Re: 100

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This thread created for you from the elliptical.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 5:56 PM
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I decry this post as a craven submission to our decimal-mongering elites.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 6:20 PM
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I posted from the gym because I figured there would be demand for a presser thread and then....no. Lame. You have 15 minutes to fix this.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 6:32 PM
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C seems fine, but given that my political awareness dates roughly to 1980, and that the four presidents since then were bad, somewhat less bad, meh, and genuinely awful, it'd be different if I were grading on a curve.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 6:34 PM
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||

A health site recommended a Yves Smith. I think. A little slow to load and move around and really big.

Healthmap

Swine in Utah, Iowa, Wisconsin and more I'm sure, but I stopped there and washed my hands..

|>

80 but obviiusly incomplete. Whatever. The only passing Presidents, like ever, were Washington and FDR. "Like, except for the Vietnam thing, LBJ..." Nah. LBJ Fail.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 6:36 PM
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The only passing Presidents, like ever, were Washington and FDR.

Um, Lincoln?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 6:39 PM
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I have no doubt Lincoln was a deliberate omission, but I'd be curious to hear why.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 6:41 PM
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I love that Becks thinks people watch press conferences.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 6:46 PM
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7:Lincoln sucked on civil rights (e.g., press freedom). He was also a railroad whore. And bought Alaska. Sarah Palin is Abe's fault.

And there is more.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 6:49 PM
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9: Fair enough, but Washington and FDR were no better on most of those.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 6:51 PM
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Presidential-and-First-Ladyness (includes likability): A+ (awesome)
Political Adeptitude: A
Legal fun: B-
Idiot scandaltude: A- (higher is better!)
Foreign policy: B+
War: INC
Outfoxing the Beltway: A-
Money spending: B
Economics (stiff upper lip section): A
Economics (all else): D+
Enemies: A++
Foresightedness: C+ (enthusiastic about subject matter, INC on getting it)

Overall presentation: A+, overall subtance: INC

max
['Say, Heebie's favorite student is a nursing student, isn't she? I was wondering for a second if she was an econ major.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 6:52 PM
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Pwned by my roommate, who just came in to the kitchen and said, "Can you believe FOX isn't showing Obama? Audacious."


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 6:53 PM
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Also, I frequently have these moments, like during the press conference just now, when I see this guy who's smart, cool and capable, and who can speak in complex sentences, and despite Bagram and the banks and various other bullshit, I just feel an immense sense of relief that the Bush era is over.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 7:02 PM
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B+

Broken down:
Grade on issues that are objectively really important and hard and have been important forever: B+
Grade on general not-being-an-assholen-ness: A+
Grade issues that are really important but don't have a hell of a lot of political capital behind them: C+
Grade on the specific couple of issues that I really pay a lot of attention to and would love for some action on: C


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 7:07 PM
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FDR had something of a civil rights problem himself, as I recall.

And creating Medicare and ending Jim Crow gets you a passing grade. Fuck Vietnam.


Posted by: Duvall | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 7:07 PM
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I forgot, graded on a curve with the rest of the class (of Presidents): A.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 7:08 PM
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Being to lazy to create my own grades and rationalizations, I will simply crib Sifu's. B+.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 7:13 PM
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And yeah, if you are going to grade an a curve, an A, and if you are going to grade on a curve of recent presidents, he Abraham friggin' Lincoln.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 7:15 PM
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I can't even imagine a basis for grading compared to past presidents at this point.

In terms of the present situation, I'd say: very poor on the bailouts, poor on torture / imperial presidency issues, mediocre on stimulus, very promising on Israel, wonderful on intangibles, hopeful on medical care and unionization, a bit worrysome on military questions but too soon to tell, pretty good on most other domestic questions.

Some Presidents were illintended but effective, some the reverse, some did nothing much good and nothing much bad, some did a mix of very bad and very good, and so on.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 7:31 PM
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From the point of view of the long sweep of history, the fact that we're all relieved to have a President who has a command of the issues and can speak in complete sentences will seem hilarious.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 7:32 PM
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It's not reasonable to grade Obama, because the problem is not Obama or Bush or whoever. The problem is us, Americans (apologies to the unAmericans here).

We just had an election in which nearly half the voters chose McCain and Palin. In my memory we've had three Republican presidents, each re-elected once, all of whom ran as the anti-intellectual, down home, real 'murrican against effete educated elites. That is, they were elected and re-elected precisely because they claimed to be natural and unspoiled by learning. That's nearly 24 years (Nixon, Reagan, Bush II).

I watched the last part of the news conference, and I about puked when I heard Obama say something about a rising tide lifting all boats. I remember that phrase from decades ago, and anyone who has looked at any of the recent data knows it's a flat lie. The rising tide lifted the top 1% (5% if you are generous) and everyone else is still wallowing in mud.

But I understand that he said it because most Americans still believe it, evidence be damned. So it's not Obama. They is us. It's the fault of Roosevelt and his support for the Hoot-Smalley act.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 7:38 PM
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B+


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 7:41 PM
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I give Obama an Incomplete.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 7:41 PM
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Just think positive:

Less than a century ago, this prime manatee habitat was the home of an entire moron civilization.

Yeah, I cribbed the manatees from a different Unfd thread.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 7:43 PM
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I watched the last part of the news conference, and I about puked when I heard Obama say something about a rising tide lifting all boats. I remember that phrase from decades ago

Funny, I noticed that too.

Despite the generally positive reviews given by the talking heads on this press conference, there was a hell of a lot of hedging on Obama's part in order to keep conservatives from completely freaking out. I sort of feel badly for him that he's so clearly had to learn this lesson, fast.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 8:07 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 8:30 PM
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I once got a higher grade than a classmate despite handing-in an objectively worse term paper, only because the earlier drafts of my paper (reviewed by the professor) were truly gawdawful, and part of the grade was based on our improvement over the course of the term. Therefore, Obama gets a D. Possibly C-.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 8:46 PM
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For those of you too stupid to follow the thought in 27 (yes, I know you're out there), I'm saying that Obama's been disappointingly worse than I'd hoped on a number of issues, matched my hopes on only a few and been better than I'd hoped on none. So I'm pretty unhappy. Whereas if the past 100 days had been the first 100 days of, say, Bush's second term, Bush would be receiving an A+.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 8:50 PM
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So far, the best president of my lifetime. But who cares? We're only three months in. And the world is falling apart. He's going to need to be even better to avoid some really nasty shit. Again, though, for the first time in my life, I'd say we've got a fighting chance with this guy.

And Bob, Lincoln was the nation's finest president. It's really not even close, though sure, FDR deserves consideration.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 8:57 PM
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Also, Jetpack, what are your pet issues that Barry has been ignoring? Making Burning Man a national holiday probably isn't going to happen, you know. But you can still be the change you want to see in the world.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 8:59 PM
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Environmental appointees: A+
Actions of Interior and the EPA: A
Wishing Iran Happy New Year: A

Was there anything else?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 9:16 PM
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31: I don't know about you, but I was promised ponies.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 9:20 PM
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The map in 5 seems to include news reports about swine flu in general, not necessarily cases of it. I'm sticking with the CDC: http://www.pandemicflu.gov/ and WHO: http://www.who.int/csr/don/2009_04_29/en/index.html

Meanwhile, 1st suspected case in Austin today, at a pre-K. Not yet confirmed.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 9:22 PM
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I'm endorsing 28. He's been wonderful in all the ways in which I expected wonderfulness but has only exceeded expectations a couple of times. Civil rights abominable. Handling of Wall Street crummy. Etc.

It's impressive that he has met high expectations/hopes in many areas (most appointees, general cool competence), but that's not enough to wash away the inexcusable state secrets BS or torture "looking forward."

B or less.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 9:37 PM
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34 terse due to iPhonage, FYI.

Just finished 7 days of house guests, home improvement, and partyage. Oof.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 9:39 PM
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34 terse due to iPhonage, FYI.

Just finished 7 days of house guests, home improvement, and partyage. Oof.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 9:39 PM
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Double-posting helps to make up for the terseness, JRoth.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 9:40 PM
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27 28

Perhaps he is starting out slow so as to impress you with his improvement.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 9:46 PM
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29

And Bob, Lincoln was the nation's finest president. It's really not even close, though sure, FDR deserves consideration.

Do you believe Lincoln was a better war leader than FDR?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 9:49 PM
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34 -- While you were doing other stuff, the government lost that state secrets case. It's not news, apparently, since it doesn't fit anyone's narrative. The Spanish judge is going to force Obama's hand on torture, as will the revelations on sleep deprivation (if the media can ever get past waterboarding as the one true torture).


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 9:53 PM
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28 -- Your view seems to be pretty widely shared. So people were whirly eyed after all?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 9:56 PM
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39: They were both great as commanders-in-chief. Still, Lincoln's the better president because of his growth in office. By the summer of '64, he was more than willing to lose the upcoming election rather than sacrifice core principles.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 9:57 PM
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There's a stray "as" up there. Whatever, the point stands.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 9:58 PM
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42

They were both great as commanders-in-chief

Really? The Union forces didn't perform very well early in the war and a lot of people seem to think Lincoln was at least partially to blame.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:01 PM
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If you grade relative to What Should Be, all fucking politicians get an F. If you grade on a curve, the nightmarish flashbacks of Bush are so overwhelming that it's all too easy to get an A++. So everyone has to come up with their own subjective compromise between What Should Be and What Can Be. On the PGD subjective compromise metric, Obama gets a solid B.

I loved his answer to the NY Times reporter with the inane surprised/enchanted/humbled question, or whatever it was. He just effortlessly dominated the guy without being mean. Obama has all kinds of chops. I just like the feeling that if American civilization is going to go down, at least we'll do it with a competent thoughtful classy guy at the helm.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:03 PM
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The Union forces didn't perform very well early in the war and a lot of people seem to think Lincoln was at least partially to blame.

No, the Union generals didn't perform very well early in the war. But yes, Lincoln was to blame for not sacking more of them more quickly. On the other hand, he, with help from Monty Meigs, raised and equipped a half-million-man army in a matter of months. And that army of citizen soldiers went on to win the war. It took longer than it should have -- especially because of huge fuck-ups following Antietam and Gettsyburg -- but they won.

Now, should we list FDR's mistakes in WWII? If we do, we'll be here all night. Big wars are a messy business.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:07 PM
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I mean, Obama is nailing a 65-70 percent approval rating while making it totally clear that he will push through national health care, raise taxes on the top 2 percent, and discuss things rationally with Iran. All as the first black Muslim terrorist President. He's running somewhat behind what he could do, but given America I think you've got to give him at least a B.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:09 PM
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I'll give him a B: showing some promise, has a shit-ton of work cut out for him yet, room for improvement. Seriously, though, this is a horrible, horrible mess we're in, all fifty-seven dimensions of it. Next up, a 8.0 earthquake, epicenter Silicon Valley?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:09 PM
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But the banks are running the bailout, financial regulatory reform is really timid and business-as-usual-ish, heads are not being cracked enough on the mortgage crisis, he gave away about $100 billion of the stimulus in useless non-stimulative crap, it's still not clear that we'll truly pull out of Iraq, and we're actually escalating in Afghanistan, which is idiotic. So it's hard to go much higher than a B.

