I Always Thought “D” Was For “Diploma”

From the Boston Globe:

During last year’s presidential campaign, John F. Kerry was the candidate often portrayed as intellectual and complex, while George W. Bush was the populist who mangled his sentences.

But newly released records show that Bush and Kerry had a virtually identical grade average at Yale University four decades ago.

In 1999, The New Yorker published a transcript indicating that Bush had received a cumulative score of 77 for his first three years at Yale and a roughly similar average under a non-numerical rating system during his senior year.

Kerry, who graduated two years before Bush, got a cumulative 76 for his four years, according to a transcript that Kerry sent to the Navy when he was applying for officer training school. He received four D’s in his freshman year out of 10 courses, but improved his average in later years.

The transcript shows that Kerry’s freshman-year average was 71. He scored a 61 in geology, a 63 and 68 in two history classes, and a 69 in political science. His top score was a 79, in another political science course. Another of his strongest efforts, a 77, came in French class.

But of course.

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37 Responses to “I Always Thought “D” Was For “Diploma””

  1. The World Wide Rant - v3.0 Says:

    Too Smart for Your Own Good

    So, does my graduating summa cum laude mean I’m unfit for the Presidency? For this thought exercise, let’s pretend that my atheism doesn’t rule me out for the bulk of All-Things-Jesus Americans….

  2. Gerry Says:

    But of course, but of course. Talk about a hanging curve!

  3. Mark in Mexico Says:

    Something here smells

    In Kerry allows Navy release of military, medical records, the Boston Globe’s Michael Kranish says that a review of the records by the Globe staff reveals … nothing. In fact, says Kranish, the records show that Kerry received commendations and reco…

  4. Rob Says:

    Kerry was in the Navy?

  5. James Maliszewski Says:

    I think the phrase you were looking for was “Mais bien sur.”

  6. Mark Says:

    A while ago, Donna Shalala was criticized for saying in Vietnam we did not send “our best and brightest” to fight. While I disagree with that assessment (many of the military guys were very bright and among the best this nation had to offer), it is apparent John Kerry was not among those “best and brightest.”

    Now, if we are talking about mooching off a rich widow for life – then there is no question Kerry is tops in doing that!

  7. erp Says:

    Their grades may have been similar, but Bush learned to play a fine game of poker in college while Kerry learned to hate his country.

  8. Pigilito Says:

    A 61 in geology? Coaches eveywhere know that entry level geology is an easy “C”, which is why the class is so often known as “rocks for jocks”.

  9. LNS Says:

    Wait–what about those big revelations about Kerry’s military service? All those secrets he wanted to hide that would have confirmed the allegations of the Swift Boat crowd?

    Oh yeah. There aren’t any:

    “The records, which the Navy Personnel Command provided to the Globe, are mostly a duplication of what Kerry released during his 2004 campaign for president, including numerous commendations from commanding officers who later criticized Kerry’s Vietnam service.”

  10. Pursuit Says:

    The thing about this is the one bit that nobody has mentioned. W undoubtedly spent his college years having a good time, while we can be sure Kerry’s record represents his best efforts. The libs were so enamored with the fact that Kerry spent huge amounts of time studying an issue before making a decision. Now it turns out, that he really was just trying to pronounce the big words!

  11. Mike Says:

    Since when are 100 pages of documents the Navy wouldn’t release because Kerry hadn’t authorized it mostly a duplication of what Kerry released during his 2004 campaign! I doubt the 100 pages were just his poor academic record. Something obviously still stinks about all this. I mean really, is the Boston Globe (Kerry’s hometown paper and let’s face it, one of his biggest supporters) the paper we want investigating his record? Why not let everyone see them?

  12. Mike Says:

    sorry, here is the 100 pages story. In case LNS wants a link.

  13. LNS Says:

    Oh, so now he signs the 180, and what you hoped to find there isn’t there, so it must be an even bigger conspiracy?

  14. pete Says:

    Why isn’t W’s fourth year represented? This discussion, as absurd as it is, holds no ground unless the numbers are averaged correctly.

  15. Hey Pete Says:

    Bush’s fourth year is not included because Yale switched grading systems that year. I believe it’s mentioned in the article…

  16. Hey Pete Says:

    Pete, I was going to post the relevant language from the article, but I see that it’s even included in Will’s excerpt!

