How the hell did Larry Sellers’ social studies teacher give him a passing grade on his homework?

There are many unsolved mysteries surrounding the disappearance of The Dude’s car in the 1998 Coen Brothers “The Big Lebowski.” Who really stole the car? Was it indeed little Larry Sellers? If not, how did his homework end up in Dude’s car? Intriguing and mystifying questions, for sure, but what I’m most curious about is, how on Earth did Larry’s teacher give him a passing grade for that horrendous homework assignment?

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We don’t have all the information we need to properly grade this, but here’s what we know. Larry Sellers is a 15-year-old high school freshman and this is his homework. His social studies homework, to be exact. Based on what I’m looking at, I’m going to have to guess that the assignment was to write (at least) one page on the Louisiana Purchase. Already this feels like a stunningly easy assignment for a ninth-grader, but Larry is a fucking dunce, so he screws it up. As you can see, little Larry got a D. That’s laughable. There is absolutely nothing passable about this paper.

That image is tough to read, so I’ve transcribed Larry’s words [sic] below.

The most important purchase in history is the Louisiana Purchase. It was also the most important evente. It happened in President Jeffersons 1st administration. Its when the United States bought 827,987 square miles of lande from the French guys. The Louisiana Purchase was very There was alot of land. It went from the Mississipi River to the Rocky Mountains. This land went also from Gulf of Mexico to the Canada peoples border. The United States government guys bought alot of square miles out of this area of lande. There were many reasons for the Louisiana Purchase. The Spanish king was going to give sum of his lande to the French. The head chief of our government didn’t like that idea because he thought that the French dudes would interfear with the stuff going on with the United States. There was a man named Robert Livingston who was the new minister to France. He was told by Thomas Jefferson to try and stop from him giving the lande to France. When the day of April, 10 1803 came, Napoleon of France told the finance minister that he ??? persuede all of the Louisiana Purchase to the United States. Robert Livingston agrees to pay 15 million for the whole area of the Louisiana Purchase. It was signed on May 2nd. Finally it became a treaty on July 4, 1803.

It’s hard to know where to even begin, but I suppose that very first sentence is a good place to start. Where is the evidence the Louisiana Purchase was “the most important purchase in history?” I’m not saying it wasn’t a big deal, but a lot of goods and land have changed hands in the sands of time. Larry’s next sentence isn’t a whole lot better. In fact, it’s much worse. It’s more of a sentence fragment, really, and it makes even less sense than the first. Is Larry suggesting the Louisiana Purchase was the most important event in human history? There’s no way anybody — not even Thomas Jefferson — would agree with that. And, as Larry’s teacher points out, that’s not how you spell “event.”

As you can see, the rest of the paper is littered with spelling mistakes like this. Larry is constantly adding “Es” to the end of words that do not end in “E,” most notably “land.” He also always spells “a lot” as one word.

As for the substance of the paper, he is basically right in that the United States did procure roughly 828,000 square miles of land from “the French guys,” but why didn’t he just say “the French” or even “France”? Everything after this is a complete jumble that makes no sense unless you already know the history of the Louisiana Purchase. There’s no mention that the land Spain was handing over to the French was the Louisiana territory. Larry never explains that Livingston’s task was originally to just negotiate for the sale of New Orleans. Larry also fails to ever mention James Monroe and never explains who Napoleon is.

To Larry’s credit, he gets a few dates right in here. April 10, 1803 is the day Napoleon Bonaparte revealed to his own treasury minister he was considering selling the Louisiana territory to the United States. He doesn’t mention the U.S. Senate’s vote to ratify the treaty, however, which didn’t happen until October 20.

From start to finish, this homework assignment is a total disaster. The highest possible grade it should have gotten was a D- for the recognition that little Larry knew the area of the territory and the fact that it was a transaction between France and the United States.

The complete lack of information that would demonstrate how Larry really understood what happened or who was involved, plus the numerous spelling and grammatical errors, should have made it impossible for his teacher to have given this a passing grade. Clearly, he or she just didn’t want to upset Larry’s father, Arthur Digby Sellers, who isn’t exactly a lightweight.

[photo: Gramercy Pictures]