I'm arguing with myself here.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:12 PM
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By the way, the big kids think Obama's doing pretty well:

"Asked to rate President Obama on his first hundred days, Siglitz said that as a professor he is used to grading on a curve and added that, with that proviso, he would award Obama 'an A plus plus.'"


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:17 PM
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but given America I think you've got to give him at least a B.

When so contextualized (the context being America and etc), yeah, definitely. I'd give him a B+, actually.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:18 PM
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46

Now, should we list FDR's mistakes in WWII? If we do, we'll be here all night. Big wars are a messy business.

Sure. I haven't seen nearly as much criticism of the conduct of WWII.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:19 PM
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29:Did you really fucking address me directly, scumbag? We have ignored each other for months, for the sake of the site, and you broke the truce for this?

And Bob, Lincoln was the nation's finest president. It's really not even close, though sure, FDR deserves consideration.>/i>

Does that look like an argument, or a contemptuous insult?

I have been at this for years, and I have spent some time wondering what it is about you and rauchway and hilzoy that makes my skin crawl.

There's the predictability, the conventionality, the fine minds consciously in service to conventional wisdom (within a social tribe) not merely seeking status or dialectical coups but bourgeios insipidity as an end in itself, as a fucking artform, as an apotheosis.

You are all three knights of intelligent articulate liberal Babbitry. You are even arrogant about it. And you are not to be trusted in your fields.

ari thinks Lincoln best evah, no competition. What a shock.

So far, the best president of my lifetime. But who cares? We're only three months in. And the world is falling apart. He's going to need to be even better to avoid some really nasty shit. Again, though, for the first time in my life, I'd say we've got a fighting chance with this guy.

Makes my skin crawl.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:23 PM
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criticism of the conduct of WWII

Well, Pearl Harbor happened. I'm told that some people blame FDR for that (though I think they're a bit nuts). Then there's Executive Order 9066. That was a nasty business, wasn't it? Also, there's a fair sized bloc of folks who wonder, with some good reason, what FDR knew and when about the Final Solution. And on and on. Like I said, big wars are ugly and have lots of loose ends, even for the best CiCs.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:25 PM
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He just effortlessly dominated the guy without being mean.

59% on that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:26 PM
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ban my ass, group, I can't stand the guy. And he addressed me by name.

Im' going to bed.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:28 PM
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Mike has it right in 21.

Obama's done pretty much what I expected him to do, given what he said before he was elected.

He's most visibly caught between his agenda of restoring America's soft power and the craven accommodationist instincts of Democrats on the torture issue, on the one hand explicitly condemning things like waterboarding as torture and declassifying Bush-era torture memos, on the other hand hemming and hawing about actually forming a commission or conducting any investigations. If he actually wants to be in compliance with international torture treaties as he claims, he's eventually going to have to "look back on the Bush years" for all that he visibly wants to avoid it, and to actively confront the depraved/deranged right (and almost equally depraved "moderates on the issue") for all that he visibly wants to avoid it. One of the pluses about having him in office is that pressure from the so-called "left" on this issue clearly does affect his priorities and his actions, which is fine; you don't elect people and then sort of placidly hope they'll be the man in the white hat, politicians respond to pressure.

He's fully withdrawing from Iraq this year, which is good. He's stepping up the war in Afghanistan, which is bad, he should be withdrawing from both (especially given that there are rather bigger fish to fry at home). But there's no general clamour to withdraw from Afghanistan, which too many people have been lulled into thinking of as the Good War, so if you want to change that you'll (we'll, Canada is involved too) have to provide some general fucking clamour.

He's been a centre-rightist on the bailouts, which is bad, but if y'all Dems wanted someone who was going to be a genuine leftist (which indeed is what you need) you shouldn't have wasted your time snickering at Dennis Kucinich and his UFOs and Departments of Peace, it's a bit late for all of that shit now. It would be nice to see some citizens, or MoveOn or DailyKos or someone, organize some outrage on these issues, but the trouble is that almost everyone's been drinking the centre-rightist "centrist" Kool-Aid for long enough that there's a general paralysis on the issue. So, we'll all likely be joining you in a nice long Depression. Go team.

He has pointedly refuted/reversed a number of stupid Dubya policies and done pretty well on international diplomacy (he's more popular in Turkey than its own politicians, for instance). And he's clearly competent enough that even on the issues where he's wrong, there's hope that he'll figure it out and fix it, which certainly wasn't the case during the Bush years. On the all, it's been a tremendously active and energetic first 100 days, undertaken in some of the worst circumstances an incoming President has ever been tasked with, so I'd give him a B-.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:28 PM
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WTF, did Ari rape McManus' cat or something? I haven't been reading this blog as much lately.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:30 PM
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I haven't seen nearly as much criticism of the conduct of WWII.

Please allow me to direct you to the relevant chapter of the justly famous Time-Life series of world-historical atrocities.

But this is not Wikipedia, James, nor a comprehensive clearing-house of information on anything much that anyone might care to name. It's just a weblog, you know?


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:30 PM
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49:So it's hard to go much higher than a B. I'm arguing with myself here.

That's why I gave him an INC on substance; so far, it's too soon to say. He says lots of the right stuff, but early indications are way too much in the old consensus directions. A on the politics (optics) though, which is actually really important to getting things done.

In optics terms, best President since Reagan, but better, since he's building up my team.

max
['Yay. Qualified.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:31 PM
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53: I hadn't realized that we've been ignoring each other for the sake of the site (tee hee). And being lumped in with Eric and Hilzoy is high praise, not an insult. Anyway, now that I know we're ignoring each other for the greater good (so high-minded), I'll remain in my neutral corner.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:32 PM
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54

Well, Pearl Harbor happened. I'm told that some people blame FDR for that (though I think they're a bit nuts). Then there's Executive Order 9066. That was a nasty business, wasn't it? Also, there's a fair sized bloc of folks who wonder, with some good reason, what FDR knew and when about the Final Solution. And on and on.

None of this stuff delayed the Allied victory whereas tolerating incompetent generals may have significantly delayed the Union victory.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:34 PM
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58: The sex was consensual, thanks very much.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:35 PM
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Hey CharleyCarp, is this the decision you were referring to in 40? It's good news, if perhaps somewhat provisional. I was sort of hoping that Obama had his DOJ continue arguing the Bush DOJ position so that it could get a decisive judicial smackdown. Given the lack of hoopla about the decision and that ending line about the DOJ's "reviewing the decision" pending appeal, I am not feeling particularly vindicated.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:36 PM
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62: The goalposts! They're moving! It's like magic! Really, though, I don't know enough about the military history of WWII to play this game, at least not by these rules, in anything like an interesting fashion.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:38 PM
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63: Best pussy you ever had?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:40 PM
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(bah-dump-TSSSHHH!)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:40 PM
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62: Seriously, James, do you really think it's possible -- or, better still, even remotely edifying -- to try to determine whether Lincoln or FDR was a better Commander in Chief? Isn't it smarter to acknowledge that, based on the metric that matters most, they were both plenty good?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:42 PM
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66: Dude. Dooooooooooood. I left that one hanging on the very lowest branch. Because I'm classy.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:43 PM
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59

But this is not Wikipedia, James, nor a comprehensive clearing-house of information on anything much that anyone might care to name. It's just a weblog, you know?

Well I object on principle to only considering wartime Presidents for greatness as it encourages Presidents like Bush to start wars. But if you are going do this you should judge them on their ability as commanders.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:46 PM
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The thing is, what makes this grading-on-a-curve thing so scary, is that if you think that the more thoughtful/responsible liberal edge of conventional wisdom will be enough to eventually pull "us" (or at least the majority of us) out of the national tailspin, then Obama looks fine. If you think we've stepped a little out over the edge now and we need radical change or else we're fucked, then Obama is a nice enough guy but he really doesn't do it and we're in deep shit. So grading Obama brings you face to face with the deep questions about the fate of this system we live in. I really don't enjoy thinking about that stuff too hard.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:48 PM
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69: Hey, I'm classy. Steve Martin classy!


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:51 PM
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I really don't enjoy thinking about that stuff too hard.

Just lie back and think about Pakistan.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:51 PM
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73: Pakistan is most definitely part of That Stuff.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:51 PM
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71 is absolutely right in every way (except, perhaps, that Obama moves beyond conventional wisdom in a variety of ways). Still, far enough beyond? Let's hope so. If that's what's necessary.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 10:52 PM
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But if you are going do this you should judge them on their ability as commanders.

But I'm not going to do this, James. "No truck nor trade" is my motto, I suppose (much as I admire Sir Wilfrid Laurier), at least when it comes to American imperial ambitions. So I guess we're about even or something, eh?

71 sounds exactly right.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 04-29-09 11:00 PM
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Here's a fun video about opposition to Barry O.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 12:04 AM
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Satellite view (as in, from a distance)?

B-

Economy, poor
War, poor
Other foreign, OK
Domestic ambition (notig delivered yet), OK

Overall, standard, of the shelf, centre right apparatchik with good speech writers.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 12:46 AM
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64 -- Yes. It was a smackdown. As much as can be given without ignoring Reynolds, which is wrong, but binding. I don't think there are 5 votes to eliminate Reynolds, but suspect there are 5 to affirm this. Hence, I think cert is a bad idea for the government. An interesting test of our new friends in the SG's office.

Another test is whether to take an appeal from the 'enemy combatant' ruling from one of the district judges. In the media (and there wasn't much attention) is was spun as an administration victory, but that's only because the position taken by some of the prisoners was so extreme. The danger to the government from the definition that was adopted became evident at our argument on the Third Geneva Convention earlier this week. That's a conversation we can take elsewhere, if you're interested.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:39 AM
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In a fair fight, Lincoln would have kicked FDR's ass because, you know, polio. But how many dicks did Abe have?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 6:33 AM
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John Scalzi has solid reasons for giving him an F.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:04 AM
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80: More importantly, who had better rap skills?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:05 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:06 AM
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Isn't it smarter to acknowledge that, based on the metric that matters most, they were both plenty good?

I assume the metric you're talking about is lyrical prowess? In which case "both plenty good" is inadequate; they must battle, and there can only be one winner.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:08 AM
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Obama gets a B/B+ in Presidentship for all the reasons explained by others above and McManus gets an A+ in Existential Crankiness.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:17 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:18 AM
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Clearly, Bob wins the morning!


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:22 AM
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I about puked when I heard Obama say something about a rising tide lifting all boats.

I generally hate that phrase too, but he didn't say it glibly.

So my general approach is that if the economy is strong, that will lift all boats as long as it is also supported by, for example, strategies around college affordability and job training, tax cuts for working families as opposed to the wealthiest that level the playing field and ensure bottom-up economic growth.

Full context:

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.
As the entire nation tries to climb out of this deep recession, in communities of color, the circumstances are far worse. The black unemployment rate, as you know, is in the double digits. And in New York City, for example, the black unemployment rate for men is near 50 percent.
My question to you tonight is given this unique and desperate circumstance, what specific policies can you point to that will target these communities and what's the timetable for us to see tangible results?
OBAMA: Well, keep in mind that every step we're taking is designed to help all people. But, folks who are most vulnerable are most likely to be helped because they need the most help.
So when we passed the Recovery Act, for example, and we put in place provisions that would extend unemployment insurance or allow you to keep your health insurance even if you've lost your job, that probably disproportionately impacted those communities that had lost their jobs. And unfortunately, the African-American community and the Latino community are probably overrepresented in those ranks.
When we put in place additional dollars for community health centers to ensure that people are still getting the help that they need, or we expand health insurance to millions more children through the Children's Health Insurance Program, again, those probably disproportionately impact African-American and Latino families simply because they're the ones who are most vulnerable. They have got higher rates of uninsured in their communities.
So my general approach is that if the economy is strong, that will lift all boats as long as it is also supported by, for example, strategies around college affordability and job training, tax cuts for working families as opposed to the wealthiest that level the playing field and ensure bottom-up economic growth.
And I'm confident that that will help the African-American community live out the American dream at the same time that it's helping communities all across the country.

Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:26 AM
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Obama was handed a collection of disasters and has to work with a nation, media, political elite, and political culture which are about 30% insane and 70% corrupt -- overlapping, many are both of course. He could be an extremely good President and yet fail completely.

His handling of the bailout was terrible, however, and it will be very costly since it's about the biggest-ticket item since the Cold War as a whole. Basically he left the malefactors in the driver's seat and blew a lot of his budget and credibility on an extremely defective solution. By doing that he tied his hands on a lot of things that he'll try to do later.

I read something awhile back about Europe between the World Wars -- a lot of the failed politicians of that era were very sharp guys who did exactly the right thing, but for a different world than the one they were living in.

People say that about LBJ, too -- that he tried to deal with North Vietnam the way you'd deal with a recalcitrant bloc of Senators, because he was one of the all-time greats at dealing with recalcitrant blocs of Senators.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:29 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:46 AM
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Yeah the bailout is galling. But maybe I'm also a captive to the dreaded conventional wisdom since I don't see what else can be done. Sure, it would be satisfying to round up the CEOs and the day traders and make them ensure the health of the pigs on the farm.

But there's still the threat of global capital abandoning us utterly. Sure, there aren't a lot of better options, but if we go too radical too fast I'm sure they'll think of something.

We only have as much money as we can persuade the rich overlords to lend us. The Revolution will just burn all that paper.


Posted by: Mo MacArbie | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:10 AM
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Nationalization was an alternative suggested by many mainstream capitalist economists. Afterwards the US government would have had a lot of leverage with international capital. That's an opportunity lost, though, it seems.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:14 AM
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I generally hate that phrase too, but he didn't say it glibly.

He said it.
It is false.
He must know it is false.
He said it.

He said it because it's a necessary invocation of our shared beliefs. It's a re-inscription of a normative american belief. It's something that one must believe in order to be a 'murrican. It's part of the credo.

It's also wrong, like so many 'murrican beliefs. And I don't think there's a way to solve the myriad really big problems we face without jettisoning a lot of core beliefs. And if a leader attempts to jettison core beliefs, the demos will jettison him (or her).

I don't see what else can be done.

Ret6urn to the thrilling days of a 90% top marginal rate. That'd eliminate the incentive to game the system to win a few years of incredibly overblown income in exchange for subsequent years of disaster for everyone else.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:23 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:25 AM
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Fort Worth just closed down its entire 80,000-student school district based on 1 confirmed case in a 12-year-old. Seems like overkill to me, but I wouldn't want to be the one making these decisions.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:26 AM
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a rising tide lifting all boats

what's wrong with this phrase? It's a perfectly clear metaphor when used by American politicians to describe their plans - it informs you in so many words that if you own a boat, you're going to get looked after and if you don't, you're going to get soaked.

zing.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:34 AM
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91,92:Jan Kregel of the Post-Keynesian Levy Institute with an analysis and recommendations. Extended comparison with Roosevelt's Bank policies of the 30s.
April 28, 2009. Just an example.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:36 AM
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Ebbing tide.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:37 AM
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93: We don't disagree on the fundamentals. We need not just to jettison many core beliefs, but to tie a thousand-pound weight around their ankles and drop them into the Mariana Trench. But since we're not going to get any jettisoning in the short term, I'll take his version of the rhetoric over the version with no qualifications. The proof will be in the pudding, of course. I'm hoping for butterscotch.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:40 AM
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But the real proof will be in the aspic.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:42 AM
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The best president would be no president at all.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:44 AM
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95: I've seen pushback against panic on a blog or two already today. Something like 36,000 people die annually worldwide from the normal flu. It's sad, but it happens. If it's verified that this one is unusually strong or contagious then I'll eat my words, but death from various strains of influenza is really not as frightening as people are treating this.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:45 AM
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It's a perfectly clear metaphor when used by American politicians ...

Yes, it means that we're an optimistic bunch, looking for the silver lining in the melting of the ice caps (which is just a natural occurence, related to the increase in atmospheric plant nutrients)

True. I've been trying to figure out how cultural beliefs change - and how they can be changed - for decades. I still don't understand it. I hope we can do it. But I don't see it happening. MADD did it, ActUp did it, NORML failed. I don't know why.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:46 AM
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crap. HTML tag failure.

We don't disagree on the fundamentals.

True. I've been trying to figure out how cultural beliefs change - and how they can be changed - for decades. I still don't understand it. I hope we can do it. But I don't see it happening. MADD did it, ActUp did it, NORML failed. I don't know why.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:47 AM
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103.last Because demonstrations are a drag
Besides we're much too high.


Posted by: Phil Ochs | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:50 AM
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102: The normal flu doesn't take place in May, and doesn't kill predominantly young healthy people.


Posted by: Crypic Nedd4 | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:50 AM
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Cyrus, tell it to the WHO. My take on the swine flu is that it could be very, very bad, and it could be not so bad, and we have no real way of knowing which and should keep our eyes open. My understanding is that that's what the WHO is saying.

Same for the Second Great Depression (or not-depression). Wait and see.

Global warming seems, if anything, much better understood. My plan is to cunningly drop dead before it gets really serious.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:51 AM
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crap comment quoting semicolon failure

104.last: Because demonstrations are a drag
Besides we're much too high.


Posted by: Phil Ochs | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:51 AM
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95:When will parents feel it i safe to open the schools back up? I have just heard May 11, but don't know if that was Richardson or FW.

It won't take much more to trigger a true economic depression.

Current Reading


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:56 AM
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How much benefit of the doubt am I willing to give Obama? Apparently more than even the rabid Obamaphiles around here. His handling of the banking crisis and his soft-on-torture stance are rightly regarded as among his most dubious stands, but I'm still willing to make excuses even there.

Regarding banking, even Roubini is willing to cut Obama some slack. The hallmarks of modern conservatism are craziness and corruption, but also a lack of respect for the unpredictability of complex systems. My preferred choice is nationalization, but there are so many variables involved that I'm not confident enough of that opinion to downgrade Obama (much) for not choosing it.

Regarding torture, Obama has been moving appallingly slowly, but I'm not convinced its his job to lead on this in his first 100 days, beyond ending the endorsement of illegal practices. On the war crimes front, he's not going to do any good without first building a public consensus, and I think there's a strong argument to be made that he is doing that, or at least standing by while it happens.



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:57 AM
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but death from various strains of influenza is really not as frightening as people are treating this.

But there's actually a positive value to hyping these things, in that it causes people and governments to behave differently, which keeps small events from getting out of hand.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 9:02 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 9:03 AM
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We seriously need a new thread. Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 9:38 AM
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106, 107, 111: Sure, that's all true, but preparation != panic. I agree with all of 95 - totally understandable because no school administrator wants to be insufficiently cautious, but still, ISTM like overkill - and there's a sign on hygiene taped right in the middle of the mirror in the men's room down the hall instead of on the bulletin board where everything else goes, and apparently pork are way down even though there isn't the faintest suggestion it spreads that way, and Egypt is planning to kill 250,000 pigs even though there are no reported cases in the country. When I complain about overreaction, I'm not thinking of the paper masks.

Maybe I'm just defensive. I took the train to Rhode Island this past weekend for a cousin's wedding, and that made me the most likely vector in my office. This week, every time I cough - which I do intermittently year-round regardless of any viruses or seasonal allergies due to an annoying but completely harmless health problem - people freak out.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 9:48 AM
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I see some definite fashion and branding opportunities with paper masks.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 9:51 AM
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114: "apparently pork are way down" s/b "apparently pork sales are way down"


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 9:53 AM
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113: So post something likely to generate some chatter. Not about food, though. Foodie threads are the Muzak of Unfogged. Cock jokes are always good.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 9:53 AM
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Killing pigs in Egypt probably is a form of religious aggression against the Copts.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 9:56 AM
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We had over 50 people here for a party this weekend, including people from NJ, CO, KY, and DC. Iris & AB have felt lousy the past couple days, but, really, what are the odds?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:02 AM
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117 makes me glad I didn't brag about the menu for the party mentioned in 119.

I can't think of any cock jokes from the party, tho.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:05 AM
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Did you hear about that far right Israeli politician who refuses to call it the "swine flu" because, you know, God hates pigs? He decided to call it the "Mexican flu", which caused a little dust up with the Mexican ambassador.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:13 AM
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9: Andrew Johnson bought Alaska (1867), not Lincoln. Lincoln was a little absorbed hanging onto the U.S. that already existed. And as Johnson's mistakes go, I don't think a Palin-producing Alaska makes the top 5.


Posted by: PGofHSM | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:15 AM
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121: Calling it the "Mexican flu" is standard for the American regular-right. Anything else would be political correctness.


Posted by: PGofHSM | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:16 AM
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121: That's just silly. What, God likes Mexicans?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:25 AM
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124: Obviously not. Why else would he have put them so close to the US?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:26 AM
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I think calling stomach cancer "Mexican cancer" would be okay though.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:27 AM
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Whoever suggested the Slate Obama's 100 Days of Facebook, could you explain "Dick Cheney and David Boies are now friends"? I don't get it.


Posted by: PGofHSM | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:28 AM
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So post something likely to generate some chatter.

Those who can't do hector.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:31 AM
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So Jews are okay with eating Mexicans? I'll never figure those people out.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:34 AM
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I don't get the kosher objection to swine flu either. Why is it offensive to name a disease after something unclean? Are pigs so unclean that this guy can't even utter the name of the species?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:44 AM
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Something like 36,000 people die annually worldwide from the normal flu.

That's just in the U.S. It's something like a half million worldwide.

If irrational panic gets more people to wash their hands, then I'm all for it.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:45 AM
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If you call it swine flu, then you can't kill and eat the people who have it.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:50 AM
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Clearly Matt F is just a shill for Big Soap.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:50 AM
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Preëmptive: Is this my opportunity to show I'm better than those stupid fundamentalist rednecks in Israel?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:53 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:53 AM
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SAY, THAT"S A BEAUTIFUL FAMILY YOU"VE GOT THERE, IT WOULD BE A SHAME IF SOMETHING HAPPENED TO THEM.


Posted by: OPINIONATED BIG SOAP | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:53 AM
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123: I prefer to call it "Mexican Pig Flu", because I think its a funny name. I'm not sure if thinking its funny makes me a bad person or not.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:56 AM
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I prefer the term "Flu of Pigs Invasion".


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:00 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:01 AM
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130: People who are always looking for ways to be offended will latch on to anything. Calling something unclean by the name of another thing deemed unclean shouldn't be offensive to anyone who isn't on an active quest for things to get worked up about. This is of a piece with freaking out over Michelle Obama touching the Queen.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:03 AM
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Apo still wins for "The Aporkolypse"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:05 AM
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Calling something unclean by the name of another thing deemed unclean shouldn't be offensive to anyone who isn't on an active quest for things to get worked up about.