  17. rvman Says:

    Let’s be fair – the Globe may be a liberal mouthpiece, but it has never been a great friend of Kerry – see the below ‘Slate’ analysis. That said, I want to see multiple analyses of this data before the ‘smoke, but no fire’ diagnosis is made.

    http://slate.msn.com/id/2094235/

  18. SeanH Says:

    “69 in political science”

    My lack of surprise at that is overwhelming.

  19. Sigivald Says:

    LNS: There’s one tiny little problem with your belief that what has been released now is the sum of Kerry’s military records.

    That problem is, if it’s true, he’s the stupidest politician in American history for not releasing these thoroughly harmless records in, say, 2003, thus completely sinking any allegations of negative content in his record, of any sort.

    If, as you claim, these are his complete and full military records, he did incalculable harm to his campaign by refusing to release them, for no apparent reason, thus letting all kinds of inference and speculation persist, that he could have easily and thoroughly quashed.

    On the other hand, he could have released yet another doctored subset of his records, and picked just the right friendly newspaper to do it with.

    So, which is it?

  20. byrd Says:

    LNS:

    Is that really a tack you want to take? Kerry himself made this a huge drawnout story by his evasiveness in signing the release.

    If, in the end, there’s no “there” there, doesn’t that just emphasize what an unfit boob he is?

  21. LNS Says:

    Sure, he may well have been dumb for not releasing the records–very dumb. But neither his dumbness for not releasing them, nor the current “just as dumb as Bush” mania squares with all the folks who were just so absolutely certain there were some nasty secrets in those files that would doom him–easily confirmed by any search for “Kerry” and “180” in Google or Technorati. Apparently when reality doesn’t square with your narrative it’s very easy for you to just adopt a new one (and the “Kerry is a boob” narrative is much more likely to hold water). But there’s no erasing all the “certainty” pasted all over the conservative Internet about his evildoing that was supposedly contained in his files.

  22. Beldar Says:

    Kranish and the Globe published a biography of Kerry that claimed he was “severely wounded in combat.” Sometimes they’ve published information that reflects poorly on him, but sometimes they’ve just been embarrassingly wrong.

    I’d like to see the source documents before embracing Michael Kranish’s subjective conclusion from them.

  23. byrd Says:

    I recall an awful lot of speculation (as well as wishful thinking), but no “certainty.”

    But, under the circumstances, how could there not be speculation? How could anybody think Kerry would turn this into such a scandal for no reason?

  24. Tim P Says:

    Why is this LNS character talking about Kerry’s military record, when accoring to the Globe article, all he released were his academic records?

    This is not a full release of his military records. Kerry has yet to sign the form that authorizes that.

    God save us from frothing rabid partisans. Please, save it for 2006.

    Neither one of these guys is a genius. However, with regard to the reality of the world situation vis a vis the middle east, terrorism, etc. Bush gets it. Kerry never has and never will.

    On the otherhand, French,polisci, history, philosophy? C’mon, these are not hard courses. Where’s the calculus, diffEQ, physics, chemistry, etc?

  25. PacRim Jim Says:

    I thought Yale was more selective. Must have been some strings pulled to get these two guys in. Legacies?

  26. SSH Says:

    Yup, I’m such a proud ‘Merican that I bitch about anyone who can speak french. Grow up!

  27. John Boyle Says:

    “If you can’t convince ’em, confuse ’em.”

    The SF 180 is actually a request for “Report of Separation” which document is in the sole custody of the National Personnel Records Center – not the branch in which the veteran served (in this case the Navy). And the character of Kerry’s “separation” (discharge) from the Navy is obviously the document(s) to hide.

    The SF 180 directs the National Personnel Records Center to release records. What is the Navy doing in the middle of this? The Navy must have been the first directed recipient of the NPRC release in the SF 180 (not the Boston Globe). As a Federal entity, the Navy is then subject to Privacy Laws and any release by them had to be additionally waived by Kerry. He could then easily not waive specific documents for release that he found damaging. What the Boston Globe got was the remainder of whatever the Navy received from NPRC, less what Kerry wished to withold.

    A real shell game. Kerry may not be very bright, but he as enough money to buy very slick advice.

