Wednesday, July 9, 2014


A recent article expounding the virtues of a life-sized maze--complete with photo and description of the maze--was captioned by a reference to a labyrinth.  That represents both sloppy journalism and sloppy thinking, a confusion of two things with some common characteristics but very different functions

The recent public press about grade inflation (which essentially means an increasing percentage of the "higher" letter grades) suggests that the increase in grades must mean a lowering of standards.  Perhaps it does.  But before I am willing to argue whether standards are slipping, I would like to see us stop conflating student ability (which is represented by various measures whose scores or results are normally distributed, thus, the ubiquitous normal curve) with student performance against a clear and measurable set of standards.

If the standards are clear for a course and most students are able by the end of the semester to reach those standards, does that necessarily mean the course standards are too low?  Could it mean, in fact, that the instructor is among the best and able to take a range of students with varying abilities and get most of them to the standard by the end of the course?

Our thinking about the goals and objectives of education is not just semantics. Sometimes it's confusion or conflation or both.

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