Is anyone calling it offensive? I thought it was just weird.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:12 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:14 AM
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142 see 121.

I heard the story as the "little humorous tidbit at the bottom of the hour" on Morning Edition.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:15 AM
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Israeli official: Swine flu name offensive


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:19 AM
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Oh, I got dizzy in the embeddings. I thought that togolosh was saying, why get offended that someone should call the name "swine flu" unclean? But no, he was sensibly saying that you have to be a real pearl-clutcher to worry about the potential kosher violations that accrue to the name "swine flu". Sorry!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:19 AM
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I know it's bad form to encourage things like 139, but if it were signed OPINIONATED ANTI-SEMITE it would be top flight.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:20 AM
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"The Aporkalypse" and "The Hamdemic" were both coined within about an hour of each other on a certain baseball website. Apo's no unique mastermind.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:25 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:26 AM
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Rob: Apo still wins for "The Aporkolypse"

I keep reading it as Aporklops, presumably the 100-foot-tall one-eyed killer pig.

max
['Fe fi fo fum...']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:30 AM
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In defense of the redneck Israeli politician, one concern is that the kosherati would decline a product called something like "swine flu vaccination." Also, people might refuse testing/treatment if they thought the disease would prove they had been in contact with swine. Redneck orthodox funeral homes or cemeteries might be reluctant to accept those deemed unclean as well. Can anyone recall another illness (which was renamed), associated with somthing else the orthodox consider "unclean" where these issues come up?


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:36 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:37 AM
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Well, a certain chunk of the Israeli population has no kind words for the redneck deputy health minister.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:39 AM
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There was a panic about "Four Corners virus" a few years ago. In the midst of the panic the media renamed it to "Sin Nombre virus" or just "hantavirus", after complaints from desert dwellers who didn't want to scare people out of visiting the Four Corners region.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:42 AM
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151: at least 70% of Deputy Health Minister Litzman's stupidity was deciding to call it "the Mexican flu" when he could have just called it H1N1 and avoided insulting people in a country that the virus might not have originated in anyway.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:46 AM
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Not due to complaints from Dean Smith?


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:47 AM
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He decided to call it the "Mexican flu"

What? Montezuma hasn't gotten enough revenge?

I might have remarked before that I still have an ACORN button from the time I worked for them, briefly. I've started carrying it with me, lately, on the chance that I can flash it at some yahoo and command him to do my bidding IN THE NAME OF THE PRESIDENT. Today, I've learned that Obama and his ACORN Army are marking EVERY front door in America.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:48 AM
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131: Yeah, but normally the flu just kills old people. If this is 1918 come again, this flu could kill the all important twenty-somethings. Thus, panic.


Posted by: PGofHSM | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 11:59 AM
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all important twenty-somethings.

As has been proven in the past, twenty-somethings are expendable. there's more in the pipe.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 12:05 PM
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Let's revisit an earlier topic:

One term, two terms, three terms, four
You may be tall Abe, but your skills are subpar
My legs may be limp, but my words slap like pimps
I'll blow your ass up like the Hindenberg blimp
You'll scream "oh the humanity!"
Lace your words with profanity
But I'll just shoot you down
And demolish your vanity
Your lyrics? They're not worth a five dollar bill
And like Korematsu you've lost your appeal
And while you may not care if Jimmy cracks corn
I'll make you regret that you ever were born
But fear itself isn't all you should dread
If you think you can win there's a hole in your head
You defeated some crackers, but I beat the Nazis
Not to mention those infamous wack kamikazes
In for a penny? No you're in for a pounding
Don't give me that old tired "this hallowed ground" thing
You're the rail splitter, but I'm the rhyme spitter
You can try to debate, but it's clear that I'm fitter
Like whales against lions, your situation is hopeless
Even with an amendment I'll still keep you voteless
So run back to your cabin
Cause face it, you're doomed
Like when lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd
I'll ensure my ascendance
With skills so enormous
Then ask Mary Todd how she liked the performance.


Posted by: F/D/R | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 12:06 PM
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|| Terrific speech from Durbin. When will we stop letting the bankers set the agenda for the United States Senate? ||>


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 12:17 PM
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Fuck, 160 is a classic slapdown. I wonder if Lincoln will even dare to make an appearance.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 12:22 PM
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93: How is "a rising tide lifts all boats" false? The massive increase in wealth in the US over the last hundred years has increased the standard of living for the poor tremendously. The capitalist machine has made life way way better for all of us on the whole.

Yes, it needs to be carefully regulated. No, it's not a bad idea on the whole, pace Mineshaft Socialists.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 12:24 PM
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157: Wow. So the freepers are getting worked up because given the location of their house (street address), the gummint now knows the location of their house (latitude and longitude)?

I mean, yeah, you need lat/long to target a missile strike properly. I guess that's kind of a concern.

Um.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 12:32 PM
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163: A lot depends on what you think the phrase means. If all it is saying is "In the last 100 or 150 years the standard of living for everyone has gone up for everyone and capitalism and industrialism has played a role in that" it is hard to argue with.

More often, though, it means "We all have the same economic interests, so policies that will benefit one class of people will benefit everyone." This is simply false, and it is a falsehood that underlies most public discussions of the economy.

Every major news outlet talks about the health of the economy as if it were a single thing, so that if the economy is good, it is good for everyone and if it is bad it is bad for everyone. Sure, when talking about micro level issues people will acknowledge that a policy will hurt some people and help others. But no one will admit that different parts of the population have an interest in promoting fundamentally different sorts of economies.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 12:33 PM
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H-L, I don't think anybody would argue that there is no "rising tide" effect all. Quite the opposite. The argument is that the smallest boats have done very little rising compared to what is observable in other countries with better social nets. Somewhat unfettered capitalism and a weak social safety net has objectively turned out to be a relatively ineffective way to improve the lot of the poor, and pretending otherwise is at best disingenuous.

It's fine (and maybe even true) to say that this is the sort of policy approach "the American people" want, but it's downright dishonest to say there is anything noble about it with respect to the plight of the poor. Such an economic structure is designed by and for the rich, and unsurprisingly mostly benefits the rich. Just because many find it a bit distasteful to come out and say it so baldly doesn't make it any less true.

Notably in the last 25 years, the overwhelming majority of the growth has been accumulated by a shrinking percentage of the population, and real progress for below-median families has stagnated. Arguing that they've got cheap dvd players so they should quit complaining is weak sauce.


Saying "things are better than they were 100 years ago" isn't that interesting. If you're really trying to say "things are particularly better in the US than they were 100 years ago, and here are the policies particular the the US that made it so" ... well then, you're saying something quite different, and you've got your work cut out for you to make it fly.


Posted by: mineshaft socialist | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 12:40 PM
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um, and what 165 said.


Posted by: mineshaft socialist | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 12:42 PM
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165: Every major news outlet talks about the health of the economy as if it were a single thing, so that if the economy is good, it is good for everyone and if it is bad it is bad for everyone ... but no one will admit that different parts of the population have an interest in promoting fundamentally different sorts of economies.

Big news isn't any good at nuance on this or any other topic. No surprise there.

The endpoint of the feedback loop that the economy is currently in is bad for everyone. Wherever your exact economic goal happens to be, I think just about everybody who doesn't want blood and zombies in the streets can agree it's "over there somewhere." Let's start walking that way and return to our regularly scheduled squabbling over the exact destination later.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 12:43 PM
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You can fool some of the people all of the time
But you can't fool anyone with your lame-ass rhymes
You had fireside chats on radio stations
I freed the slaves and saved the nation
Stalin beat Hitler and then you piled on
It was just me vs. Lee and I beat him like a drum
You beat Japan with fancy miracle weapons
I had old-style rifles to teach the rebels a lesson
Amity Shlaes proved you couldn't even end the Depression
I singlehandedly brought an end to secession
you held back capitalist greed for just a few decades
150 years after I died, do you see any slaves?
better push that wheelchair away really fast
insult my wife again and I'll return from the grave to kick your ass


Posted by: Abe Lincoln | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 12:50 PM
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Wow, I would say that definitively establishes Lincoln's claim as the greatest American president. I don't think FDR is going to show his face anywhere around here again.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 12:52 PM
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||

Our Favorite Student had e-mailed me, right when Hawaiian Punch was born, asking what component of her grade ended up bringing her semester grade down. So I replied yesterday, and she wrote back, "Thank you for letting me know. I guess I will see you next semester."

AAAAUUUGH! What have I brought upon myself?

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:02 PM
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I thought you hadn't failed her?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:04 PM
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society failed her, Brock


Posted by: dfh | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:06 PM
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171: Maybe she just means around campus, and not in your class?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:06 PM
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Write back to her and explain what a "D" means, Heebie. Grading is a quasi-mathematical concept--she probably just doesn't get it.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:08 PM
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172: She got a D. If she retakes the class, she can replace the D in her GPA.

174: Please let that be what she meant.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:09 PM
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172: I think would guess Heebie's favorite student intends to retake the class to get a higher grade. So I guess next semester will be Algebra -->II<-- in Calc III (or II, whatever it was).

max
['If she takes three semesters of Calc III she might get to Precalc!']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:10 PM
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Tell her, "The part of your exam that my Internet friends and I spent two days making fun of."


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:10 PM
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If she retakes the class, she can replace the D in her GPA.

That's the most absurd policy I've ever heard.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:14 PM
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"Thank you for letting me know. I guess I will see you next semester."

Am I the only one who admires the tenacity of Heebie's Favorite?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:15 PM
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That's the most absurd policy I've ever heard.

We have a problem with retention...


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:16 PM
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I've worked at other schools with the same policy.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:18 PM
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If she got a "D", what did it take to get an "F" ?


Posted by: Stu Dent | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:18 PM
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Does it just apply to Ds? Or Ds and Fs? Or any grade you'd like to improve? What if you do worse in round 2?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:20 PM
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179: Why is that absurd?


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:22 PM
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If she got a "D", what did it take to get an "F" ?

Her homework grade was almost perfect.

184: Applies to any grade, but the latest grade gets entered in your GPA, even if you do worse.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:28 PM
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185: isn't a student who's had the course before going to have an advantage over people who are new to the material?

I guess this would bother me less in courses with fixed grading standards than in courses that are graded on a class curve.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:28 PM
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The policy is based on the reasonable idea that if the student leaves the school knowing the material and possessing the skills, it doesn't matter how long they took to get to that point.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:30 PM
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I have forty goddamn dicks.


Posted by: G. Washington | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:32 PM
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In fact, my current school has this policy.

If someone has a B on their transcript for Calc III, it means they can do calculus at that level. If they can do it, they can do it. Why does it matter to anyone looking a the transcript how they got to this point.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:32 PM
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fwiw, many schools have the policy that you can average the grades of repeated attempts at the same course.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:32 PM
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Your mom is based on a reasonable idea, rob.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:33 PM
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Also, all attempts at a course stay visible on the transcript. They just don't get averaged into the GPA. At least at my school.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:34 PM
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187: Similarly, a student who was grossly unprepared due to unforgivable dereliction of duty by the prof teaching the prereq will be at a disadvantage, which seems to be the case with 1^n. I've been at schools with near-indifference to grades and ones where grades are a matter of elbow-throwing, rules-lawyering, and whiny protestation over every point. Learned more with less stress at the former, and having had a chance to both teach and learn at the latter I'm pretty much convinced that the faculty prefer the former, too.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:35 PM
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isn't a student who's had the course before going to have an advantage over people who are new to the material? I guess this would bother me less in courses with fixed grading standards than in courses that are graded on a class curve.

