Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Exploring the Goreocosm

If the caliber of mail received here is any indication, the readership of the Man Without Qualities likely has more than a general familiarity with recent theories explaining the early history of the Universal Macrocosm.

These begin, of course, with the “Big Bang Theory,” which posits the near instantaneous swelling of the Macrocosm from a point of virtual nothingness. As many readers will no doubt have recited to their children at bedtime, Albert Einstein believed the Universe to have a uniform distribution of matter, but his own calculations proved the exact opposite. Einstein was compelled to amend his original equation. He used the term "cosmological constant", which created a spherical, four-dimensional closed universe. The Big Bang Theory is supplemented by “Inflation Theory,” which posits that following the Big Bang itself, the Macrocosm underwent a period of expansion at an inconceivable rate, a period known as the “inflationary epoch.” During this eventful epoch, the Macrocosm in less than one thousandth of a second doubled in size at least one hundred times, from an atomic nucleus to 1035 meters in width!

As with the Universal Macrocosm, so too with the early Al Goreocosm. We have already seen that Mr. Gore’s official biographies posit his near-instantaneous swelling to quasi-genius status from the virtual nothingness of a slacking Saint Alban’s and Harvard freshman “stoner.” In a previous post, the Man Without Qualities, following in the tortured path of Einstein himself, has suggested (for purposes of theoretical investigation only, of course) a kind of the “Goreomological Constant” in the form of possible “crib notes” helpfully provided by the office of Gore pere.

No doubt spurred on by Aaron Sorkin’s clarion call for a more intense analysis of Al Gore’s résumé, a helpful and astute reader has now identified the missing Goreomological “Inflationary Epoch!” It seems that Larry Summers, once Treasury Secretary in the Clinton/Gore administration and now President of Harvard, has been kicking up quite a fuss about “grade inflation” at that institution. That fuss, in turn, has resulted in the appearance of a Boston Globe report on Harvard's grade inflation. According to the Globe and the helpful reader, undergraduate honors at Harvard increased from 32 percent in 1946 to 91 percent in 2001, with the greatest growth in the 1960s and early '70s, and then again during the last 15 years. Vietnam-era draft boards panicked Harvard students and teachers, so that inflated grades became the moral equivalent of opposition to the war, helping prevent all but 19 Harvard College men from dying in Southeast Asia. It seems that 1969 was the defining moment in grade inflation: SAT scores for entering freshmen fell for the first time in years, yet the proportion of A's and B's shot up by 10 percent and the rate of honors continued climbing sharply. This coincides exactly with the time Mr. Gore started to "get serious."

Did Mr. Gore do well at Harvard after all? Or did he just bobble up into the ‘honors” category in a crapulous fog of marijuana smoke? Perhaps a statistician such as the redoubtable Iain Murray (or perhaps Charles Murtaugh) would care to undertake an analysis of whether Mr. Gore really would have received honors at Harvard if adjustment is made for the Vietnam era Goreomological “Inflationary Epoch.”

Now, the Man Without Qualities is not much of a credentialist, and would not ordinarily advocate a close analysis of any politician’s undergraduate résumé. It is only the curious syzygy of Mr. Gore’s biographical pretentiousness, Mr. Sorkin’s insouciance and Mr. Summers’ reforming zeal that has led to this juncture. But syzygys have often been associated with the birth of great figures in history – so why not Mr. Gore? Of course, with friends like Messrs. Sorkin and Summers, one might wonder if Mr. Gore might be selling apples on Canal Street by the end of the decade. But that will be revealed only in the fullness of time.

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