  28. anonymous for now Says:

    conservative or liberal, the fundamental premises of this “who is dumber” peeing contest is flawed.

    the ‘common sense’ university experience to which many of you seem to be referring does not apply to a yale bachelor’s program — unless of course you speak from your own or indepth experience of someone you know at yale doing similar course work. geology may be rocks for jocks at your state u–how much have you really looked at the relevant decade’s geology curriculum for yale undergrad?

    grades, furthermore, are poor indicators of intelligence by and large. if someone wants to take this point up further, i’m happy to talk about the “evidence,” but i think if you look at your own life experience you’ll see what i mean.

    both of these men have degrees and qualifications i am guessing no in this forum does. do any of you have a harvard mba? do any of you have a bu jd? have any of you passed the mass bar?

    diffEQ/chem/phys may be the “real hard courses” in the educational facilities with which you are familiar, and indeed they may be the comparatively harder courses than the humanities (whatever in hell harder means) at yale, but you are still quite prone to be comparing apples with oranges. my roommate in college my freshman year had recieved 5’s on 16 different ap exams, and taken diffeq, multicalc, introductory analysis, pchem, thermodynamics, and a whole bunch of other “mad hard” math/sci classes — not to mention the fact that he also coauthored an article in nanoletters! — before even graduating high school. nonetheless, he came damn close to failing expos 10, our universities occassionally stereotyped “english composition for the illiterate” equivalent.

    the greatest minds in math and science, leaders in business and industry, innovators in art…if you look closely at their biographical details, high academic ‘performance’ earlier in life (high school, undergrad, even grad if they did it) is hardly a consistent feature.

    you cant even really play this ‘intelligence’ assessment game based upon say comparative performance in presidential debates because their are so many screwball factors that arent immediately implicit and verbal performance is only one element of even the most traditional definitions of ‘iq’ not to mention more ‘practical’ readings of the term intelligence. (ie howard gardner territory…and really you dont need a great amount of rationality to be a great leader or politician; i would venture the qualities we associate with the most influential politicians in history instead fall into what we might term a multi-factored set of ‘political iq’ )

    anyway, case in point, any generalization about either candidates’ “intelligence” from this kind of offhand published gossip is tenuous at best and exposes you to accusations of sloppy thinking. be wary.

  29. anonymous for now Says:

    conservative or liberal, the fundamental premises of this “who is dumber” peeing contest is flawed.

    the ‘common sense’ university experience to which many of you seem to be referring does not apply to a yale bachelor’s program — unless of course you speak from your own or indepth experience of someone you know at yale doing similar course work. geology may be rocks for jocks at your state u–how much have you really looked at the relevant decade’s geology curriculum for yale undergrad?

    grades, furthermore, are poor indicators of intelligence by and large. if someone wants to take this point up further, i’m happy to talk about the “evidence,” but i think if you look at your own life experience you’ll see what i mean.

    both of these men have degrees and qualifications i am guessing no in this forum does. do any of you have a harvard mba? do any of you have a bu jd? have any of you passed the mass bar?

    diffEQ/chem/phys may be the “real hard courses” in the educational facilities with which you are familiar, and indeed they may be the comparatively harder courses than the humanities (whatever in hell harder means) at yale, but you are still quite prone to be comparing apples with oranges. my roommate in college my freshman year had recieved 5’s on 16 different ap exams, and taken diffeq, multicalc, introductory analysis, pchem, thermodynamics, and a whole bunch of other “mad hard” math/sci classes — not to mention the fact that he also coauthored an article in nanoletters! — before even graduating high school. nonetheless, he came damn close to failing expos 10, our universities occassionally stereotyped “english composition for the illiterate” equivalent.

    the greatest minds in math and science, leaders in business and industry, innovators in art…if you look closely at their biographical details, high academic ‘performance’ earlier in life (high school, undergrad, even grad if they did it) is hardly a consistent feature.

    you cant even really play this ‘intelligence’ assessment game based upon say comparative performance in presidential debates because their are so many screwball factors that arent immediately implicit and verbal performance is only one element of even the most traditional definitions of ‘iq’ not to mention more ‘practical’ readings of the term intelligence. (ie howard gardner territory…and really you dont need a great amount of rationality to be a great leader or politician; i would venture the qualities we associate with the most influential politicians in history instead fall into what we might term a multi-factored set of ‘political iq’ )

    anyway, case in point, any generalization about either candidates’ “intelligence” from this kind of offhand published gossip is tenuous at best and exposes you to accusations of sloppy thinking. be wary.

