Why Fs are Important

f-school-letter-grade2“If you’re not failing every now and then, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative” Woody Allen.

I don’t say this often but I completely agree with Woody Allen on this one!  The last few weeks I’ve been thinking about grades and how we assess things and people in our culture.  On my movie blog http://54disneyreviews.wordpress.com I give a grade at the end of the review.  This can be anywhere from an A+ to an F.  Up until this point I have only given 7 Fs out of close to 250 reviews I’ve done.

Since I’m sure you are curious the 7 Fs are-  Chicken Little, Brother Bear, Dinosaur, Road to El Dorado, Maleficent, Ghost of Girlfriends Past, and The Lorax.  These are movies which I think are complete failures.  Ds on the other hand I didn’t like but I found some things to enjoy so it isn’t a total failure.

Most people are with me for this part of the grading system.  It’s when we get into Cs that it is interesting.  I have noticed many people treat a C grade like it is an F.  To me a C is in the middle.  It’s half way between an A and an F.  It’s an average, ok movie.  If I hated it I would give it an F.

If people actually read my reviews instead of just looking at the grade they would see on my C grades I say lots of nice things about said movie.  Such a movie is not a failure but there are some problems that keep it from the masterpiece or good levels of A and B.  That’s ok.  Not every movie can be a masterpiece and I get a lot of enjoyment out of the C movies.

Anyway people kept treating Cs like Fs so frequently that it made me wonder if Fs weren’t a part of the cultural lexicon as much as when I was at school.  I asked a friend and she said it is nearly impossible to get an F in school.  If you do anything you will most likely get a C.  So no wonder a C is seen as a failing grade if it takes the bare minimum of effort!

I have a problem with this.  First of all, it leaves teachers with only 3 options for a student.  5 is hard enough but if every student is either Great, Good or Failure that isn’t good.  C should be a place for a person who is in the middle of the pack.  I guess those people are Bs now but what about those that are almost top of the class?  That should be a B and a C should be for those that are right in between.  That’s an important dilatation.  Not everyone is going to be great or terrible at things.  Some things we will be average at, even for the best students, and that’s ok.  School was tough for me, especially college and I was more than happy to be a C earner on multiple occasions and if I had felt like that C was a failure forget it! We need that average score!

bart gets an f

We also need the Fs for several reasons.  First if there is no fear of actual failure with real consequences what motivation is there to try your hardest?  In one of my favorite Simpsons episodes ‘Bart Gets an F’ Bart finds out if he doesn’t shape up academically he will need to repeat the 4th grade.  This fear of the consequences of failure whips him into gear and he tries as hard as he can.  And he gets a D which is a huge victory for him.  If he had just been given a C because we don’t want to hurt his feelings than he wouldn’t have tried so hard and learned something.

When I was going to school there were many times I would leave the testing center in tears, having tried my hardest but still failed.  But that was a good thing.  I was forced to push beyond what I thought my limits are and actually learn the tough stuff or at least be average competency at it. If I knew I would get a C for just showing up and doing the bare minimum forget it.

And what are we trying to do with education anyway?  What separates education from day care is the kids are supposed to be learning something in school. And with the exception of special education situations if they don’t learn the assigned topic than the education has been a failure.  They deserve an F.  It should not be this devastating humiliating thing.  It should be a normal part of life that every once in a while, and sometimes a lot, we fail at things.  What do we do with that failure and how do we make it into a success?  Now that is where the true education comes into play!

The other thing is if a C has become the new F than you lose the ability to really differentiate problems in a sea of averageness.  For example, I was bullied pretty badly from 4th and into 5th grade with it getting especially bad the latter Fall.  I downplayed this at home telling my Mom about the incidents in a laughing silly kind of way.  Like it was no big deal.  Then I got a D in Math that Christmas.  My parents knew there was a problem.  It was a touchpoint that made them aware of other issues much more important than the math.  As a result I was pulled from the school and went to private school for the rest of the year that changed my life.

I don’t think that would have happened without the D.  The teacher could have thought it was harsh to give me a D because I did try but it was the grade I deserved and I’m glad she gave it to me.  Very glad.  Ds and Fs should be signs to parents, administrators, even children that there is something wrong and we need to look for solutions.  To just whitewash everything with a vanilla C takes away that opportunity for introspection and growth.

You can say grades are stupid and we shouldn’t give them out anyway, and to a certain extent I agree with you.  If a child is progressing that is the most important thing; however, I don’t think credit should be given for learning something if it wasn’t actually done.  If we got rid of grades completely than again we lose that touchpoint to easily compare things.  Not everything in life can have a long discourse or excuse.  Sometimes you just need to be able to look at a few key figures and say ‘ok Sally is doing better at English than Math. Let’s focus on that”.