Yeah, but you have kids taking classes they have no business taking, all the time, anyway. They re-take the math they had in high school, etc. In general I hold the rosy opinion that they benefit from reviewing the material, not that they're gaming the system. (Anyway I don't grade on a curve, at least not in a way that hurts anyone's grades. The only times are when I've suspected I made a final exam too hard and as a result, the whole class's semester grades are on the low side.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:38 PM
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190: it might not matter to anyone looking at the transcript*, but surely it would matter to the other students whose grades were pushed down by the student who took the class a second time.

*Might. Considering "do calculus at that level" is a pretty fuzzy concept, I would expect potential employers in fact to care a lot "how long it took" the student to grasp the concepts sufficiently to be able to "do it" at that level, since that's likely reflective of their general mathematical reasoning skills.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:40 PM
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I've worked at other schools with the same policy.

I think that is probably a pretty common policy. It kind of makes sense. The grade should demonstrate the level of understanding of the class. If it takes someone a couple of times to get the concepts they still might eventually have the same level of understanding of someone that got it the first time through.

Multiply pwned because I got interrupted by actual work during the creation of this post.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:40 PM
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I'm pretty much convinced that the faculty prefer the former, too.

Seriously, I'm so glad that the culture at our school is not to be grade-grubbing-y. They meekly inquire why their grade was lower, and possibly if they can do anything to bring it up. And if you say 'no', they get all apologetic and yes-ma'am-y.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:40 PM
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Huh. I take it heebie is the only person who teaches this particular course, and that the student isn't able to find a special tutor to aid him or her along the second time around.

I mean, this situation requires intervention of some sort.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:40 PM
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179

That's the most absurd policy I've ever heard.

You never heard of people retaking the bar exam?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:42 PM
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I've worked at other schools with the same policy.

A college friend of mine joked that he was majoring in freshman organic chem. I think he took it three times before deciding he wasn't cut out for a career in medicine.

#188. Right. Also, it isn't as if colleges like to turn down tuition money.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:42 PM
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193 and 195 make me feel better about the situation. Heebie, I'm okay with you letting this student retake your class.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:45 PM
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Her homework grade was almost perfect.

Wait... how is this possible?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:48 PM
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I take it heebie is the only person who teaches this particular course,

Yeah, at least next semester.

nd that the student isn't able to find a special tutor to aid him or her along the second time around.

She used the free tutoring center a ton, which is how she did nearly-perfectly on her homework. She just doesn't use help effectively. You'll say "Listen, let's spend a minute and understand why this is true," and she'll say back, "No, I think I got it. When you see this, you do that," and you say, "That doesn't necessarily work, because..." She is really fixated on not engaging the material on the level of understanding, and saying "Ohhhhh, I get it," to shut you up when she doesn't actually get it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:50 PM
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This is fantastic.

Where is everybody? I have work I'm trying to avoid.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:50 PM
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Considering "do calculus at that level" is a pretty fuzzy concept

Math has some of the clearest standards in the university. Certainly doing calculus is a more easily demonstrated skill than doing philosophy.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:52 PM
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204: Mm. Well, good luck? I guess if she continues to do so poorly, you continue to fail her, and maybe she decides math isn't for her. I assume she needs a passing understanding of this material for her chosen path, and can't let go of that chosen path.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:54 PM
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205: Maybe you could pretend to be a president, or an animal for that matter, and write rhymes as that persona?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:55 PM
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207: There are some recent fucking archives that you should probably read.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 1:58 PM
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Certainly doing calculus is a more easily demonstrated skill than doing philosophy.

This is making me smile. As a freshman, I was uncertain between theoretical physics (yes, really, ma'am, I meant that at the time) and philosophy. I crapped out in Calc III or whatever they called it, due in part to a TA whose accent I could barely understand, but took a phil. logic course the same semester, found that untroublesome, and the future was clear.

People have to let go!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 2:00 PM
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209: This blog would be boring if everybody read every goddamned thread all the time. But I apologize; I'm sure it was previously explained. M/tch, you have to try to understand the concept of desultory commenting.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 2:03 PM
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While the Heeblet is a perfectly wonderful baby, I think that Heebie's favorite student is even more wonderful and rare.

Who's that guy who quit Unfogged to go write musicals? Drymala, right? He should collaborate with our H-G on a Calc I musical .


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 2:11 PM
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204: She used the free tutoring center a ton, which is how she did nearly-perfectly on her homework.

Should that be, 'She got her tutor to do her homework for her?'

Also, in Texas the rule is (which may or may not apply at HGU) three tries at a class and then they stop paying for it with loans and stuff.

max
['The interesting question is, how the hell did she get through her other classes?']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 2:20 PM
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211: No real need for an apology. "RTFA!" is a venerable Unfogged tradition, and someone had to step up and carry out the ancient duty. After all, what would Unfogged be without its fucking archives?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 2:26 PM
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213: Also, maximum 6 lifetime "W" (withdraw) grades allowed in TX


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 2:33 PM
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214: Standpipe's other blog is over there, sir.

Sure. Point out the fucking archives whenever they occur to you. Hey, actually, is this place less Google indexed than it once was? Maybe since the server switch? I haven't made a study of it, but the last few times I've searched for something that I know was said a week or two prior, I don't find it. Possibly I haven't tried hard enough. But I'm curious.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 2:35 PM
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In Texas, or at Texas, i.e. the University of Texas or some other specific university?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 2:37 PM
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216: Um, if you'd make the effort to read more of the fucking archives, you might understand that Standpipe's blog is where jokes are explained. 214 doesn't contain any joke explaining related program activities, so Standpipe's blog isn't relevant. Please refrain from any future pointing out of Standpipe's blog in vain.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 2:44 PM
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Get a room, persons.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 2:46 PM
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211: Some of us put real effort into being commenters and we don't appreciate it when someone blows the curve by reading only half the threads and getting the tutor to do their comments for them or retaking the thread over and over until they get an A.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 2:52 PM
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212: This theme has already been addressed in the SpongeBob Squarepants episodes in which SpongeBob attends driving school.

I only hope that heebie can avoid the horrible fate of Mrs. Puff.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 2:57 PM
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218: Ahem.

related program activities .... Please refrain from any future pointing out of Standpipe's blog in vain.

This is priceless, so okay.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 2:57 PM
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That's the most absurd policy I've ever heard.

It's fairly typical, as far as I know. Sometimes they take the average of the two.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 3:29 PM
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Taking the average is even dumber. "I now know all the material in the class, but my A and my F only average out to a C, so I need to take it again so the average of my 3 grades will be a B."

Maybe nobody has ever actually done that.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 3:33 PM
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How does one "average" an A and an D? I guess numeric grades would have to be assigned for this purpose? Are teachers required to keep numeric grades, when only letter grades are reported?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 3:36 PM
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225: Isn't a numerical value for letter grades implicit in the concept of a GPA? There may be some schools that don't calculate GPAs, but for all those who do, they have an automatic conversion factor. (I can't remember what it was exactly in law school, but I know there was one.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 3:40 PM
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A=4.0, B=3.0 etc.

I thought you went to college, Brock.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 3:50 PM
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226/227: if an A=4.0 and a D=1.0, what is a 2.5 (which would be the average)?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 3:56 PM
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I have this vague memory that the NYU Law conversion factor was inconsistent so that C=2.0, B=3.0, but A+=4.0. I might be wrong, but I don't think there were numbers greater than 4.0.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 3:56 PM
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228: Halfway inbetween a C+ and a D-, but it doesn't matter which, because the averaging was only for the purpose of GPA anyway.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 3:57 PM
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230: you mean halfway between a B and a C?

I guess in some mechanical sense that could work, but it's unsatisfactory.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 3:59 PM
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About a C+.

Different schools handle the pluses and minuses differently. I remember that Northwestern computed the pluses as .5 more than the regular grade, but kept A=4.0 and simply counted an A+ as an A. You could give a student an A+, and it would appear on their transcript, but it was, like, an honorific apart from the computed GPA.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:00 PM
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I'm prety sure my college didn't have GPAs. Just letters.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:02 PM
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SJC refused to compute GPAs. (They barely deigned to give grades at all.) When I applied to graduate school I needed to make up a system for translating from the letter grades to the number grades. I think I made A+=4.0, A=3.66, B+=3.33, B=3.0.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:09 PM
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When I applied to graduate school I needed to make up a system for translating from the letter grades to the number grades. I think I made A+=4.0, A=3.66, B+=3.33, B=3.0.

Why not A+=5.0, A=4.5, B+=4.0, B=3.5. Seems like that would have gotten you better results.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:12 PM
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My high school did something like 235, and also had the absurd policy that anyone who graduated with a 4.0 or above was named class valedictorian. About 10% of my graduating class were valedictorians.

I think the "special" grade scale only applied to AP courses, if I'm remembering correctly, but still, it was stupid.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:14 PM
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Caroline's kindergarten gives out two grades on report cards: a plus indicates that the student has mastered the skill and a plus indicates that the student is making progress.

I understand the stress tests they are giving the banks uses a similar system.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:21 PM
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235: MIT does this as a matter of policy -- an MIT A is 5.0.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:21 PM
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238: at HLS an A is 7.0. An A+ is 8.0. 4.0 is a B. I think someone who graduated with a 4.0 would probably be in the bottom third of their class.

(They've actually just revamped the grading system to some sort of High Pass/Pass/Fail thing, I think, but that's how it used to be.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:26 PM
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239: Seriously? The MIT thing is an attempt to compare 'fairly' to other schools -- it's a straightforward claim that an MIT B reflects the same effort and accomplishment as an A at any other school. But I can't see making that same claim for the HLS grading with a straight face.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:30 PM
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(I'm not saying the MIT thing is reasonable, just that that's what they're doing. But Harvard can't possibly be doing the same thing -- 'a Harvard D is an A anyplace else' is beyond unreasonable into just goofy.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:33 PM
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At one time UC Berkely Law did grade adjustments based on undergraduate institution when evaluating applicants. Not sure if they do anymore, but here is the chart from the mid 90s retrieved from the Intenet archives.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:35 PM
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I have no idea what Berkeley did, though.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:36 PM
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243: He denied the existence of matter and the validity of calculus.

(I'm finding my grading really boring.)


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:38 PM
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244.2: Shockingly.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:39 PM
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Yes, serious. Although I was right that they're now doing the pass/fail thing.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:40 PM
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I find the inclusion of + and - in GPA calcs to be incredibly childish - pathetically so in college.

OTOH, it makes perfect sense to me that honors and AP classes get a boost - it's obvious that an A in AP English represents a superior achievement to an A in A- or B-level* English.

The cross-school comparison is just... shit, I already used "childish." Ludicrous? Lame? Embarrassing? If the name of your institution on the transcript doesn't cause the reviewer to internally adjust the value of the GPA, then perhaps your institution has other problems than calculating grades.

"Hold on, there Janice. Your MIT applicant only managed a 3.7 GPA. I've got a Northeastern grad here who nailed a 3.9."

"Our choice is clear. Thanks, Bob."

* as they were designated in my HS


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:40 PM
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(I should have noted you need to scroll down about 3/4 of the way on the first link in 246.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:41 PM
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SJC transcripts, as rob says, came (come?) without GPAs, but with a scolding little message informing the reader that all the classes at SJC are required and students cannot, as they so shamefully do at other schools, play to their strengths and take only classes that interest them. So my excuses are right there on the transcript for me.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:42 PM
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AB & I used to squabble about the fact that, in her grad school, no one got less than a C - they were all above average! And even a C was treated as a near-failing grade.

I'm perfectly willing to accept that this is common grad school practice, and I'm not interested in rehashing it, but it always struck me as a misunderstanding of grades - as if the bell curve should include people not actually being graded.

BTW, I haven't read the whole thread - did someone speculate that Obama is going to address the grade inflation crisis?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:44 PM
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Since this will inevitably lead to a discussion of grade inflation, let me preemptively go there and post a link to the comprehensive site for that (updated with some new stats and charts since I last looked at it—and possibly posted a link to it here).

And then leave to go play racquetball.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:44 PM
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250.last: Oh wait, I see - I thought this was the new thread.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:45 PM
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JP's already has 10 points in his racquetball game.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:45 PM
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241: "We're twice as good as any other law school, so all our letter grades should be worth twice as much."

That doesn't strike me as out of character for HLS.

(But I do think it's at least a weensy bit odd that this 8.0 scale is *not* consistent with the grading practices at the rest of the university.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:47 PM
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251.first written before seeing 250.last. Honest!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:47 PM
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254: I assume Yale goes to 9.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:49 PM
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250: At Chicago, in the humanities grad division, the C was a failing grade and you were kicked out if you got one. Most anyone who was tending C-ward dropped out on their own, but one fellow persisted, got more than one C, was asked to leave, and then was accepted to one of the colleges at Oxford. Best we could figure is they were happy to cash his parents checks.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:49 PM
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Caroline's kindergarten gives out two grades on report cards: a plus indicates that the student has mastered the skill and a plus indicates that the student is making progress.

Is one of the "plus"es there meant to be "check" or some other symbol? That's what I recall from preschool.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:49 PM
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250: At the University of Washington in the early 90s, they had three grades for grad students: A, A- and we are throwing you out of school.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:50 PM
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258: Yes, and your memory of preschool is much better than mine.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:52 PM
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It comes down to a question of whether "A" means "best in the class" or "has achieved mastery." If the latter, then you could, in fact, have a school at which everyone gets a 4.0. But if the former, then grad school practice is absurd. And since the former is what grades indicate at every other level of education in this country....

I basically feel that, if they don't want letter grades to mean what they mean, then they shouldn't use letter grades - I think my kindergarten used something like "inadequate," "adequate," and "superior" or "excellent." I get that you don't want to give Masters degrees to C- students but, again, it means forcing letter grades to do things they don't do elsewhere.

I guess I lied, and I do want to have this discussion. But I'll try to stop nonetheless.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:56 PM
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260: I think I found an old report card a couple years back.

True story: in 1st or 2nd grade I got a D in penmanship. I think it was the only sub-B grade I got, for even a quarter, until somewhere in HS (French, IIRC). And that was before we reached cursive, at which I was truly abysmal.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 4:59 PM
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Lincoln had the best penmanship of any president.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 5:10 PM
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I failed handwriting in fourth grade.

In sixth grade, I got a C for math, but unsatisfactories for effort, which I thought was a fine result, but meant that my parents took away all my books and music until my math went up to a B.

Didn't get any more fails until undergrad, when I pretty much failed every chemistry class once, then took it again for a C for three years, including summer school. Got up to P-chem that way. The semester I failed chemistry and got a D in molecular biology (but a good grade in Russian) was the last semester of my neurobiology major. Pretty much all As after that in my Env. Science degree.

Oh, failed Strength of Materials the first time in my first masters. Didn't like the prof. Got it right the second time.

What else have I failed? A few community college classes I've enrolled in since finishing grad school (singing, twice, and maybe there was a programming one? Dunno.).

I'm pleased I'm not still relying on my grades for anything. I wish I could be judged on standardized tests for everything for the rest of my life.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 5:22 PM
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Aced my GRE's! Men adore me!

Rocked the LSAT! My family is blissfully happy!

Owned the P.E.! I get a vacation home!

That's how the world should work.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 5:24 PM
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Foodie Academics threads are the Muzak of Unfogged.

h/t 117.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 5:26 PM
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247

I find the inclusion of + and - in GPA calcs to be incredibly childish - pathetically so in college.

This makes no sense. Student performance is continuous and not having + or - grades introduces too much discretization error.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 5:45 PM
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266 gets it right.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 5:48 PM
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"The Aporkalypse" and "The Hamdemic" were both coined within about an hour of each other on a certain baseball website. Apo's no unique mastermind.

Google has almost 16000 hits for aporkalypse. It's true that I'm no unique mastermind, but 100% certain that I didn't see it on a baseball website because I fucking hate baseball. But not coined there either, I'd bet.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 5:50 PM
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I find the inclusion of + and - in GPA calcs to be incredibly childish - pathetically so in college.

So there should only be five possible grades, 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4? Why not nine? Is the idea that any attempt to measure performance in a class is childish?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 5:50 PM
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267: Student performance is certainly not continuous, nor could it possibly be without an infinite number of students. A/B/C/D/F, A+/A/A-/B+..., and 100/99/98/97... are all discrete grading scales. Which gives us the appropriate level of aggregation is a matter of judgment and opinion.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 5:52 PM
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264: " my parents took away all my books and music until my math went up to a B."

You are the third person I've found whose parents banned her from reading for enjoyment until her grades in math went up (I am the first, Belle at L&L is the second). So far, it's all women. I'm keeping track because the first time I disclosed this to someone, he was horrified and said that it was abusive not to let a child read for enjoyment. This is a view of child abuse that makes me glad no cases on that subject have reached the court where he's clerking.


Posted by: PGofHSM | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 5:54 PM
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239-241: I never understood that to be a claim that the numbers were comparable to the same numbers at other schools, though -- just a different numbering system.

To be honest in reviewing HLS transcripts (before the new system) you really didn't have to look at averages. The grade inflation was bad enough that you could basically just look for Bs and B+s. If there are a significant number, the applicant wasn't anywhere near the top of the class. If there were only a few, especially if they were only in the first year, then maybe. If there were none, at or near the top. If there were only A-s and up, and more As than A-s, very near the top. And if they were at the top they'd have a Sears Prize listed on their resume.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 5:55 PM
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264: I failed handwriting in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades. They revoked promoting me a grade over my handwriting. It wasn't until I started studying chinese under a year ago that it started to improve. Now I have a new language to have terrible handwriting in, it makes the old one easier.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 6:00 PM
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Your secret's out, apo. I bet you're wearing a Marlins hat right now.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 6:01 PM
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My handwriting is still terrible.

Also, it is a long five weeks between report cards if your parents take away your books and speakers.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 6:03 PM
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All I meant by "not unique" was that it was a pretty obvious pun to make and thus was made in dozens, nay hundreds, of independent incidents.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 6:04 PM
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It wasn't that they were so distraught about the C in math. They were mad I wasn't trying.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 6:06 PM
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By the way, who penned 169?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 6:17 PM
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pretty obvious pun to make

Indeed.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 6:22 PM
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280: Comity!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 6:24 PM
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271

Student performance is certainly not continuous, nor could it possibly be without an infinite number of students. ...

This is gibberish.

... A/B/C/D/F, A+/A/A-/B+..., and 100/99/98/97... are all discrete grading scales. Which gives us the appropriate level of aggregation is a matter of judgment and opinion.

And the finer scales have less descretization error. It is my judgement and opinion that omitting + and - loses too much information. Particularly in a grade inflated environment where most grades are A or B.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 6:35 PM
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265: Sakes alive would I sign up for that reality. Whee!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 6:45 PM
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That's the most absurd policy I've ever heard.

Oh, really?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 6:48 PM
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272: You are the third person I've found whose parents banned her from reading for enjoyment until her grades in math went up (I am the first, Belle at L&L is the second). So far, it's all women. I'm keeping track because the first time I disclosed this to someone, he was horrified and said that it was abusive not to let a child read for enjoyment.

I can't speak to not being allowed to read until math scores went up, but weren't a lot of kids discouraged from reading in general because it wasn't well-rounded, seemed perhaps obsessive to the parents, and so on?

This would be for those of us who appeared to be reading obsessively. Being outright banned from the activity is of course different from being discouraged from it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:05 PM
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The policy linked in 284 doesn't strike me as crazy. I think I might even be on record in that thread defending it (although I didn't look back to confirm).


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:22 PM
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weren't a lot of kids discouraged from reading in general

I've never heard of such a thing before, but then my mother is a librarian, so.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:23 PM
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I had a friend whose parents enforced a rule that their kids were only allowed to read one fiction book for every two non-fiction books.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:28 PM
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I wasn't discouraged from reading in general. My dad took us to the library every Tuesday night. But they were willing to use reading as leverage when they wanted a particular result.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:29 PM
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287: There you go. I was definitely told I was reading too much, by my dad in particular. A male friend of mine (now in his 40s) was, but by school staff, not his parents. He wound up switching around schools a lot, ending in a hippie-dippie place called the I/deal School.

I somehow think this must be pretty standard for kids who just spend a lot of time reading, at least in grammar school, rather than pursuing sports or whatever they're supposed to be doing then. By high school, if you're reading a lot and you're also getting good grades, you probably get a pass.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:37 PM
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Recently, the local librarian made fun of me for checking out too many books. I thought if there would be one person understanding of that vice, it would be a librarian.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:48 PM
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She was flirting with you, Walt. Geez, do people have to explain everything?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 7:51 PM
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205 puts me in mind of this legal document. [pdf]

I CAN NOT FIND MY ASSETS.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 8:43 PM
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Preventing me from reading was a much threatened punishment in my childhood (not for grades, that was never an issue), but it was never carried out because it would have taken my parents 2+ weeks to locate and remove every scrap of reading material from my room.

Also, the grade discussion amuses me. It seems so disconnected from my understanding of grades, as both a receiver and a giver.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 04-30-09 10:13 PM
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But then my mother is a librarian.....

Is there a stereotype of the librarian's kid, like the preacher's kid stereotype? Besides the genitalia, I mean?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 5:27 AM
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295: John, everyone knows that librarians are all old maids and spinsters who don't breed. Occasionally some rake will come unlong and unleash a particlular librarian's pent-up passion, but no offspring ever result.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 6:28 AM
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Hmmm.

"unlong" s/b "along"

Or maybe libararians just aren't too worried about size.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 6:29 AM
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And seriously, who deserves the props for 169? F/D/R said something about needing the information so that he can place an order for a headstone.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 6:33 AM
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A friend of mine went to Bronx HS of Science where GPAs were calculated to five significant figures. In Shearer's world this makes sense, but I think that some sort of three-grade system is more justifiable -- for example A, B, and C (=F). Making it precise and quantified is delusional, especially when you're averaging grades from different kinds of classes graded by teachers with different kinds of grading systems.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 6:39 AM
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librarians are all old maids and spinsters who don't breed

Fortunately, mom didn't get that masters degree in library science until after my brother and I were born.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 7:04 AM
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300: Fortunately is doing a lot of work in that sentence.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 7:52 AM
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I initially misread the first word in 300 as "libertarians," and it seemed an implausible claim.

