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Originally brought to my attention via Pharyngula, I thought this study from the AEI was worth reposting.  I work in academia and will be looking at this issue in my own university through the channels available to me.

Takeaway summary: While grade inflation is a slowly-growing problem at American universities, there is a severe concentration of the problem in education departments -- the very departments that train future teachers.  Allowing these students to graduate with lax standards and decreased effort produces ill-prepared teachers that reduce the quality of the hiring pool for grade schools.  The problem is clear and significant enough to call for focused action from education department faculty and administrators, as well as the university administrators that oversee education departments and the schools that depend on them for their classroom employees.

Money graphic:

That's not a problem specific to this university, or to Missouri, or a reflection of student preparation (education majors average lower scores than other students on entrance exams at most universities -- a problem itself, but a separate issue for now).

Teachers who graduated through lax standards are going to tend to employ those standards themselves.  This is a problem that we must begin taking steps to rectify immediately.  Higher standards in teacher training, including the requirement to show mastery of a curricular area equal to that of someone in the university's general population at least minoring in that field, are one of the most important determinants of teacher quality.

If you're working at a university, and especially if you work in or with the education department, see if similar data is available for the grade distribution at your school.  Pay first attention to the grading and standards in your own department, of course!  But to the extent to which you're expected to play a role in evaluating and responding to your colleagues at the university, you may want to grab this study.  It suggests that the problem of grade inflation bears particular scrutiny in the very department that will be training future teachers.

Note: my overall opinion of the American teacher corps, as someone who went through 20-odd years of public school from 1st grade through the Ph.D., is that teachers are hardworking, underpaid troopers who deserve the best training and skills we can impart, just like every other service professional our societies need.  I hope comments are constructive and focused.  Thanks.

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From the Caucus blog on nytimes.com:

As Mr. Perry, wearing a white shirt and no jacket, shook hands with a mix of well-wishers and naysayers on the cafe’s patio, Kristin Bunce, 43, helped ease her 9-year-old son, Sam Beane, into Mr. Perry’s path.

Sam, wide-eyed and looking up at the governor, asked Mr. Perry a question. The governor crouched down so he was just inches from Sam’s face, and in a soft, calm voice began to answer.

“How old do I think the earth is?” Mr. Perry said. “You know what? I don’t have any idea. I know it’s pretty old, so it goes back a long, long way. I’m not sure anybody actually knows completely and absolutely how long, how old the earth is.”

Ms. Bunce urged Sam to ask the governor about his views on evolution, and Mr. Perry began to answer her question, still talking to Sam.

“And here your mom was asking about evolution, and you know, it’s a theory that’s out there and it’s got some gas in it,” Mr. Perry continued. “In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools.”

He added: “I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right. Thank you.”

“I asked him how old he thought the earth was,” said Sam, a rising fourth grader, recounting the exchange. “He said he didn’t know.”

No, Governor, we don't.  There was, in fact, an election about that.  You might recall, since you were governor at the time, but perhaps you didn't care.  Here's a quick recap: the State Board of Education tried to insert creationism into the science standards, virtually assuring the State of Texas would join the losing sides in a string of court cases explaining that the Supreme Court has very plainly stated that, no, you can't do that.  Fortunately, the knuckle-dragging Luddites lost, being replaced by board members who wanted science standards to include just the science.

But Governor, if you do have any information on some Texas schools where creationism is part of the curriculum in a public school, do please let us know.  We're always up to win yet another lawsuit.

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The article below the fold advances the thesis that in future debt ceiling negotiations Democrats must consider the debt ceiling as expendable, and default as a possibility, in order to prevent worse economic damage that would occur from assumed replays of the most recent debate.

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This seems to have gotten lost in the whirlwind, but remember what the key elements here are.

In exchange for not defaulting on the United States' word of honor, which in any other year would have passed without a word, the Republican extract $2.5trillion in spending cuts.

No revenue increases are permitted to take up any of the deficit reduction in this $2.5trillion figure.

The cuts will be designed strictly by the White House, who become "the ones that cut [Popular Program X]."

Congress heroically rides to the rescue of Popular Program X by voting against the cuts; Obama vetoes, and without Democratic votes to override a Democratic President's veto (which override would devastate the nation's finances anyway), the Republicans are dashed in their valiant attempt to preserve Popular Program X.

This is not a neutral compromise.  Neutral would be a debt ceiling increase, and fighting out the budget's spending and revenues when it's time to write the budget.  Compromise would be a package of spending cuts and tax revenues.  This, if it gets adopted, is a 100% Republican victory.

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The part of the Constitution that enumerates the powers of Congress -- beloved of conservatives who wish to claim that any law they don't like exceeds the Constitutional writ -- is Article 1, Section 8.  That article is one long sentence with multiple clauses, a few of which are below:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
...
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited
Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings
and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
...
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
...

And so on.

Reading through this list, I realized something.  This isn't just a list of powers.  It's a list of duties.

Not only was Congress being given the power to do these things, the expectation was being written that Congress would do these things.  A Congress that failed to establish post offices, or provide for the Army, or establish federal courts, or set up a patent office, would be derelict in its duty.  The one exception -- we don't want the Congress constantly declaring war or granting letters of marque -- refers to a power to be exercised in discrete instances.  The rest of the powers enumerate the ongoing responsibilities required to govern a nation.  Section 9 lists acts Congress must not do; but no other section enumerates what it must do.  Section 8, then, is what the Constitution expects of Congress.

But this means that the current crop of Congressional freshmen of the Tea Party Caucus has unilaterally abrogated the very first duty on this list: they refuse to exercise the power to lay and collect taxes.  Many subscribe generally to a philosophy that views taxation as theft; all, up to the leadership, are refusing in the face of urgent need to raise the taxes the Government needs to exercise all the other duties listed in the section.  If they refuse to do so now, then there is no situation whatsoever that could convince them to lay and collect a tax.  In so refusing, they fail to fulfill the duties of Congress, and are thereby derelict.

Just a thought on interpreting the current situation.  The problem we have with Tea Party Congressmen is that they don't entirely want to be Congressmen, because doing that would involve the hard parts of the job.

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