This short, wonderful video by Kate Burns is an excellent explanation of the history of Economics. In producing her video, Burns discusses the development of trade, cooperative behavior (an under-appreciated facet of markets in the discipline, at least as it's taught to undergraduates), the rise and fall of central planning, the answers to tough questions examined by macroeconomists, random shocks, and the rise of behavioral economics. Economics professors could use it as an introductory video in general survey or Principles classes. I especially like the quotes "Economics is a civilising force" and "Economics is amoral, not immoral."
From Clay County Florida comes a story about a 5th grader who was denied entry into her school's gifted students program. That alone isn't news. The reasoning is pure bull diarrhea and is worthy of comment.
Seems as though the girl's school has a sliding scale for entry into the gifted program that depends on parental income. Because the girl's parents make too much money, she had to score 30 points higher on the entrance test than she did (she scored 100). Other students from lower-income families could get in with a score of 100. I suspect this is one of those "diversity" things that school administrators are fascinated with these days.
Why not just make all academic achievements depend on parental income? Assign grades depending on parental income. If mommy and daddy make $40,000 or less, little snowflake can get an A by getting only 50% correct. But if mommy and daddy make $200,000 or more, then their child must score a 95% or better just to get a C. Those standards dovetail nicely with the gifted standards.
It gives a new meaning to having to work twice as hard to get half as far.
Forbes has an interesting article on European free-market economists in US universities. Finding European universities to lack a student-centered focus and Euro econ departments focused on philosophy, Marxism, and Keynsianism, many talented free-market leaning students and faculty brought their games to the US. Will this trend continue?
-- B-school professors are sadists. They enjoy giving you quizzes, and
they do so fully knowing there was no possible way you could have
finished all the assigned reading last night.
-- You know you're wrong if your professor responds to your comment by asking, "And how did that work out for you?"
-- The probability that you will be cold-called about the one case you didn't have time to read last night is 100%.
I may have given you the impression that business school is more demanding than necessary. This is not correct.
Business school is as demanding as possible and on purpose. It's far
too cruel and scheduled to be otherwise, and all of it is for a very
good reason: To succeed in business school and the workplace, you need
to be an expert at time management. This skill cannot be taught, only
developed. And the best way to develop time management is to be beaten
round the head with it. Repeatedly.
Even if everyone learned the same amount in a course, those who manage their time better are very likely going to be more successful after graduation. But if we, as some people suggest, only grade on "what is learned", then grades becomes a less useful signal.
Grades - "marks" to our Canadian friends - not only send a signal to third parties that indicate what a person has learned, but also send a signal about the person's willingness and ability to meet deadlines. But some people have a problem with this latter signal:
A letter from former education minister Peter Bjornson sent on June
22, 2009 to Tory MLA Blaine Pedersen says students shouldn't be
deducted marks for missing deadlines. The Tories released the letter
Bjornson said that if a teacher deducts 10 or
20 per cent because a student turns work in late, then that mark is not
"an accurate indicator of what the student has learned or achieved."
said that while it is important to learn personal responsibility and
good work habits, the lateness of assignments should be reported
Bjornson told Pedersen that provincial
marking guidelines and a desire for uniform approaches to marking
dictate that ". . . marks should reflect the student's achievement and
should not be distorted as a result of work habits, attitudes or
HT to Mike Moffat. There are lots of reasons why people can't get tasks done on time. A person may be lazy, may make unrealistic goals, lacks an innate ability to learn, lacks the ability to learn quickly, etc. A grade conveniently wraps up all this information in one package.
People use grades to determine, for example, what type of employee a person will make if hired. Consider two people, Andy and Ben. Andy got an A in statistics and Ben got a B. Each of them got all the questions correct, indicating they learned the same amount of information. The only difference between them is that Ben is lazy and didn't feel like doing his stats work in a timely fashion while Andy has a solid work-ethic. Who is likely to make the better employee? If Mr. Bjornson had his way, the decision would come down to a coin flip.
The fact that people are faced with uncertainty in hiring (and other) decisions is unchanged by the belief that a grade should only reflect what someone has learned. It just makes the grade a less-meaningful and less-useful signal and will drive people to find alternative ways to ferret out this information.
Update: John Palmer wonders in the comments how long Mr. Bjornson thinks students should get? Taking Mr. Bjornson's suggestion to a limit, "forever" is the answer. In fact, one could argue based on this that there should be no deadlines of any kind: no homework deadlines, no test dates, no administration deadlines, no semesters, etc.
But one of my colleagues rightly notes that the amount of time a person needs to get homework done is the amount of time they are given.
As the learning specialist working with the most academically
challenged athletes at Florida State, Brenda Monk was confronted each
year with recruits who would seem to have little chance of surviving on
a college campus. Their deficiencies were laid out in transcripts and
psycho-educational reports submitted during the admissions process.
the athletes knew exactly what they were up against. She recalls a
conversation with one such player in her office at Doak Campbell
"You might as well know right off the bat, I can't read," he told her.
"Then how are we going to get through these college classes?" she asked.
"It's easy," he responded. "You get to read to me."
Maybe I'm old fashioned, but a person who cannot read, god help him, by the time he reaches adulthood should not be in university. Reading is a skill that a person should have before they come to college, not to be taught or glossed over while in college.
Any construction contractor who would build a house by putting up the walls and ceilings before a solid foundation is constructed is asking for trouble.
Yet every semester I run across at least one student who wants to take classes concurrently although one is a prerequisite before the other. Prerequisites should be taken as being some kind of foundation, not as some silly little inconsequential hoop that must be jumped through.
Six year graduation rates in percentage terms over the past 12 years: 12, 15, 22, 12, 16, 18, 15, 14, 16, 18, 16, and 13.
Where is this from? A Bob Huggins coached team? The University of Kansas' football team, the Fighting Manginos? Some other rogue athletic department?
Nope. Not even close. Those are the reported graduation rates at Chicago State University. The whole university, not just the athletic department. Here's the source. See also this and this for additional commentary.