AB's least favorite part of "It's a Wonderful Life" is when Clarence announces that the worst fate possible has befallen Mary: "She's a librarian!"


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 8:18 AM
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267, 270: I really don't see any need to assess achievement in a months-long class on a level finer than Excellent, Above Average, Average, Below Average/Semi-adequate, and FAIL. I see the psychological impacts of certain grades (far better a C- than a D), but, esp. for actually calculating GPA, it just seems silly. I had a prof who gave everyone the same grade in a studio course*, and everybody freaked out - "We need to be judged! We need to be sorted!"

* Studio being our most important course, with 3X the credits of a normal course. He gave all Cs at mid-term - "It's the middle of the semester, and it's the middle grade" - which super-freaked people, but then he gave everyone As, which freaked out the other studios.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 8:28 AM
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Grade for jocking the team that will take down the hated Celtics and have brought us the most entertaining basketball so far this playoffs: A+

And that, folks, is all that really counts.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 8:31 AM
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especially when you're averaging grades from different kinds of classes graded by teachers with different kinds of grading systems.

This is part of why it's so silly to include + and -. Some profs won't ever give +s. Some will be pretty loose with them. Big steps - A, B, C, D & F - will be more or less respected (inflation aside), despite exceptions like the one I note in 303.

Unless you require every prof to hand out + and - on a consistent basis (A+ == 98-100, etc.), then it's crap for comparative purposes anyway. And what do you do in seminars where most of the grade is participation-based? Attach a percentile-based grade to each student based on fine gradations in thoughtfulness, articulation, argumentation, etc.? Ridiculous.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 8:39 AM
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261
It comes down to a question of whether "A" means "best in the class" or "has achieved mastery." If the latter, then you could, in fact, have a school at which everyone gets a 4.0. But if the former, then grad school practice is absurd. And since the former is what grades indicate at every other level of education in this country....

Wait, huh? You're saying that at every level of education except for grad school, a grade of "A" means "best in the class?" That's not my experience. The idea of getting graded on a curve was a new experience for me when I started college. IIRC teachers in high school varied on whether they gave out letter grades at all, and if so what the cutoff points were on those letters, but if I got 95 percent of a test right in high school then I could count on getting a good-but-not-quite-perfect grade whether it was the highest in the class or the lowest.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 8:55 AM
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IIRC teachers in high school varied on whether they gave out letter grades at all

What? That's crazy. Starting in 7th grade, we were told explicitly how percentage scores translated to grades, and every teacher in the county-wide system was required to submit letter grades using that scale. Same deal in my HS district, 1000 miles away*. I've never, ever heard of a HS where teachers had the option of not giving letter grades.

As for the other issues raised in 306, of course it's possible for an entire class, on a given test, all to get As - they could even all get 100s. But if the teacher is proceeding such that, all year long, every student is scoring 100s, s/he probably isn't doing something right.

My dad had a prof who argued, IIRC, that only one student in a class should be able to complete an exam in the allotted time, and that the rest would sort themselves out accordingly. That's extreme, but it lets you see how the students actually stand relative to one another (which is the only reason to have grades at all; otherwise just do pass/fail).

My complaint with the grad school system is that they shouldn't use letter grades if they don't want them to mean what they mean everywhere else in life; I have no problem with the idea that they don't want to give Masters degrees to students who only get the material at a 75% rate.

* Interestingly, the cutoffs varied between districts: 93 was the lowest A in Miami, but 90 was the lowest A in NJ.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 9:24 AM
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My dad had a prof who argued, IIRC, that only one student in a class should be able to complete an exam in the allotted time, and that the rest would sort themselves out accordingly. That's extreme, but it lets you see how the students actually stand relative to one another (which is the only reason to have grades at all; otherwise just do pass/fail).

That seems crazy. I'm no maths genius, but I finished my final high school maths exam in about 30% of the time available. If they'd set the same exam in that 30% time period, I'd expect the majority of people sitting it would have failed.

There's also no strict correlation between speed and ability. The student who finishes the exam the quickest and the student who gets the highest marks needn't be the same person.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 9:30 AM
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308: It's possible that it was "only 1 student should get 100%." If I'd known this was going to come up, I would have asked this weekend when he was here.

But anyway the point was to set up a true curve - you've got 1 student who gets everything, and then whichever student has done worst, and then you apply a curve to everyone in between. So a 40% could end up a C. Obviously it works best with a fairly tightly-grouped set of students - you've got too many outliers in an intro survey course with 300 students.

I don't think the prof actually did this; I think it was more of a thought experiment.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 9:42 AM
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which is the only reason to have grades at all; otherwise just do pass/fail


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 9:47 AM
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which is the only reason to have grades at all; otherwise just do pass/fail

Not at all. Grades should contain information.

A. Might be considered for Post Grad.
B. Could probably teach this stuff in high school one day, or hold down a specialist job in industry.
C. Pretty much employable.
D. Uh-uh.

I know it doesn't work like that, but that was how it was meant to work before all the other pressures got too much.

(Fucking HTML)


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 9:47 AM
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307: OFE is right, grades could/should be used for lots more than just establishing a curve. Also, your footnote seems like it raises obvious questions: if cutoffs between letter grades can vary, then why can't the use of letters itself?

It's always seemed to me like grading on a curve made less sense than absolute grades, whether calculated out of 100 or 20 or or zero through 4 or letters or what. It makes sense in the scenario Heebie or someone described recently where a teacher makes a test too hard and doesn't realize it until they get grades back, but other than that, why should my grade be contingent to how well other people did? Grading on a curve gives students incentives to slip roofies to the smart kids.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 10:38 AM
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why should my grade be contingent to how well other people did? Grading on a curve gives students incentives to slip roofies to the smart kids.

Haven't you answered your own question?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 10:40 AM
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Grading locally on a curve disfavors students who hope to move to a higher level, since a mediocre student in a poor class will end up thinking he's better than he is, and then will have a rude awakening when he moves up to a more competitive level. I believe that my son would have done much better in college math if his HS Calculus teacher had been more demanding.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 10:54 AM
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314: And a mediocre lady student in a poor class will end up thinking that she's much better than she is. We regret the error.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 10:55 AM
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I will never grade to a curve in the sense given above. All classes are not equivalent, and few of them are large enough to make it statistically sensible anyway. I do adjust exams that turned out to be too hard, particularly if many students ran out of time. If there are a large number of students, I'll just shift the average to where it "should have" been, smaller classes are harder to do, but I think you can rely on experience and be fair.

My undergraduate university awarded letter grades but recorded percentages as well. Final GPA was an average of these percentages, which is probably reasonably accurate over 40-odd courses. I think I like this system best of the ones I've seen, for fairness.


Posted by: mildly opinionated prof | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 10:56 AM
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314: but John, the reality is almost always the reverse of what you've described. The alternative to grading locally on a curve is not grading globally on a curve. Very few teachers are willing to give D's to their whole HS Calculus class just because the kids in the magnet MIT-feeder school across town are all so much smarter. So if there's no forced curve, everyone gets fluffy grades and the bright kid in the mediocre class still doesn't realize he's only excelling on a watered-down curriculum. Your son no doubt would have done better if his HS Calc. professor had been more demanding, but I don't see grading on points vs. a curve affecting that. (Except insofar as my general impression is that grading on a forced curve tends to be a bit harsher.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:01 AM
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312: Since the material being graded isn't consistent from district to district, there's no need for the percent cutoffs to be consistent (although, in the back of my mind, I always thought that NJ must be easier). This relates to curves as well: A teacher in a typical class should be producing some As, lots of Bs and Cs, and some Ds and/or Fs*. Since the teacher knows what s/he's teaching, and is also preparing the tests/grading the papers, it's not that hard to develop a system in which that happens, regardless of the percentages. If every student gets an A, they're not all Excellent; the test/grading was too easy. It's not that your grade is "contingent" on how someone else did; if you're really an excellent student, then your grades will reflect that. What you shouldn't see is non-excellent students getting As because the test was easy, and so even a mediocre student got 90% of the questions right.

In terms of proficiency, C indicates proficiency, and it's certainly possible to achieve 90% proficiency or greater. But if you're getting 90% As, then the material isn't challenging enough. Even in a class of brainiacs, you could just go beyond the core curriculum to challenge the kids, and knock someone down to a B - it's not the end of the world, and the kids benefit from learning more and learning to work harder. Incidentally, this supports my position on bonus GPA points for honors and AP - the smartest kids would all gets As in regular classes, but put them all together and challenge them, and some will get Bs that are worth As in regular classes.

* ideally no Ds or Fs, but in practice, there are dumb kids and lazy kids and Heebie's student.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:02 AM
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316.1 makes perfect sense to me - I don't think curves should be hard or strictly applied, so that a 91 turns into an F because it was the worst score. But if everyone got a 100 except the one kid that got a 91, maybe that kid isn't, in fact, understanding the material on an A level, regardless of his percentage score.

Again, it mostly comes down to teacher judgement. And I know teachers can suck and play favorites and the like, but that's life. You need to rely on the person who's in the classroom every day dealing with the little dears.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:06 AM
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314

Grading locally on a curve disfavors students who hope to move to a higher level, since a mediocre student in a poor class will end up thinking he's better than he is, and then will have a rude awakening when he moves up to a more competitive level. I believe that my son would have done much better in college math if his HS Calculus teacher had been more demanding.

This is likely to happen no matter how the class is graded. If you are used to competing with people with less ability it will be an unpleasant surprise to have to compete with people with equal (much less greater) ability.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:19 AM
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317 makes no sense. Grading on a curve, the best student in the class gets an A. Grading on points, he doesn't.

In the same way, in an elite class with all-talented students, grading on a curve would tell a kid who was actually doing very well might end up with a D.

[Cue Dsquared for something on a national curriculum]. It wouldn't be hard to devise a national grading system based on points, so that in a class with all A students everyone would get As, and in a class with all C students everyone would get Cs.

In both cases you might also have some kind of parallel local grading system so that the better students in every class get some praise, and the worse students get a kick in the ass. That would preserve American competitive values.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:23 AM
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||
Happy May Day everyone!
Remember their names:
August Spies
Albert Parsons
Adoplh Fischer
George Engel
Michael Schwab
Oscar Neebe
Samuel Fielden
and Louis Lingg
123 years later and the fight continues.
Hooray for immigrant workers!
||>


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:26 AM
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It wouldn't be hard to devise a national grading system based on points, so that in a class with all A students everyone would get As, and in a class with all C students everyone would get Cs.

It wouldn't? I mean, we have exactly that with standardized tests, but are you envisioning we replace every test in every class in the country with a standardized version? That's a bit of a change.

Without a standard test, grading on points or a curve, a teacher will almost always give A's to the best students in the class. That's what they believe they are supposed to do.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:27 AM
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Without a standard test, grading on points or a curve, a teacher will almost always give A's to the best students in the class. That's what they believe they are supposed to do.

This is simply not true. I give A's to students whose work deserves A's, period. It would be unusual to have none in a class, but not unheard of (particularly with small classes). Global curriculum issues are more difficult -- there are certainly harder and easier courses.


