In So Many Words: Measuring Up

Sometimes I like to step back from blogs about educational reform and schooling for democracy to indulge in my other love: word origins. Words have always been special to me, even as a child. Early on, I attributed magical qualities to them, believing that locked within were mysterious insights which could help guide me through life.

What you are about to read is a work of etymology from a comic series I wrote in a previous life called, In So Many Words.

Call it just so much bunk, gibberish, babble, and hokum–but do enjoy!

Measuring Up, A Comic by Larry Paros
from the comic series In So Many Words by Larry Paros

Text only version

Measuring Up

Man overboard! When it comes to formal schooling, many are in over their head. And there’s nary a savior in sight.

Navigating academic waters requires scholarship, but, alas, there’s no real “ship” in scholarship, only the suffix meaning “condition” or “skill”.

We measure scholarship not by knots, but by grades. They are what enables a student to monitor his or her progress, from the Latin gradire, gress– “to step,” and pro, “forward,” following him closely, step by step, as he moves gradually up through the grades. This shows him how many steps he has fallen behind or raced ahead of the others. We also know them as marks — from the Old English mearc, “boundary”-a convenient way of setting young people off from the one another, as well as teaching them their limits.

Marks unfortunately also create stigmas, from those used by the Ancient Greeks to brand their slaves. The Romans took things a step further, using them to figuratively mark the disgrace caused by dishonorable conduct.

Today, we no longer employ branding irons, favoring instead computerized files and designations such as, “drop-out,” and “difficult to work with.” Of course, there’s always the “F ” for “Failure” to fall back on.

All this is not insignificant. The Latin, signum, “mark,” and facere, “to make,” gave us a sign how “important and full of meaning,” this all is, establishing the belief that what is significant in scholarship is primarily high marks.

Could it be, however, that what is significant is not the marks assigned by teachers but those made by the students themselves in laying out their future path — marks that are not made by anyone else but are those of their own design?

You can find more comics by following this link to In So Many Words.

Published by Kvetch Press, a Division of Neurobics, Inc.

Author Larry Paros

Illustrations by Sam Zaninovich

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced — mechanically, electronically, or by any other means, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system — without written permission from the publisher.

All violators will be towed or forced to repeat sixth grade.


Larry Paros has worked in the field of Education and Human services for more than 30 years both as a teacher and administrator. A pioneer in the creation of alternative settings, he is best known for his work with young people from varied ethnic and racial backgrounds in contexts of his own making. His book, Dancing on the Contradictions: Transforming our Schools, our Students, and Ourselves, will be available in September of 2019.

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