plainly just for the sake of loving to learn.  i believe your success in school is only a reflection of your love for 6th home and its people to be that competent minister, and most of all your love for god and his will for you.  i would still draw the same conclusion of you if you received all B’s.  although, while indulging in our passion is healthy for our own fulfillment and addictive, they can be harmful to others when we let it control us.  i believe a good approach would be neither cut down or maintain the amount of time you invest in your school work, but to just be careful. 

  4. Hey. It’s a free country. Nobody is going to shoot you for getting all A’s. Whatever game you have going, do it with all your heart. Leave the well-roundedness to others so unfortunate as to lack a passion.Let’s examine your dilemma logically:Proposition 1: Straight A’s predicts Competence (and you want to be competent.)Proposition 2: Straight A’s predicts Lacking Perspective (and you don’t want to lack perspective.)As others have pointed out, neither proposition is always true. Therefore you don’t have a dilemma. But for the same reason that neither proposition is always true, you also lack a mandate (either to get all A’s or to avoid getting all A’s). So I would say, do as God made you to do. If you are a studying maniac with a passion for the subject, then study. If you grow better from experience than classes, then don’t.

  5. “Leave the well-roundedness to others so unfortunate as to lack a passion.”Thank you for saying what was brewing in my mind and made it so difficult for me to accept my prof’s advice. I have been working through a lot of these thoughts as of late. While writing to my friends just last night, I inadvertently wrote: “My classes this semester have been amazing. This semester made me glad that I’m at Western (although I still wouldn’t mind being at Regent). I have been challenged spiritually to be more faithful to God and to explore life with him more deeply, the latter of which is hard to do when I am in ministry and in school. I think I feel like my course work this semester will allow me to explore a lot of the things I have been waiting to explore for some time now. I hope it will be a fruitful work.”I’ll admit, I’m actually LESS passionate about Hebrew this semester than I was last semester (mainly because we’re just memorizing verb paradigms!). But this semester is offering me the opportunity to pursue those very things that motivated me to enter into seminary in the first place. (I’ll admit, my primary motivation for entering into seminary was not to be “trained for ministry” but to explore my faith more deeply.)In any case, I’m no longer getting straight A’s mainly because I turned in one assignment LATE. I would’ve rather have EARNED my B, but I have now been liberated from external perfection. Now I can spend more time pursuing my passion more perfectly.

  6. I realized in a dream last night why this whole thing has been rather difficult for me…this is the first time I’ve ever studied something that I am passionate about.But going back to slackeur’s comment, I also realized that my problem is that I am pursuing multiple strong passions right now: studies, ministry, family. So it is not a question of passion really, but the whole notion of balance I think still needs to be worked out, for us as biblical Christians. Would Jesus have been considered to have lived a well-balanced life?

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