An Appeal for a Grade Change, a Lifetime Later

After 2 children and 45 years of marriage, I would like to appeal my C grade in ‘Marriage and the Family’

Bonnie Rubin
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readJul 25, 2019


Photo courtesy of the author

Drake University
Des Moines, Iowa 50311

Dear Registrar,

As we wind up the school year, I would like to appeal my course grade for “Marriage and the Family,” which I took in 1971–72.

Asking for a grade change so many decades later may seem unorthodox, but I have some compelling evidence. My husband, David, and I will be celebrating 45 years of marriage this month. I believe that fact alone shows my command of the subject matter — far more than the C on my transcript would indicate.

Put me in front of any academic committee and I will prove that I am better than mediocre. In addition to having the same spouse, I’ve occupied the same house and same job for 30 years — 25 of which were spent at the same newspaper (no small feat, in a crumbling industry). We simultaneously raised two children and buried four parents — an exercise in both hanging in and letting go.

Back in the early ’70s, much of the curriculum was devoted to personal finance: applying for a mortgage, buying insurance, shopping for appliances and furniture, and never incurring a penny in late fees or interest charges. I’m confident that I have aced this material as well — although I’m still unclear on whether I can legally remove the “under penalty of law” tag from the couch cushions without a SWAT team bursting through the door.

As I recall, the class also focused on running a household — which I’ve managed to do without too many complaints. Somehow, groceries got bought, food got made, laundry got done. True, I still have no idea how to remove mustard or grass stains, but I’m pretty sure it involves baking soda and/or cider vinegar.

So, given my obvious mastery of the subject matter, where did it all go south? I flunked a pop quiz on meat.

I can still remember the feeling of panic as professor Lewis McNurlen handed out a blank silhouette of a cow — this was Iowa, after all — and I tried to fill in all the various cuts of beef while the minutes…



Bonnie Rubin
Human Parts

Bonnie Miller Rubin spent 25 years as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune covering health/family issues. She is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal.