Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Minority View: Academic Dishonesty

by Walter E. Williams

College education is a costly proposition with tuition, room and board at some colleges topping $50,000 a year. Is it worth it? Increasing evidence suggests that it's not. Since the 1960s, academic achievement scores have plummeted, but student college grade point averages (GPA) have skyrocketed. In October 2001, the Boston Globe published an article entitled "Harvard's Quiet Secret: Rampant Grade Inflation." The article reported that a record 91 percent of Harvard University students were awarded honors during the spring graduation. The newspaper called Harvard's grading practices "the laughing stock of the Ivy League." Harvard is by no means unique. For example, 80 percent of the grades given at the University of Illinois are A's and B's. Fifty percent of students at Columbia University are on the Dean's list. At Stanford University, where F grades used to be banned, only 6 percent of student grades were as low as a C. In the 1930s, the average GPA at American colleges and universities was 2.35, about a C plus; today the national average GPA is 3.2, more than a B.

Today's college students are generally dumber than their predecessors. An article in the Wall Street Journal (1/30/97) reported that a "bachelor of Arts degree in 1997 may not be the equal of a graduation certificate from an academic high school in 1947." The American Council on Education found that only 15 percent of universities require tests for general knowledge; only 17 percent for critical thinking; and only 19 percent for minimum competency. According to a recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy, the percentage of college graduates proficient in prose literacy has declined from 40 percent to 31 percent within the past decade. Employers report that many college graduates lack the basic skills of critical thinking, writing and problem-solving and some employers find they must hire English and math teachers to teach them how to write memos and perform simple computations.

What is being labeled grade inflation is simply a euphemism for academic dishonesty. After all, it's dishonesty when a professor assigns a grade the student did not earn. When a university or college confers a degree upon a student who has not mastered critical thinking skills, writing and problem-solving, it's academic dishonesty. Of course, I might be in error calling it dishonesty. Perhaps academic standards have been set so low that idiots could earn A's and B's.

Academic dishonesty and deception go beyond fraudulent grades. "Minding the Campus" is a newsletter published by the Manhattan Institute. Edward Fiske tells a chilling tale of deception titled "Gaming the College Rankings" (9/17/09). The U.S. News and World Report college rankings are worshiped by some college administrators, and they go to great lengths to strengthen their rankings. Some years ago, University of Miami omitted scores of athletes and special admission students so as to boost SAT scores of incoming freshmen. At least one college mailed dollar bills to alumni with a request that they send them back to the annual fund thereby inflating the number of alumni donors.

"Gaming the College Rankings" contains an insert by John Leo, who is the editor of "Minding the Campus," reporting that in the mid-1990s, Boston University raised its SAT scores by excluding the verbal scores of foreign students whilst including their math scores. Monmouth University simply added 200 SAT points to its group scores. University of California reported that 34 of its professors were members of a prestigious engineering association when in fact only 17 of their current faculty were. Baylor University offered students, who were already admitted to the university, $300 in bookstore credits to take the SAT again in the hopes of boosting Baylor's SAT averages.

Academic dishonesty, coupled with incompetency, particularly at the undergraduate level, doesn't bode well for the future of our nation. And who's to blame? Most of the blame lies at the feet of the boards of trustees, who bear ultimate responsibility for the management of our colleges and universities.


Forum at Columbia University Whitewashes UN and Arab States

Rather to be expected from Columbia, paradoxically. The NYC Jewish influence is still strong there and most NYC Jews are rusted-on Leftists

With all the irony of President Richard Nixon's famous quip that, "there can be no whitewash at the White House," the ivory tower played host to a September 25 "debate" at Columbia University's Casa Italiano that exonerated the United Nations Relief Works Agency in Palestine (UNRWA) and human rights violators throughout the Arab-Islamic world.

The conference was held in a small auditorium, decorated in classic Greco-Roman style with ornate columns and crimson curtains. The audience of about 100 filtered in slowly, filling the room with students, UNRWA employees, and professors.

In a debate entitled, "UNRWA historical performance in a changing context" and a roundtable labeled "The contribution of Palestine refugees to the economic and social development in the region," Rex Brynen of McGill University and Susan Akram of Boston University's School of Law distinguished themselves by castigating Israeli "occupation" while engaging in apologetics for Arab leaders who have violated Palestinian refugee rights.

Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University also made an appearance as the debate's moderator—an indication of the spectrum of opinions present—deviating from his role as an objective overseer only to reiterate his colleagues' anti-Israel and anti-Western diatribes.

To provide some context, UNRWA was established to accommodate the needs of several hundred thousand Palestinian refugees of Israel's 1948 War of Independence. The organization was originally intended to serve for a transitory period, during which Palestinian refugees would resettle in Jordan (including the Jordanian-administered West Bank), Egyptian-administered Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.

Sixty-years later, UNRWA oversees a massive welfare organization that perpetuates the economic dependency of 4.5 million Palestinians and nurtures their impractical belief that they will one day return to the homes their families abandoned in modern-day Israel. The Arab states, as one former UNRWA commissioner general noted, want to "keep [the refugees' situation] as an open sore, as an affront to the UN and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don't give a damn whether the refugees live or die."

That history seems to have escaped the panel's academics, who, along with two former commissioner generals of UNRWA and the current commissioner general, urged the audience to "draw lessons from [UNRWA's] 60 years of service."

Brynen stole the forum's first half with a witty but deceptive portrayal of the refugees' status. He related the tragedies of Palestinian history, ending with the first and second intifada. "It sounds like a Christmas carol," he said of his list of Palestinian and (unmentioned) Israeli suffering.

He went on to implicitly chide the West for confronting UNRWA over the complete lack of Holocaust education at its schools. UNRWA initially said it would rectify the situation, yet waffled under pressure from militant Palestinian groups. Over a week after the conference ended, UNRWA announced it would incorporate Holocaust studies in its schools' curricula. "I'm surprised you haven't sprouted horns," Brynen joked with the current UNRWA commissioner general, Karen Abu Zayed.

Akram and Khalidi chose a different path: exculpating the Arab states for their abuse of Palestinians at Israel's expense. "I've written articles critical of Arab treatment of (Palestinian) refugees," Khalidi stated. "But the areas where the least rehabilitation (of refugees) has taken place are those under Israeli occupation (the West Bank and Gaza Strip)."

History begs to differ: Before the First Intifada, the Palestinians under Israeli administration had the fourth fastest growing economy in the world. At the same time, Arab Shi'ite and Maronite militias were hunting down Palestinians in Lebanon, while Palestinians in Jordan were reeling from the Black September massacres.

Susan Akram was even blunter than Khalidi in dismissing criticism of the Arab states' failure to take responsibility for the Palestinian refugees within their borders. "Arab states are under no legal obligation to provide for Palestinian refugees," she said. Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon have hosted the Palestinians "at great social and economic cost" (a particularly ironic statement for a forum entitled, "The contribution of Palestine refugees to the economic and social development in the region").

She noted the "surprising respect of Arab states for Palestinians," and singled out the Casablanca Protocol, a document published by Morocco in 1965 that ostensibly gives "Palestinians the same rights as Arab citizens of the host states." There are only two minor caveats: Morocco is not a primary host of Palestinian refugees, and the Arab World has expressed little interest in its "Protocol."

Unmentioned is that of the three major Arab host states of Palestinian refugees only Jordan has unilaterally granted the Palestinians citizenship, and that step was taken before the 1967 Six-Day War as part of the Jordanians' annexation of the West Bank. It is also noteworthy that in the Israeli-administered West Bank only one-sixth of Palestinian refugees live in UNRWA camps, while in Lebanon, two-thirds of the country's approximately 400,000 Palestinians live in UNRWA housing.

Israel and the West have tried to convince UNRWA and the Arab States to repatriate the Palestinians to the nations in which they now reside. Conferences like this one only feed the impractical notion that UNRWA's program of maintaining the Palestinians' refugee status indefinitely will prevail. Akram, Khalidi, and Brynen know that there is no chance that democratic Israel will commit demographic suicide by allowing millions of Palestinian refugees to settle within its borders. Their defense of UN excesses and Arab human rights abusers does a disservice to the very people they claim to want to help.


