Mr.S was a very special person. Truth be told I don’t know much about his profession or education but he was highly literate, at ease with words and poetry, and best of all, a unique sense of humor. He was one of those people who could turn any trivial situation into something hilarious through his observations, questions and comments. He would seldom smile himself, while triggering big laughs all around him.
Years ago my mother used to have a “doreh” – regular weekly gathering – with Mr. & Mrs. S and other friends. Once they were all at our house. The doreh‘s regular members where in the salon, doing whatever they were doing and Mr.S, a friend of mine and me, were chatting in the living room.
This friend used to teach sociology at a reputable university. He was telling us about a situation he was facing and was not quite sure how to handle it: One of his graduate students was a quite high ranking and powerful official. In the final exam my friend had failed this man’s paper and given him something like 10 over 100.
The dean had summoned my friend and asked him to reconsider this student’s grade for the University’s sake. My friend wanted to stick to his principles and refused to accept. We were debating about all that until Mr. S. who was hitherto listening quietly, advised my friend:
“You should call this student and explain to him the following: Normally there is a purpose to an education. Let’s review it from the very beginning. You start at the kindergarten for a year then you spend six years in elementary school. If you succeed you continue to the secondary school for another 6 years. If you are good enough, you pass the university’s entrance exam, and spend another four years studying for your bachelor’s degree. If you succeed you may go on to graduate school and study another two years for a master’s. You might even consider getting a Phd.
After all these years of schooling you may find a job and start practicing in some office as a trainee, first at lower levels. If you are capable you may get promoted after years to a management position…
Tell your student that people spend some 30 years studying and working to end up –maybe- one day in the position he actually holds right now. What in the hell does he need a degree for?”
In case you are wondering, my friend had to agree that the student writes another, less taxing, exam.
P.S. Shirin is the granddaughter of Mr. S. I bet she makes him smile quite often, wherever he is…