Mediocrity Happens
By Gabriel Martinez, October 4, 2010 in Pedagogy and Teaching, Professional Development, What is Education?

At a recent convocation at a college near me, the Chancellor read the following quote from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Mediocrity happens. At this very moment at an institution of higher education near you, a mildly hung-over student is finishing a mildly plagiarized paper on travel-industry marketing, for which he'll receive a B-plus. Across campus, an assistant professor is drafting a tepid scholarly article that will eventually be read by 43 people and cited by one. In yet another building, administrators are holding a five-hour meeting about how to spruce up the campus golf course, which is four more hours than they'll devote to their flagging graduation rates.

He used it to attack grade inflation and retention-for-retention's sake, over the priority of educating students and challenging them.  I'm curious to hear what my colleagues-across-the-airwaves think.

Of course, as a teacher, I'm sympathetic.  But (just to be contrarian) it seems to me that this is not a problem that can be solved by going after the for-profits.  If it's true that more than 60 percent of high-school graduates are unprepared for college, what's a school that must balance its budget to do?  It seems that the problem (and the solution) starts in K-12.

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1 Comment
Lee Trepanier on Oct 5, 2010 at 5:53 am

I agree the problem starts with the K-12 system, however, the reality is that universities are not really in a position to solve this problem other than rejecting applications (which costs the school in tuition dollars) or remedial courses (which oftens has little positive effect). I think we just have to deal the best we can with what we get.

about the author

Gabriel Martinez
Gabriel Martinez

I am Associate Professor of Economics and Chairman of the Department of Economics at Ave Maria University. I have been in the Economics Department since its beginning and have taught over fifteen different courses at Ave Maria University, particularly in the areas of macroeconomics, international economics, development economics, Catholic social teaching, economic history, and social philosophy. My two favorite courses to teach are Intermediate Macroeconomics and Markets, State, and Institutions.

My work is in the general area of international finance and open-economy macroeconomics, with a focus on developing countries. My dissertation focused on the 1999 economic collapse in Ecuador,using a combination of historical, theoretical, and empirical analyses. My paper on the role of deregulation, moral hazard, and overconfidence in the Ecuadorian financial crisis was published by the Cambridge Journal of Economics. Financial crises are a perennial topic, with causes that are complex and deep, inextricably intermingled with politics and ethics. My Ph.D. is from the University of Notre Dame.