In Response to: A Combustible Mix 

Heartfelt thanks to Mark Bernstein ’83 for his excellent PAW article about emeritus chemistry professor Maitland Jones Jr.

“We are here to teach you; we are not here to fail you” and “nodes are green” — two unforgettable quotes from Jones, replete with his massive sticks of colored chalk. Jones was easily one of our favorite professors at Princeton, and his exams were always tough, but always fair. Students could choose to answer or skip certain exam questions, provided that the total points added up to 100. The academic rigors — and rewards — of Jones’ legendary organic chemistry lectures were unequaled.   

Now, fast-forward 30 years to the current climate on many university campuses. Should we shelter students from “unnecessarily difficult… sadistic [and] punitive courses” like organic chemistry? Should we simply reward students for their “time and effort,” and dismiss actual merit, skill, performance, and exactitude? Good luck trying to sell such axioms to pilots or doctors, or those who train them. 

Please allow me one quote, from the heavy metal band Pantera (1992): “Is there no standard anymore?” Sadly, some students never got the memo. In the crucible, where they can be forged into something far greater, they must first be smelted, crushed, and hammered. But in many of today’s academic, business, or professional circles, young people seem to expect a perpetual, frictionless waterslide, followed by a soft landing in the swimming pool, where the water is always warm.   

Professor Jones is a superb and gifted teacher, and we wish him Godspeed. Thank you for your service to all of us, Dr. Jones! You deserve gratitude, respect, and a pleasant retirement in the tropics, where snowflakes melt, and then evaporate.

Paul R. Hladon ’93, M.D.
Los Angeles, Calif.