I’ve thought about not giving grades on my movie reviews because I think people sometimes don’t read the review but just go right to the grade.  This is frustrating because I may explain something that you may say ‘she didn’t like that but it would be great for me’.  Like I don’t like scary movies so I may say as a negative a movie is too scary for me but if you like scary movies than it might sound great to you!  My grade is just that-my grade.  It’s what I thought of the movie.  I don’t try to imagine what others might think.  It is just my opinion.

I also don’t use a rubric like some critics do because sometimes my feelings both good and bad can’t be quantified.  It is just an overall experience with a film that deserves a certain grade.  I feel sometimes my friends with rubrics are held back by them from giving a movie a grade they know it really deserves.   I didn’t give grades for my Scrooge month series and I think people were a little more inclined to actually read the reviews, so I’m still considering it.   What do you think? If you read reviews what do you like as far as ranking systems and scores?

Regardless, the changing in the American mind of a C from average to failure is not a good thing.  People should be allowed to fail and it not be as big of a deal.  It’s part of the learning experience.  And if they fail I’m not going to sugarcoat it with a C.  That’s doing a disservice to all the people/movies/whatever who worked so hard for that C.

Plus, how do you delineate what is truly special if there isn’t an equally strong opposite?  Has an A also lost all of its meaning and value?

What do you think?  Do you see this as a problem?  Are we too afraid to let kids fail? What about how we grade or rank other things like movies or books?  Did you ever get a D or F that whipped you into gear or helped you? What do you think the solution is?



19 thoughts on “Why Fs are Important

  1. Reblogged this on Reviewing All 54 Disney Animated Films And More! and commented:
    Why a C isn’t a failure and why an F grade is actually important, even for movie reviews. I wrote this on my regular blog but talk a lot about my movie reviews here on the Disney blog. A C my friends is not an F! A C is an average movie that had a lot I enjoyed or it would have been a D or F. And please read the reviews don’t just look at the grades. There are very few movies I don’t have something nice to say. It’s part of being a fan of something to allow for occasional failures, some average, some good and some masterpieces. I need all of the grades 🙂

  2. I understand the frustration you feel about people not reading your blogs and just checking your grades. I fear that sometimes myself. Like, someone may probably think I hated and despised ‘Polyanna’ since it got an F by my rubric, but if they read my review, they’d know I actually enjoyed it.

    1. I remember reading your review and still feeling kind of let down by the score which is silly because it is just a score. The review is much more important. That’s the real meat of what you actually thought. So even the best of us fall into the trap. That’s why I consider not doing scores but I feel like i is helpful when comparing films quickly to have a grade.

      When you see a C grade do you think I hated the movie? I feel like a lot of people do. When for me it is an average, ok, movie with some things I like and don’t like.

      1. To be fair, ‘Pollyanna’ is the only movie (well, maybe along with ‘The Love Bug’) that I felt got robbed by my rating rubric. Every other movie seemed to fit perfectly, so using ‘Pollyanna’ as an example probably may have been a bit biased.

        No, I don’t think you’ve hated “C” movies. Maybe it’s just one of those things that you have to review movies yourself to understand other reviewers. Because I just look at how I feel about movies that I’ve given C’s to: POTC 2, Narnia, Into the Woods, Watcher in the Woods, etc. For the most part, they’re average enjoyable films. Some of them I really like. So, C’s aren’t telling me that you hate a movie. Heck, some of the movies I’ve given D+’s to, I’ve actually thought were somewhat decent. Generally, the movies that I give D’s and lower to are the ones that I feel I really really dislike and hate.

    2. I think one advantage to youtube is people more likely to listen to your thoughts than read unfortunately. They are just so much more work to make…

      1. I personally don’t feel attracted to listening to many people give video reviews. There are very few whom I watch. I love the Nostalgia Critic, but he’s more of a show with a good budget, so it’s understandable.

        1. Yeah different tastes I suppose. You can go more in depth on a blog and they aren’t quite as many ranters on the blogs compared to youtube. But I just think its a little harder to jump right to the grade in a video review is all. I like both but the blog reviews are way easier to do. Plus, you don’t have all those restrictions that youtube puts in place. They make it really hard to do anything creative unless you are a big budget operation like Nostalgia Critic and even they have to go through a legal mess with some of their reviews. They are just big enough they can do it.