  30. rosignol Says:

    anyway, case in point, any generalization about either candidates’ “intelligence” from this kind of offhand published gossip is tenuous at best and exposes you to accusations of sloppy thinking. be wary.

    Congratulations on completely missing the point…. Twice.

  31. CharlieDontSurf Says:

    “I always told my Dad that D stood for distinction,” Kerry said yesterday in a written response to questions…

    Yes, distinctively stupid. In my opinion, a D is worse than an F because you were trying!

  32. Tim P Says:

    annonymous,
    Many of your points are correct. However, I think you miss the most relevant point, which is that while both of these men received similar grades, the President was and is pilloried as an imbecile. Mr. Kerry on the otherhand is considered deep and complex, an intellectual.

    That is why this is humorous. I don’t think anyone really takes this too seriously or cares a whole lot one way or the other.

    The comments you characterize as ‘offhand published gossip’ are more of a reflection of the hypocritical tripe that passes for much (not all) of mainstream journalism these days.
    I don’t think anybody is trying to assess the intelligence of either person based on this report. However, I know one of the many measuring sticks I used for intelligence was how the President reacted to the premeditated murder of almost 3000 innocent civilians on American soil. Something which Mr. Kerry referred to in a nationally televised debate as a ‘nuisance.’

    Regarding the reletive ‘difficulty’ of humanities and science/math classes you refer to anecdotes about acquaintances. Having been a history major at a state university in the mid-west in the early seventies (before the bemoaned ‘grade inflation’) and returning to a different state university in another part of the country in the early nineties to obtain an electrical engineering degree, I can tell you with no hesitation which one is harder. Not due to my natural inclinations and talents, but on the amount and difficulty of the work, the high expectations & standards and the no bullsit attitude. Though I threw that out as a joke, I now clarify my comment.

    My experience seems to be echoed in general throughout academia. Otherwise you would be seeing a shortage of humanities and liberal arts majors and a glut of scientists & engineers and that masters in philosophy wouldn’t be whipping you up lattes at Starbucks.

  33. Will Collier Says:

    As an engineering major, I took humanities courses, mostly in English, all the way up to the graduate-school level as GPA boosters. Straight A’s in all of them.

    I guaran-damn-tee you I never signed up for a calculus or physics or engineering class as a GPA booster. I sure as hell didn’t have a 4.0 in those (BS, MS Aerospace engineering, and would have had a minor in English if engineering majors were allowed to claim minors).

  34. Downtown Lad Says:

    Let’s face it. BOTH Kerry and Bush are only slightly above average when it comes to intelligence.

    But who cares? You don’t need to be intelligent to be a good leader.

  35. anonymous for now Says:

    Tim,

    Thanks for meaningfully replying. My thoughts below will be demarcated with asterisks.

    annonymous,
    Many of your points are correct. However, I think you miss the most relevant point, which is that while both of these men received similar grades, the President was and is pilloried as an imbecile. Mr. Kerry on the otherhand is considered deep and complex, an intellectual.

    *Obviously there is truth to your characterization, but there are also many elements easily overlooked. Bush, from his earliest political races, when he wasn’t being attacked as the preppy new england schoolboy, often got the “village idiot” line of attack simply because of his tendency to make verbal gaffes which we are not often used to hearing most politicians make (especially at the level of governor and up). I would venture that if you look at the historical record this ‘idiot’ punchline stream of jokes started much before the kind of nationalized, partisan, ‘hatred campaigns,’ we saw against Bush during the 2000 election and onward. Making sure to look at the other side too, there’s plenty of equally ridiculous, Kerry the homosexual propoganda that probably contains about the same grain of truth (that is to say he can be rightly said to have personal habbits that America does not accept as mainstream “manly” just as Bush has speaking tendencies that America does not accept as mainstream “educated/intelligent.” Finally, note also that one could say that a Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign tactic was indeed to paint Kerry as this “intellectual” because it played into the other ways in which they wanted to paint him, out of touch, nonpopulist, flipflopper, etc (and in turn the way they wanted bush portrayed – “i may not always say it just right but i know what’s right and wrong, what i’m doing” ‘country simple honesty’ etc”). So the “comic effect” here may be saii to derive at least in part from warring propoganda ideologue strategies (bush v kerry) and not totally from any real political observations or observations about media portrayal*

    That is why this is humorous. I don’t think anyone really takes this too seriously or cares a whole lot one way or the other.

