Friday, July 16, 2021

Insights into the Student Experience in the Novel Life After Truth by Ceridwen Dovey

"Life After Truth", by Ceridwen Dovey
After reading "Life After Truth", by Ceridwen Dovey (2020) I understand a little better why North American students appear obsessed by Grade Point Averages (GPA). The novel is about a reunion of students at Harvard University. While fictional, Dovey studied at Harvard after completing school in Australia. The work ranges over the issues someone fifteen years out of university faces, in terms of life choices made, when confronted by those who made different choices at the reunion. At one point a character who decided to take a socially worthy, but low paying job, reflects on how top NY firms would headhunt Harvard graduates, based solely on their high GPAs. The novel is at times wistful about college life, at times savage about human vanities.

My experience of university is not quite on par with Dovey. But I did complete school in Australia and eventually studied in North America. My study was at a much less prestigious institution, but even so there seemed an unhealthy obsession with grades and GPAs. I understood I needed a specific minimum grade in each course to be able to graduate, but beyond that, what did it matter? Out in the real world, no one looks at grades you got in specific courses, they just check you have the appropriate qualification for the job. There are other measures of how good you are at some task. Perhaps it is different for recruiting by NY headhunters, but none of them is ever going to look at me anyway, so why worry?

But even now, today, during a pandemic and a North American heat wave, I am reading heart wrenching social media posts from students worrying about getting high grades. Why worry about this, when viruses, and the planet itself, is trying to kill you? Perhaps educators are at fault for part of this, by focusing students on grades. Perhaps I am guilty of that myself.

I recommend Dovey's "Life After Truth". But it does get a bit slow in the middle, with a bit more on child rearing and the problems of couples than I really wanted to know. Also the death of a character briefly mentioned at the beginning is too hastily resolved at the end.

I never went to university with anyone rich, famous, or infamous, as Dovey apparently has. I did not live on campus and was not part of a student club. For that I am grateful, as it all sounds an awful experience.

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