  3. I watch a TON of movies, yet out of your list of F’s I’ve only seen The Lorax, which to be honest I did find mildly entertaining. (Which is really all I require of any film.) Movies that would get F’s from me include Batman and Robin, Titanic, Pearl Harbor, and Jurassic Park 2. (An F for me means basically I will never waste my time watching them again)

    1. Thanks for the comment. Batman and Robin and Pearl Harbor would definitely get Fs (BandR is on my list of worst superhero movies and Pearl Harbor is on my Worst Movies Ever List). However, I have not actually reviewed those movies. My point was out of the 250 films I have reviewed on the movie blog I have given 7 Fs. The blog is fairly new (just since last August) and I focus on animation, Disney with others thrown in.

      The reason I hate The Lorax is it takes Seuss’ nuanced and subtle story about conservation and turns it into a lame movie about corporate greed. You can read the review https://54disneyreviews.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/a-seuss-strike-out-pt-1-the-lorax/

      But again don’t get too caught up with the particular movies I mention. My point in the post was that Fs are very rare and reserved for movies I hate . But when I give a C people act like I’ve given an F and that’s simply not true. A C is an average grade. It means some things I liked, some things I didn’t. I’m sure you can relate to that concept even if the films we think are average would be different. It’s the response to grades I find fascinating.

  4. Oh I absolutely get where you’re coming from with this post, because I get that a C is not necessarily bad but a median grading, whereas many people think otherwise, and we need F’s otherwise A’s mean nothing at all. And NOBODY should mess with Dr. Seuss. Mildly entertaining or not, film will never capture the gigantic influence his artwork and poetry held over me as a youth (and still does to this day.)

    1. Amen to that! I agree with everything you are saying. We need the middle ground. Maybe the old thumbs up or thumbs down dichtomy created this idea that you have to either like a movie or dislike it. The thing with both Gene and Roger is they were both columnists so you could read their reviews and get more insight beyond the thumb. Plus they had their show to explain. I just think as a society in general we need to realize it is not a bad thing for people, movies, companies whatever to fail. That’s the only way sometimes that we grow in life and push ourselves out of our comfort zone.

      And Lorax isn’t as bad as Cat in the Hat. I completely agree leave Seuss alone.

      Some other Fs I would give are Catwoman, Howard the Duck, After Earth, Lady in the Water, Attack of the Clones, Jack and Jill, Transformers 2, Spy Kids 3D, 4 Christmases. Are all just terrible in my opinion. Just haven’t done reviews on them but on the whole I think you will find I’m actually quite generous with movies. I try to be at least.

  5. Oh my God…Cat in the Hat. One of the few times I actually considered walking out of a theater. (Which I have, to date, never done.) But I thought about it. For real.

    1. I would have. I was on my mission for my church when it came out and people said it was so bad out of morbid curiosity I watched it. Holy heck… It’s without a doubt one of the worst movies ever made.

      I’ve only walked out of 2 movies in theater when I was in college. They disrespected Jesus in a way I couldn’t watch with my beliefs. That’s where I draw the line.

      Movie 43 is another one that isn’t even so bad it’s good (like say The Room). It’s just awful.

  6. I don’t know if I am qualified to talk about this honestly. The only time I was graded was in American School work done when I was homeschooled. Some of those grades annoyed me. For example, I had points taken off for saying Nixon was forced to resign or else face impeachment. The instructor had written in “No, he chose to resign”. Which is completely true, but he was forced to make that decision. Bill Clinton was also forced to resign or face impeachment, but he chose the opposite: he did not resign, and he was impeached.

    I also had an examiner take off points because I said Carter failed to get the hostages back and they thought I was giving Reagan credit and pointed out Reagan did nothing to save the hostages. This is true completely, but Carter could not get them back within his own term. I also had points off for writing “Dear gentlemen” instead of “ladies and gentlemen” in a speech I had to write, and for giving the interpretation of a poem that the author himself backed as true.

    But these were the minority cases, and they didn’t indicate any significant grade reduction. So I can’t claim I even know what it’s like to experience an F. For people who refuse to do any work or study, it might be the only solution to get them to shape up. I can’t say more than that, sorry.

    1. No problem. Thanks for reading my thoughts even if it didn’t directly apply to your life.

    2. When I give a movie a C do you feel like that is a failure and a bad grade because I know many do. I just think our society has changed in that regard. C is in the middle. Some things I liked. Some I didn’t.

      1. Not really. It’s disappointing, for example, that you gave Wreck-It Ralph only a C but it’s the same rating I would probably give for Big Hero 6 so I understand it’s better than an F.

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