Taking on the Great God of Exceptionalism

American Exceptionalism

Time was when the U.S. was really truly exceptional in many areas — in the 1950’s and 1960’s  —- after the rest of the world’s manufacturing was destroyed in World War II. But in those years, there wasn’t much talk of American Exceptionalism. It was so obvious, especially in the economic sphere, when the U.S. accounted for 50 percent of the World’s GDP. But, America was also clearly superior to the rest of the world in terms of education, civil liberties, social mobility, science, health care, and a host of other areas. And most importantly, the ideas — our ideas,  that were at the formation of the American Revolution: liberty, equality, free trade, the rights of the governed, etc — … Continue reading

‘A’ is for Average: Grade Inflation in America

by Walter Brasch About 1.8 million students will graduate from college this year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. At least one-third of them will graduate with honors. In some colleges, about half will be honor graduates. It’s not that the current crop is that bright, it’s that honors is determined by grade point average. Because of runaway grade inflation, the average grade in college is now an “A.” About 43 percent of all college grades are “A”s, according to a recent study by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy, and published in the prestigious Teachers College Record.  About three-fourths of all grades are “A”s or “B”s. Throw out the universal curve that applies to everything from height to … Continue reading

America’s Culture is Signing on the Dotted Line

by Walter Brasch The signing season has begun. Look through your local newspaper for the next few weeks, and you’ll see a lot of posed pictures of high school athletes. Everyone will be at a desk or table. Around each one will be their parents and their coach. In some cases, add in an athletic director, a principal, and someone representing a college the young athlete is planning to attend. It makes no difference if it’s a Division I or Division II school; sometimes it’s even a Division III school. Star athletes at the end of their high school careers get photos and applause. They can even get special financial aid and scholarships just for being able to play a … Continue reading

Poll Finds Positive Outlook on Obama’s Second Term as Inauguration Day Approaches

Republicans may be worrying about their future, but most Americans overall have a positive outlook as President Obama prepares to begin his second term. As President Obama prepares for his second inauguration on Monday, findings from a recent Harris poll show that a slight majority of Americans are feeling hopeful about the president’s second four-year term in the Oval Office. Just over half (52 percent) of U.S. adults describe themselves as very or somewhat happy about Obama beginning his second term, considerably more than indicate being very or somewhat upset (39 percent). Similarly, nearly half of Americans (47 percent) believe things will be better for the country at the end of the president’s second term, putting this sentiment well ahead of feelings … Continue reading

University Governance Doesn’t Represent the People

  by Walter Brasch   About 800,000 Pennsylvanians are members of labor unions, and the state has a long history of union rights and activism, neither of the two largest university systems has a labor representative on its governing board. The only labor representative on the Board of Governors of the State System of Higher Education (SSHE) in its 29 year history was Julius Uehlein, who served 1988–1995 while Pennsylvania AFL–CIO president. The appointment was made by Gov. Robert P. Casey, a pro-worker Democrat. The SSHE, a state-owned system, has 120,000 students enrolled in 14 universities. Only three persons have ever represented labor on Penn State’s Board of Trustees. Gov. Milton Schapp, a Democrat, appointed Harry Boyer, the state AFL–CIO … Continue reading

Dalai Lama Shares His Views on Happiness and Compassion in Talk on ‘Beyond Religion’

On Sunday, I drove into Boston to hear His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak on the subject of his latest book, Beyond Religion. A performance by Massachusetts’ own James Taylor national treasure, opened the event. The event was well attended with an estimated sold out crowd of 2500. With everyone in the ballroom standing, as His Holiness stepped onto the stage, the Dalai Lama took his seat on the stage and signaled to the crowd to sit. “Very strong light,” he said as he put on his customary visor cap that he wears often when speaking on a well lighted stage. He then walked over to Friar Thomas Keating and Brother David Steindl-Rast, the two Catholic priests also on the … Continue reading

Grade Inflation; Education Degradation

    by WALTER BRASCH   As a society we have allowed our children to believe they are all not just above average but superior. Because we’re afraid to hurt anyone’s fragile psyche, or not be loved, or because we’re afraid of some nebulous retaliation if we aren’t soft, we dish out A’s and B’s as if they were scoops of ice cream on a humid day, the equivalent of myriad certificates and trophies for we give our children for showing up so they don’t feel “left out” in sports and innumerable other activities. Grade Inflation is rampant throughout the educational system. A recent UCLA study revealed that although students are studying less than ever, grades of A- and A … Continue reading

Vouchering an Educational Adventure

                                                            by WALTER BRASCH   I hadn’t talked with Marshbaum for a couple of years, ever since he left newspaper journalism for more lucrative work in the fast food industry. But here he was in my office to ask if I would publicize his new educational adventure. “That’s great!” I said. “You’re finishing the last three years of college.” “I own the school. CEO of Little Minds Charter and Voucher Corp. We’re on the leading edge of the trend to privatize schools.” “How does mumbling into a broken speaker box make you qualified to run a school?” I asked. “Interpersonal communication skills,” he replied. “That, and knowing how to count change and arrange work schedules for the three … Continue reading