Supermarket boss criticises UK education system

The chief executive of Tesco, the nation’s largest private employer, has criticised educational standards for failing to prepare teenagers for the workplace. Sir Terry Leahy said that standards in schools were often “woefully low” and that the education system left it to private companies to “pick up the pieces”. He said that teachers were hindered from doing their jobs by red tape and criticised the system’s “back office” bureaucracy.

Tesco is unhappy that it spends time training recruits in basic numeracy and “communications” skills, which includes writing, because workers are ill-equipped when they leave school. Sir Terry’s forthright comments to a food industry conference were echoed by Asda, Britain’s second biggest supermarket chain.

An Asda executive told the event that low educational standards had led to a state of affairs where parents in deprived areas were choosing to spend money on alcohol rather than on nappies for their children.

Sir Terry told the audience of food manufacturers and retailers: “We depend on high standards in our schools, as today’s schoolchildren are tomorrow’s team; they will be the ones we need to help build our business. “Sadly, despite all the money that has been spent, standards are still woefully low in too many schools. Employers like us, and I suspect many of you, are often left to pick up the pieces.”

He added: “From my perspective there are too many agencies and bodies, often issuing reams of instructions to teachers, who then get distracted from the task at hand: teaching children. “I am not saying that retail is like education, merely that my experience tells me that when it comes to the number of people you have in the back office, less is more.”

Sir Terry’s criticism is potentially embarrassing for Gordon Brown, as the Tesco chief is a member of the Prime Minister’s Business Council for Britain. A spokesman for Tesco said that the comments were not political.

Tesco employs 280,000 staff, more than 40,000 of whom are aged under 19. It has 900 apprentices.

The Confederation of British Industry said that Sir Terry’s views were shared by many of its members. Andy Clarke, Asda’s chief operating officer, told the IGD conference that the growing number of 18 to 24-year-olds who were not in education or employment was leading to a vicious circle of low educational attainment and high unemployment in deprived areas. He said: “No one can deny that Britain has spawned a generation of young people who struggle to read, write or do simple maths. That’s why we’re finding packs of nappies discarded in the booze aisle, as the last few pounds are spent on alcohol rather than childcare.”

Tesco’s intervention comes as two other leading business figures claim that British qualifications leave school-leavers less “marketable” than their European counterparts. Sir Mike Rake, chairman of BT Group, and Sir Christopher Gent, chairman of GlaxoSmithKline, said that A levels had been devalued by grade inflation. Sir Christopher said: “Increasingly, people in the biggest companies are internationally mobile, and having an academic framework that is consistent around the world is quite appealing. Grade inflation has devalued the A-level and it is now an OK exam that used to be an excellent one.”

A spokesman for the Department for Children, School and Families said: “Standards have never been higher in our secondary schools. We are working to lift the burden of administration tasks from teachers.” Michael Gove, the Shadow Schools Secretary, denied last night that Sir Terry’s comments were part of a wider Tory-inspired plan.


1 comment:

Jack Reylan said...

When Obama falls in 2010, we should go through the grant-grubbing Ivy Leagues that produce commie-nutty organizers with a flame thrower! Ivy League universities are not good at getting students jobs, only grants to be commie nutty organizers. If you are liberal, anything you do is inherently ethical for the cause, but if you are a conservative, and believe in GOD, family or business, your very moral fiber, even down to trivial autonomic responses, is subject to persecution as either dangerously criminal or the result of clinical illness. Bush 43 had two Ivy degrees and they treated him as stupid because he was conservative even though he had better grades and entrance scores and took a lot tougher courses than Gore. The lowest level university bureaucrats actually suffer the worst affectations and are likey to be the most vicious persecutors of your children. No business ever trusts such left wing graduates who don't believe in capitalism and become crooks because they are taught the only way business makes money is crooked so they seek to avenge their unemployability through their own crookedness. The universities consider real jobs and competition beneath them, so they want their little sissies to live off grants, even in the hard sciences or business. How many of their engineering professors have Professional Engineering certification? Almost none! They love foreign students because they slave up and don't expect professors to actually work for the tuition, like American students do. No middle class parent should consider sending their kids there, because these schools will destroy your entire family. The only schools that understand middle-class values are for-profits. Middle class parents foolish enough to buy into the Ivy League dream die way too young.