    *I would venture that the majority of good political humor, jests, and quips, is funny precisely b/c there is a grain of truth and/or pain involved. That’s why its ok to respond to “just joking” comments with a somewhat serious tone*

    The comments you characterize as ‘offhand published gossip’ are more of a reflection of the hypocritical tripe that passes for much (not all) of mainstream journalism these days.

    *It’s not just these days. I’m pretty sure that for much of the 20th century if you were interested in public policy or a historical understanding of the “current era” in which you lived, reading a daily news report as a source of “true analysis” was not your most promising starting place. (Though of course, the daily news has always had a great artifactual value.)*

    I don’t think anybody is trying to assess the intelligence of either person based on this report.

    *Comments I read before posting left me with a different impression.*

    However, I know one of the many measuring sticks I used for intelligence was how the President reacted to the premeditated murder of almost 3000 innocent civilians on American soil.

    *First of all, its hard to equate that kind of “intelligence” (if that is even the right word, I would say courage, character, wisdom, clarity of goals, etc, before intelligence) with anything reported on a university transcript, and so by that measure you are improperly diverting this discussion. Furthermore, in events like 9/11 it is never just “the President” who responds and/or crafts the response policy and/or implements it. The President’s first, very human response, as I recall my own reading about the day was to first try and appear calm and spend time finishing his reading/publicity visit to the school in Florida, then to get on an airforce one plane that went to various destinations while calling his wife and loved ones to see if they were ok. His political “response” as you refer to it was the end result of conferring with colleagues, advisors, other elected officials, etc; it continued to develop throughout the months after the attack and indeed continues to develop to this day. The “buck” does, at least legally, stop with the president but again decision making under pressure is not quite the same thing as “intelligence,” at least as measured by school grades and/or the kind of quips people used against W based on his speaking gaffes from his earliest campaigns.*

    Something which Mr. Kerry referred to in a nationally televised debate as a ‘nuisance.’

    *If you are talking about the 2004 bush/kerry debates, I watched all 3, and I only remember kerry using that word after bush had brought it up. The Bush/Cheney campaign decided to harp on kerry’s use of that word after an interview with the new york times sunday magazine. The word, as used in the context of that interview, referred to the fact that Kerry thought the solution to the terrorist problem was to vigorously fight it _to the point that it could be considered a_ nuisance. That is, he thought, and bush/cheney have never said anything substatively different in public, that you would not completley eliminate the terrorist threat against america for at least a very long period of time to come, but that you could certainly cripple the threat to the point where it no longer jeapordize the safety and security of american and could be dealt with the way that one deals with the mafia, druglords, etc. Bush/cheney played this up “as a clear example of our difference,” but to this day no one has explained me how, beyond a play of words, the use of nuisance in that nytimes mag interview really articulates a tremendously divergent terrorist coping strategy (or “pre 9/11 worldview”) between the two candidadates. (Though other Kerry comments definitely point out differences, but Kerry – like any self respecting American politican after 911 – never stated on record or in anything published that he thought terrorism was the kind of ‘minor annoyance’ the word nuisance as used in the Bush/Cheney campaign ideology you reference seemed to conote.*

    Regarding the reletive ‘difficulty’ of humanities and science/math classes you refer to anecdotes about acquaintances.

    *Personal experience as well, but my broader point was the variability (and sometimes unreliability) or personal experience. I think generalizations like “humanities are for slackers” basically demonstrate poor thinking on the part of those who make them unless they are for joke fodder around a water cooler.*

    Having been a history major at a state university in the mid-west in the early seventies (before the bemoaned ‘grade inflation’) and returning to a different state university in another part of the country in the early nineties to obtain an electrical engineering degree, I can tell you with no hesitation which one is harder. Not due to my natural inclinations and talents, but on the amount and difficulty of the work, the high expectations & standards and the no bullsit attitude.

