A Letter to a B Student
Unit 11
Pre-reading Questions
 What grades do you usually get for the
courses you have been taking? Are you
 Imagine yourself to be a teacher and that
you are to write a letter to a student who is
disappointed with the grade he gets. What
would say to him in the letter?
 What do you think the author will say to his
About the author
 The author, Robert Oliphant is an
English professor at California State
University at Northridge. The text is an
excerpt of a sensitive and thoughtful
letter to a student on keeping a sense
of perspective on grades. It appeared
in Liberal Education in 1986.
Structural Analysis
 Four parts:
 Part1(1)The 1st paragraph serves as an
introduction, which introduces the topic
of the letter.
 Part2(2-5)
 Key word: disappointment
 What Grades mean and do not mean
 Part3 (6-8)
 key words: The student as performer;
the student as human being.
 Getting a B in class does not mean one
will always be a performer in life.
 Part4 (9-10)
 Key word: Perspective
 In a complex society like ours, labels
are necessary but they should be kept
in perspective.
Detailed Analysis
 Paragraph1
 What change about grades has the writer
mentioned briefly?
 What, according to the writer, has caused
the change?
 Has the writer stated his purpose of writing
in this paragraph?
fairly good; enough in amount or quality
a respectable income
a respectable grade
This increase makes my salary fairly
respectable at last.
 (result, distance, etc.)
 ! respectful, respective
better in quality or value
Of the two books, I think this one is superior.
someone superior to you
He is superior to all the other competitors.
clearly superior; definitely superior;
far superior
 a standard (of behavior or ability) that is
regarded as average or generally
 the national norm
 the norms of civilized society
 above below
 The qualifications or abilities required for
doing sth.
 We must check the eligibility of all
 eligibility for membership
 eligibility to become President
Eligibility for American president
 be a natural born citizen of the United States;
 be at least thirty-five years old;
 have been a permanent resident in the
United States for at least fourteen years.
paragraph 2-5
 In this part, the writer has made clear his
purpose of writing. Can you find it ?
 To put your disappointment in perspective
by considering exactly what your grade
means and doesn’t mean
 How does the writer explain the notion of
 inadequate: (to, for) not good enough in
quality, ability, size, etc. for a particular
 The supply of water is inadequate for the trip.
 I feel inadequate to the occasion.
 The supply is inadequate to meet the
 a feeling of personal inadequacy
 the shocking inadequacy of school system
formal use
be held in high repute 很有名望
(be) of high/good/bad/evil repute 名誉好
 This is a district of bad repute on account
of many robberies.
 (be) of some repute
 I knew him only by repute.
a zero-sum game
 zero-sum game就是指“零和博弈”,指参
合作的可能。例如:In the long run,
participation in the information age may not
be a zero-sum game.(从长远看,信息时代
 "The China-US relationship is a mutually beneficial
and win-win relationship rather than a zero-sum
game," Zhou told the conference, which was held
to commemorate the 30th anniversary of ChinaU.S. diplomatic relations.
 (中国前驻美大使)周文重在纪念中美建交30周年
 To lose, to fail, to go under, to go broke---…
 失利失败,倾家荡产
 prosperity: the state of being successful and
 "Sin" is often used to mean an action that is
prohibited or considered wrong. In some
religions (notably in Christianity), sin can
refer not only to physical actions taken, but
also to thoughts and feelings.
 Seven deadly sins
 Common ideas surrounding sin in various
religions include:
 Punishment from other people or from God
 The possibility of forgiveness of sins, often
through communication with a deity or
intermediary; in Christianity often referred to
as salvation.
shrug away
 shrug off: ignore sth. or act as if it is not
 It is difficult to shrug off that kind of
 She can shrug off her troubles and keep
 她能够把烦恼置之度外而依旧保持笑容。
put…in perspective
 get/keep… in perspective
 We must put the problem in
perspective; it is serious.
take…at face value
 Believe something without thinking that
there may be another meaning
 Unfortunately, I took what he said at face
 She took the story at face value and did not
know he was joking.
 an English proficiency test
 英语能力测验
 Do you think the TOEFL score is a good
yardstick for English proficiency?
 你认为托福成绩是一种衡量英语流利程度的
 (to) match; to be in agreement; equivalent
 符合; 相当; 相一致;
 The wing of a bird corresponds to the arm
of a man.
 Her expenses do not correspond to her
 她的收入与支出不相称。
 To keep possession of; avoid losing
 She tried to retain her balance.
 This village still retains its old-world
 She retains a clear memory of her school
 !!! hold keep maintain preserve save
 the writer’s personal experience
 There is a distinction between ____and
 What’s the revelation of his story ?
make a point of
 To do sth. deliberately and carefully, esp. so
that somebody else notices
 特别注意做; 有意做某事
 She made a point of coming over to speak
to us.
 她有意走过来和我们说话。
GI-Bill students
GI-Bill or the GI-Bill of Rights
The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944
President Franklin Roosevolt
It provided economic and educational
assistance to veterans. The major impact
was on education, employment, housing, etc.
 就是《退伍军人权利法案》。该法案最先于
助。 之后该法案历经大小修改,被沿用至今。
 $ 500 per year
 allowance of $ 50 per month
 In 1967, a single veteran’s benefits were
raised to $130 a month; in 1970 they rose to
$175; under the monthly allowance rose to
$220; in 1974 it rose to $270, $292 in 1976,
and then $311 a month in 1977.
The professor flunked Hunter.
She flunked the physics examination.
 Perspective: the way we should regard
 What is the writer’s view concerning social
 How does the writer relate a student’s
academic performance with his future life?
in international terms 考虑到国际情况
in real terms 考虑到实际情况
on good terms 关系融洽
In terms of…关于,谈到
 to cause difficulty in movement or activity
 阻碍;妨碍;牵制
 We hoped in this way to hamper its
movements and reduce its speed.
 我们希望那样会阻滞它的行动,降低它的速度。
 The search was hampered by appalling
weather condition.
Translation Exercises
 1. He was hospitalized with acute
appendicitis, with the result that he missed
the final examination.
 2. As many more people came to the lecture
than expected, there were not enough
handouts to go round.
 3. No matter what a long day he may have,
he makes a point of checking his e-mail box
before going to bed.
 4. Unemployment is found in all countries in
the world, but the governments vary in their
way to handle the problem.
 5.Anyone who has come to a foreign
country for the first time is apt to find
everything around him both strange and
 6.The football fans were very disappointed
at the performance of the players of both
 7.Never take what he says at face value.
Think it over yourself.
 8.The doctor’s words removed his fears
about the operation.
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