Report Card - The Noun Project

Our friend and frequent submitter Argle once taught evening classes in programming at his local community college. These classes tended to be small, around 20-30 students. Most of them were already programmers and were looking to expand their knowledge. Argle enjoyed helping them in that respect.

The first night of each new semester, Argle had everyone introduce themselves and share their goals for the class. One of his most notable students was a confident, charismatic young man named Emmanuel. "Manny," as he preferred to be called, told everyone that he was a contract programmer who'd been working with a local company for over a year.

"I don't really need to be here," he said. "My employer thought it would be nice if I brushed up on the basics."

Argle's first assignment for the class was a basic "Hello, world" program to demonstrate knowledge of the development environment. Manny handed it in with an eye-roll—then failed to turn in any more homework for the rest of the semester. He skipped lectures and showed up only for exams, each time smirking like he had the crib sheet to the universe in his back pocket. And yet he bombed every test in spectacular fashion, even managing to score below 50% on the true/false midterm. A layperson off the street could've outperformed him with random guessing.

Argle made attempts to offer help during office hours, all of which Manny ignored. This being college and not grade school, there wasn't much else Argle could do. Manny was an adult who'd turned in an F performance, so that was the grade he ended up with.

A few days after final grades had been submitted, Argle received a phone call from Manny. "I don't understand why you failed me," he began with full sincerity.

Baffled, Argle was speechless at first. Is this a joke? he wondered. "You didn't turn in any assignments," he explained, trying to keep emotion out of his voice. "Assignments were worth two-thirds of the grade. It's in the syllabus, and I discussed it on the first day of class."

"I thought my test grades would carry me," Manny replied.

Argle's bafflement only grew. "Even if you'd gotten perfect scores on every test, you still would've failed the class. And you had nowhere near perfect scores on the tests."

Manny broke down crying. He kept talking, almost incomprehensible through his sobs. "My employer paid for the class! They're going to see the grade! I'm not losing my job over this. I'm contesting the F!" He abruptly hung up.

Argle made a quick preemptive phone call to his department head to explain the situation, and was assured that everything would be taken care of. Upon ending the call, he shook his head in astonishment. Had Manny's employer suspected that their contractor wasn't as skilled with programming as he pretended to be? Or would his F come as a total shock to them?

A programmer who doesn't know how to program, he mused to himself, and management who can't tell the difference. Sounds like a match made in heaven.

Argle never heard about the issue again, so he never learned Manny's fate. But once he discovered our website, he came to understand that Manny was far from the only "brillant" programmer out there, and far from the only one whose incompetence went undetected for so long.

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