    *So what? That still only speaks for 2 different experiences you had and that some people you know tell you they share. I took a “multicalc” class at my state uni before I matriculated to college that didnt’ even get past jacobins – if id been going to that uni though that wouldve been enough on my way to getting my mech eng degree and eventually my pe; my roommate was a genius and he almost failed expos 10. Mileage varies. And for the record go pick up say Wittgenstein’s Investigations and try writing a well reasoned 10 page response to any passage or argument he makes in the book. Then please come back and tell me whether or not you can really ‘equate’ that experience with the time you spent trying to apply Maxwell’s equations.*

    Though I threw that out as a joke, I now clarify my comment.

    *Your comment was funny and I laughed. I just wanted to make sure you were aware of the generalizations you were making and their limited applicability to the situation.*

    My experience seems to be echoed in general throughout academia.

    *”seems to be echoed…throughout academia” ? C’mon..that’s lazy thinking. You haven’t done any kind of systematic tour of our nations schools, and certainly not top 20 undergrad schools like the kinds bush and kerry attended. I give you benefit of doubt saying that state schools tend to let undergrads get away with more bs for humanities than for math/sci but thats hardly an inherent feature of the disciplines’ pedagogic or structural nature, nor of the “state of education” in general. See above and previous comment.*

    Otherwise you would be seeing a shortage of humanities and liberal arts majors and a glut of scientists & engineers and that masters in philosophy wouldn’t be whipping you up lattes at Starbucks.

    *Despite that stereotype of the phd in in huma working resteraunt job, my personal experience hasn’t shown me an abundance of these people. I know physics majors who work as cashiers and film studies majors who could buy out small cities. Even if we assume that your generalization (about low paying / non-higher-degree-required jobs and higher degrees in huma disciplines i mean) is correct, the inherent difficult of the subjects and/or actual difficult of how they are taught is hardly the only viable explanation of that phenomenon. Jobs people have in relation to their degrees are presumably determined by the demands of the job market, whose relation to the difficulty of what someone studied is incidental at best. To be sure the professional accreditation processes behind some almost-always-in-high-demand professions (law, medicine, traditional engineering disciplines) will always make it harder for those who really would like to be slacking, but not all of those fields are neccessarilly primarily math/sci involved and real research institutions dont’ give out phds in the humanities like coupons, even if those subjects arent particularly in themselves to the current crop of employers. (BTW, most career oriented people I knew in college who got ‘liberal arts’ degrees or ‘pure science’ ended up making much more than the engineers only a few years down the line; they were hired, in so far as they were hired on their educational credentials, far more for the general assumption that they could ‘think well’ and ‘work on time’ than for any particular knowledge base they had acquired in college…most jobs, in that sense, arent and shouldnt be trainable for in a traditional liberal arts program of study) So again this “job market determines difficulty” argument is also fallacious.*

    I’m not sure if I’ll respond to any more posts in this topic since its getting old. But I appreciate opportunity for discussion.

  36. David March Says:

    For anyone asking why G.W. Bush’s senior year number grades are not included in the averaging, that is because Yale, like many other colleges and universities during those years, acquiesced to pressure from students and instituted a “pass/fail” grading system at that time. After a few years it had become abundantly clear that the new grading system was useless. Oddly, a number of other concessions to radical student pressures, equally absurd and self-mutilating for an academic institution, persist.

    In reviewing these details, I admit I have the slight advantage of having applied to Yale in the spring of 1967, and somehow sneaked in undetected among the real scholars. I ended up stuffing a four-year program into five years, and graduated in 1972. This makes me a member of a small group of humans (some sixty or seventy thousand, tops) to have attended Yale simultaneously with George Bush, and Bill and Hillary. Jeez. Now I come to think of it, I used to lurk around the Law School in my senior year. That was probably Hillary that slapped me that time…

    In the run up to the November Presidential election, many folks believed the idea that G.W. Bush as a

  37. Sharpshooter Says:

    1) Kerry’s 180 signing is LIMITED to the LA Times and Boston Globe. It is not unconditional and a 180 is never unconditional.

    2) Kerry’s military enterance scores were abysmal as well.

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