“Wow, Doug, have you figured out how to solve this problem that quickly,” I asked.
We were in the Computer Programming classroom and Dr. Anderson had just given us a complex program to write.
“You’re kidding me right? I figured you would have learned by now, that you don’t have to do what the professors tell you.”
“When did that rule come into effect,” Devon was shocked. He had been in a few classes with Doug, but he had never sat by him until today. All he knew was that the click click-click, sound of Doug’s texting people, was distracting him from his work.
“Tell me Doug, what is your GPA, if you never study?”
“I have a 2.9 GPA. Didn’t anyone ever explain the way it works now days in college?” Doug gave Devon a devious waggle of his eyebrows and continued talking.
“Man, I have never turned in all the assignments and I am graduating next semester. Why would I start now?” Doug turned to see where Dr. Anderson was before he continued. “What I don’t understand Devon old boy, is why you even bother working till all hours of the night studying, never going to keg parties or anything. What, you like being labeled as a geek?”
Devon smiled. How he loved it when someone called him a geek. He was always jealous of the true geeks, all through high school; the ones who were real geeks never had to study, because they were born smart. Not him, he had to work hard to keep up his 4.0.
“I do everything the professors ask, because I want to know how things work, not just that they do. It makes me feel proud to start a class not knowing anything and by the time the term ends, I know how it works inside an out.”
Slowly shaking his head, Devon said, “I want to succeed in life, which is why I am going to college in the first place.”
“Look Devon, let me clue you in. These professors will not flunk you, even if you never turn in one assignment. All you have to do is cram for the midterm and finals and skate through four years of fun till you graduate.”
“Listen to what are you saying Doug. You think they will not flunk you?”
“I know they won’t. If they did, these professors will be fired in a New York minute. The big wigs in charge want to keep getting money from the government and they will not receive the money if the failure rate is high.”
“Oh I get it. You are going to graduate as a “Paper Tiger.” Well Doug, I feel sorry for you.” Turning back to his computer, Devon went back to work.
Doug’s face turned red with anger, as he grabbed his backpack, he whispered in Devon’s ear, something about him being a ‘stupid geek’ and then left the room. Devon never saw Doug in class again.
After graduation, Devon was hired by the Department of Safety as a Network Engineer. Within six months, he accepted a promotion to the main office, in charge of the Network Engineering Department for all the DPS branches in the state of Texas.
Devon’s work ethics and knowledge was paying off.
“Devon, when we brought you over to this office we hired a guy who graduated from your university at the same time you did. His name is Douglas Marsden. Do you know him?”
Devon inwardly groaned.
“Not well, Mr. Sanders. He was in a couple of my classes, but I never, really, knew him.” Devon wanted to tell what he knew about Doug, but he did not want to be the one to keep someone from earning a living. He kept his mouth shut.
“We hired him because he came to us with the same degree as yours and he has an impressive list of certification.”
“What is he certified in,” Devon asked.
Holding up the paper and reading it,Mr. Sanders said, “It says here he has a MCSE, CCNA and a CNA certification. He must be a frigging genius.”
Devon just nodded his head in agreement, that was all he could trust himself to do.
“Well, it is a good thing we hired him when we did, we have that big project implementing the new software and it has to be in place and working like a charm in three months. We were afraid we were going to have to loan you, back to that department, to get the job done.”
Devon was worried, in his heart he knew he was going to end up having to do Doug’s job. There was no way Doug would be able to do the job. Devon heard nothing about Doug for a month.
It was lunchtime and Devon went to the break-room to eat his lunch. After buying a coke, he sat down at a table in the back of the room to eat his lunch. He wanted to read some of the latest technology that would soon be implemented in his office.
After a few minutes, Doug came in and sat near the front of the room to have lunch also. Devon went back to reading. He had read for only a few moments when he heard Mr. Sanders say.
“Doug, would you explain to me why nothing has been done on that project I put you in charge of?”
“Well sir,” Doug began. “You know it is a large undertaking and I am only one person…”
After spending five minutes trying to sound like he knew what he was talking about and failing miserably, Doug shrugged his shoulders and finally said.“Sir I really cannot understand it, but I do not know how to do the job.”
“Well son, the way I see it, you need to go back to college if you want a career and not just a low paying job. Only this time do the work asked of you by the professors. A Paper Tiger will never succeed in the real world, only on paper.”
Doug was hanging his head in shame. He lifted his head and asked the question he should have asked a long time ago.“Sir, before I go, may I ask you what a Paper Tiger is?”
“That is someone who does not follow directions, will not study and try to learn all that their professor is willing to teach them. It is a person who studies just enough to pass the exams, and never learns a thing.”
As Doug was leaving the building, someone overheard him saying, “I should have tried harder four years ago. I am a Paper Tiger.”