We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Many possible explanations, but I'm not sure how much they matter. The fact that students seem to be less able is the important fact. The second fact, that grades are rising in contradiction of this, is a problem whether it stems from the same causes or not.
Here are some things not mentioned, however. Is the content the students are expected to master as valuable as that which was presented ten, or forty years ago? The content may have gotten objectively less useful, both because it has become political rather than informational, and because the jobs that people actually will be doing require different skills.
So there is likely a parallel process here, in that the colleges are providing less service for more money. Small wonder their students do the same.
Assistant VIllage Idiot
AVI: So there is likely a parallel process here, in that the colleges are providing less service for more money. Small wonder their students do the same.
Outside of STEM courses, that would appear to be the case.
While I didn't take a lot of social sciences courses or humanities courses when I was a student, I took enough to form an opinion. From what I have read, social sciences and humanities courses are much more politicized than when I was a student, with less effort required.
One reason for students getting by with less work comes from the importance today of student ratings of faculty. The ratings have an influence on faculty keeping their jobs. The harder and more rigorous a professor makes the course, the lower his ratings will be. The more likely a professor hands out gift Bs and As, the higher his ratings will be.
But we have "scientific" analysis of how students rate their professors!
Most of my engineering/science/math type classes when I was in school graded on a curve, especially freshman and sophmore level. The top 5% or so got As, the bottom 5 got Fs. The next 10% or so on either end got Ds or Bs, everyone else got Cs.
This is what I recall of the grading the curve in my junior Thermo classes, whose members had survived the freshman and sophomore weed-out classes:
Top 10% A
10% D or F
The class average on most tests was around 55.
I would imagine that for STEM classes, the grades haven't changed that much over the years. As there are real consequences if STEM graduates mess up on the job in the real world, there are reasons to grade rigorously.
Instapundit links to an article on high grades in Ed schools.
There were no written rules about that afaik when I was in school, but effectively it was indeed done.
If grades were consistently high, tests were made harder to push them down to more average levels.
If they were consistently low, the reason why was investigated and adjustments were made. Sometimes this meant reprimanding a bad teacher, sometimes it meant replacing out of date books and methods, sometimes it meant adjusting grades when a teacher was found to consistently grade lower on similar tests than his colleagues (I've had this happen, the guy just had a grudge against his pupils and would grade lower than he should, and when there were complaints about him falsely giving a fail on an answer he'd correct that only to mark more errors in reprisal (often things that weren't erroneous at all) so as to dissuade any complaints at all.