Monday, May 03, 2010

Frustrations of teaching

From a new NBER working paper:
"Full-time students allocated 40 hours per week toward class and studying in 1961, whereas by 2003 they were investing about 27 hours per week. Declines were extremely broad-based, and are not easily accounted for by framing effects, work or major choices, or compositional changes in students or schools. We conclude that there have been substantial changes over time in the quantity or manner of human capital production on college campuses. "
http://papers.nber.org/papers/w15954#fromrss
HT: Tyler Cowen.

Yet, at the same time students are studying less, their GPAs are rising. See www.gradeinflation.com. And there is no correlation with college GPA increases and increases in ACT/SAT increases.
"There is no evidence that students have improved in quality nationwide since the mid-1980s."

In short, students put in increasingly less time and can expect increasingly higher grades for it. More from gradeinflation.com:

"The author believes that the resurgence of grade inflation in the 1980s principally was caused by the emergence of a consumer-based culture in higher education. Students are paying more for a product every year, and increasingly they want and get the reward of a good grade for their purchase. In this culture, professors are not only compelled to grade easier, but also to water down course content. Both intellectual rigor and grading standards have weakened. The evidence for this is not merely anecdotal. Students are highly disengaged from learning, are studying less than ever, and are less literate. Yet grades continue to rise."

Sunday, May 02, 2010

On mutton & barbecue

One of the most frequently hit posts on this blog is one from 2007 entitled "Why Americans don't eat mutton." In it, I wrote that perhaps the Wool Act created a situation that incentivized farmers to produce wool and not meat. Tyler Cowen recently visited Kentucky and gives us post entitled the origins of mutton barbecue. He links to this quote that perhaps tells the rest of the story:

Aging sheep who no longer produced good wool became a virtually unlimited resource, but the meat was too tough and too strong tasting to be worth anything so people turned to the tried and true methods of low and slow cooking.

That partly explains mutton barbecue. Cowen also links to a 1977 article in The New Yorker looking at the history of mutton barbecue as well.