The five-star review

five star pic

I had a professor in college who routinely gave out Cs for a job well done. Our work in that philosophy class, Inner and Outer Freedom, picked by a silly me as a college freshman, was mostly reading and understanding essays written by great philosophers and then writing our own papers to reflect our thinking.

My professor was very supportive when he gave out the Cs and, by the way, I got plenty of them. “That C means you got everything right,” he’d tell us. Nice work!” A C+ on the next one meant I was on my way to doing a better job. There were some Bs on papers and a rare A or two in the class that semester, earned by astonished students whose faces I still remember as they sat in their seats and received these remarkable grades. My grades ran the roller coaster C and lower course, dipping into the unimaginable lower-than-a-D range. The words at the top of my D- – paper were harsher than other comments I’d received. I did a good job showing him what I did know, he said, and what I did not know, he added, which was considerable. But I didn’t fail and that was important to note, he also told me.

I admit, I felt beaten, but I had a lot of company and I commiserated with my classmates. “He’s way too hard a grader.” “His expectations are ridiculous!” we’d say. It wasn’t fair. I trudged on. I read and wrote and tried to understand those philosophers. My final grade that semester? A C+. Nice job. Shows improvement! The one student who got an A? We were in awe of her.

So what does this have to do with a five-star review? Have you seen all the stars out there? If a book is pretty good, the majority of the reading public thinks it’s great and places it in the same category as the greatest books ever written. When I see a review like this, I think back to my freshman year in college and I’ve realized something. Although I might have understood considerably little in that class, I took from it and have carried with me all these years, the same standards my professor was trying to show us.

So for anyone who is wondering, here they are:

Not good *
OK **
Good! ***
Really good!! ****
Great!!! *****

And my grade for this small essay? I’m hoping for C+ or better!


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