Education Realist (among many others) points to a story from the LA Times about the academic woes of an affirmative action admit at UC Berkeley named KaShawn Campbell. Ed provides ample evidence that this eager, studious, and universally well-liked young man was passed along by his high school instructors despite his having been brain damaged during a difficult delivery.
And, as the story clearly illustrates, the ones that work terribly hard or show the slightest bit of effort are often given passing grades out of some combination of pity and paternalism.
I get it. I really do.
During my three-year tour as a college instructor, we had several students that needed a lot of extra attention and, um . . . special consideration. They came from Middle Eastern countries with a reputation for selecting their candidates on English proficiency, a skill acquired easily by mediocrites raised as expats in Europe. Mine was always polite and attentive, and camped outside my office seeking Extra Instruction. Al Nehri might have done well enough at a Liberal Arts school, but not at a school where even the English majors earned a B.S.
Unlike KaShawn, Al Nehri was apparently not popular, if the following incident was representative: Al spent the first weeks of class sitting at a table next to a typical female student, until the first laboratory exercise . . . when suddenly she had crossed the classroom to join another team, leaving Al by himself. I was pissed, and I was angry at myself -- the worst kind of anger in my experience -- for not having caught it in time to tell her: Junior High School is over!* This school and your future employer will expect you to conduct yourself professionally irrespective of your personal feelings. But it was too late.
So the results of the final exam -- team-graded for consistency -- were added to the speadsheet and . . . but he tried so hard. Are not there a few more points of partial credit to be found? I wanted him to succeed, and also to not be the reason he was sent home in disgrace. So I took the final, and I pinched and I prodded and I drug him over the line.
Despite his present difficulties, I give an even chance that this latter-day Forest Gump (Steve's characterization) will likewise be drug over the line. Eventually, he'll settle in to some government sinecure where organic retardation is taken in stride.
* Women aged 14 to 40 should receive legally-mandated daily reminders that Junior High School is over, in my opinion.