Posted by: mildly opinionated prof | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:32 AM
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324: I said "almost always", MOP. It's an empirical question, but I'm nearly positive I'm not wrong, unless my cumulative educational experiences have been very out of the ordinary. The fact that you are an outlier is a data point, nothing more. Admittedly with a small class/seminar it is more often different (in both the "no one gets and A" and in the "2/3 of the class gets an A" directions).


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:37 AM
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John in 321 is ignoring the informational value of knowing what class the student is in. In every non-tiny HS, there are multiple levels for every academic class - often 3 or more. I don't have any problem with the best student in English B getting an A, even if s/he would struggle to get a C in English A, and would fail in Honors English. Everyone more or less understands this. It would be somewhat perverse to tell a kid who got a 100 score in English B that s/he was getting a C.

Again, I would support a system with just 3 grades (Pass/Fail/Excellent)*, and let the course level do most of the work in communicating competence level. After all, an Excellent student in English B may be displaying superior work ethic/malleability to the Pass student in English A; if you need someone to be a good writer, you'd prefer the English A kid, but if you want a good worker, you may prefer the English B kid.

* I readily acknowledge the grade inflation possibilities; it just seems to me worthwhile to distinguish between proficiency and excellence. Maybe you put a limit on how many Excellents can be given out, so that it's impossible to reward every student, without having such a small number that there's excellent students left out.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:39 AM
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further to 324: to be fair, there is an aspect of "I'll know it when I see it" to all this. It's harder to be good with this if it is the first time you teach a course, particularly if there are not other sections to consider. You get pretty good at judging the level of difficulty, though, after many courses.


Posted by: mildly opinionated prof | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:39 AM
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I said "almost always",

Ok, tjhis is still anectdotal of course, but through interacting with many educators at a half dozed different college level institutions, I don't believe you are correct.

The reason that a typical course gets a range of marks from F's to A's is not because the teacher thinks that should happen, but because the courses are designed so that this will happen for a typical batch of students. Curriculum is designed to be neither too hard nor too easy, to push students but not exhaust them. I could easily design a course that nearly nobody could pass, or one that nearly nobody would fail. Wouldn't be a very good idea, though.

unless my cumulative educational experiences have been very out of the ordinary.

I don't know how ordinary your experience have been. I do know, that like any other single student, they are selective.


Posted by: mildly opinionated prof | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:44 AM
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That's a bit of a change.

Indeed.

Lots of balls in the air, as usual. 1. Motivating students to work harder. 2. Not discouraging students. 3. Letting them know them how good they actually are. 4. Organizing a competitive event. 5. Separating the sheep from the goats.

In some forms of functional training, getting the whole class up to speed is much more important than distinguishing the best from the worst. The teacher's goal is to produce 100% A students. Rank-ordering students is a different goal, and the two can conflict.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:49 AM
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I don't disagree with anything in your second paragraph, MOP, except for the your assertion that this isn't how teachers think the system is supposed to work. How do you think things should work?

Heebie said in the other thread if she gives out a test that results in unexpectedly low grades across the class, she tends to bump them all up, on the assumption that she inadvertently wrote too difficult a test. She doesn't just decide "well, these kids are dumber than I'd thought--I guess the highest grade will be a C." This is very typical, IME.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:50 AM
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Or maybe it was in this thread that Heebie said that. I don't remember.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:57 AM
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This is all reminding me that I have a batch of papers that I'm in the middle of grading, and I'm so frustrated because every single one of them is just .. adequate. They did what I told them to do. No one (so far) has failed to tick off all the marks of a solid paper, and very few have gone beyond average. They're all fucking B's! I don't have a grading curve, I have a flat line with two blips.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 12:05 PM
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and very few have gone beyond average adequate to earn a solid B.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 12:06 PM
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She doesn't just decide "well, these kids are dumber than I'd thought--I guess the highest grade will be a C."

Say I give an exam to a class large enough so that the average result is even a sensible thing to talk about. Suppose my average result is 20% lower than it was last year for the same exam on the same course, and 18% lower than the year before that. There are two obvious possibilities, these students are not as good as the previous years ones were, or my exam was notably harder.

Of course this is fundamentally not a solvable problem without outside information. However, in the situation I will always try and test the two hypothesis. For example, let's say this is the 2nd exam in the term, and the 1st one was within 5% of previous years, I might start to wonder if this one was too hard. Similarly if fewer students manage to finish. I will also look at students that I know (from interaction) to be good students or poor students, and see how they did. After all, if the average shifts down but the top 5-10 students to about the same as usual, that weighs towards the idea that this bunch is not, on average, as good as the previous years.

So you weigh all of this stuff and you try and make the right decision. Of course it's not perfect, but you have more information and experience than anyone else, and are best placed to judge these particular students in this particular course. The larger the group of students you can look at, the more reasonable the assumption that they are on average about the same as previous years. It's not something you assume though, particularly if you are only looking at 30 people, rather than 300 hundred or (better) 3000.

So no, I wouldn't assume they were the same as last years and just bump them up. And neither would anyone I've talked to about this issue.

The thing you are leaving out also, is that over working with a class for a term you get a pretty good idea of what the class is like and how they will do. I am much more likely to shift an exam result if the result surprised me, than merely because it doesn't match last years class.

And that is what is very typical, IME.

For that matter, I've even watched a colleague go to court against his own administration because he didn't believe a particular class deserved higher marks than they were given, and wouldn't bow to pressure to bump them.


Posted by: mildly opinionated prof | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 12:07 PM
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The only time I ever got an A+ in grad school was on my PG Wodehouse project.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 12:08 PM
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since I've been pulled into this discussion at more depth than I planned, I should note that I've always taught in sciences, where marking is often fairly objective and we sometimes have very large numbers of students (e.g. several thousand freshman) following roughly the same curriculum. These are mostly the people I know, and my experience. I'm not at all certain how the same situation is typically handled in the humanities or arts .


Posted by: mildly opinionated prof | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 12:12 PM
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MOP, I think you misunderstood what you were originally replying to, in 324. I taught for a few years, and I'm broadly familiar with everything about the process you've described in 334. John was suggesting we move to a system in which students are graded on an absolute basis, or a global curve (which amounts to the same thing, assuming the absolute grading scale is set up in a familiar way). So you're comparing your students not against one another, or the students you had last year, but also against the students at the magnet school across town. When you say you "give A's to students whose work deserves A's, period", you're presumably basing your assessment of who "deserves A's" on your collected body of students, past and present. (The past and present seems to be the main thing you're harping on here, which is fine--I agree that classes fluctuate year to year, some better, some worse. Generally this is mild enough not to significantly affect grade distributions, but not always.) When I said "a teacher will almost always give A's to the best students in the class", that's mostly what I meant--"class" can be read broadly to include former classes, if that helps you. (I'm not sure this is necessary given the "almost always", but whatever.) If you weren't doing that--if you were instead recalling all the bright young studs you worked with at some other, better school, against whom your students (largely) don't measure up--and were as a result awarding only 1 or 2 A's every five years or so, and giving most of your students C's and D's, I think most educators would disapprove. An I think you'd be a real outlier.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 12:27 PM
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Since 336 says you teach college, not HS, replace "magnet school across town" with "MIT". The point stands.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 12:28 PM
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322: And the Dunne brothers and their coffee shop.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 12:37 PM
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Ok, I may have missed something in the thread of conversation, Brock.

On the other hand, it doesn't really matter, because meaningful global grading at a course-by-course level is entirely implausible. First off you'd have to standardize curriculum in an implausible way. Secondly you'd have to replace a few hours of final exam per course with many days of standardized (written) exams to begin to approximate the accuracy of a mark assigned by an involved teacher. Or you'll need to do them all orally. So even as an abstract ideal it probably isn't very useful.

More importantly, though, you're missing a variable. The courses are not the same. If you teach X 101 at MIT and later teach X 101 at we'll-let-anyone-in-U, in all probability it's not just that the students are different, you aren't actually teaching the same course, regardless of how similar the curriculum looks. Everyone who has been in both positions realizes this, as does typically everyone who makes decisions based on the transcripts.

It's imperfect, sure. Got a better idea?


Posted by: mildly opinionated prof | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 12:46 PM
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Go back and re-read the thread, MOP, and I think you'll see that you're agreeing with me.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 12:48 PM
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We're not agreeing if you stand by the idea that typical response to poor exam grades (in context) is to assume the students are fine and your exam was too hard, so bump the marks. Similarly likely is that the students are weak, and the marks stay. And that's the way it goes in practice, in my experience.

This is quite separable from the problem of comparing grades across different courses and schools.


Posted by: mildly opinionated prof | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 12:52 PM
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I was mostly thinking about standardizing HS math and science curriculums. I think that something like that could be done at the college level too, though.

My guess is that MIT students arenn't better than Ohio State students at CALC 101; they've just taken more, and more advanced courses.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 12:54 PM
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We're agreeing that's a judgment the teacher would have to make, and about the factors that would likely be used to evaluate the issue. Maybe we disagree about which outcome is more "typical".


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 12:55 PM
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My guess is that MIT students arenn't better than Ohio State students at CALC 101; they've just taken more, and more advanced courses.

I doubt that, at least on average. But regardless, by the time they get to college these two factors are going to be nearly impossible to disentangle.

344 to 342.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 12:58 PM
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343.2: I'd doubt that. I'd say the top quarter? 10%? of an Ohio State calc class would do fine in MIT's calc 18.01, but the middle and bottom of the OSU range of students would be distinguishable. Heebie's not teaching at OSU, but, e.g., her favorite student isn't inconceivable at OSU, but would be truly surprising to run into at MIT.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 1:00 PM
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I was too generous with various supposedly low-stakes assignments over the course of the semester in one of my classes, with the result that most of my solidly B students with B final papers are nonetheless getting As in the course (our final grades don't allow for pluses and minuses). The C students are getting Cs, but there is a B gap. This makes me unhappy, but there it is.


Posted by: rfts | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 1:08 PM
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Hey, wait, I taught physics 117 at OSU. mop is right (not the same class), I think. At OSU and similar we'll-take-them-all Universities in the US, hard science classes in the first year or two fulfil the role an admissions committee would at other schools; that is, OSU will take you, but the engineering program may require first year's coursework or testing out before they'll touch you, to keep their degree meaningful. Organic chemistry for premeds at many universities plays this role; at very large schools, there are many majors with a de facto gatekeeper course taught by another department.

So students differ not just in talent, but also in motivation to the material (want to learn vs hurdle to overcome). Also, IMO, math is not a great example, as bright people can do 0-60 fast even with poor preparation, more so than in other subjects.

Most pernicious for 18-yr olds at OSU is, I think, median peer attitudes towards learning. There are lots of good kids and an honors program, but the casual assumption that hurts many is there's not much point in working hard in class when they need to be making up for lost time.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 1:16 PM
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My guess is that MIT students arenn't better than Ohio State students at CALC 101; they've just taken more, and more advanced courses.

I have not taught at MIT and Ohio State, so I can't speak specifically to that. I have, however, taught at schools with fairly comparable spread.

In my experience, you aren't quite right. Or rather, it's not really the right way to pose things. To use the same nominal spread that you have --- students at MIT manifestly are better at calc 101 than students at Ohio state, the interesting question is why. (Don't believe me? Grab 200 randomly from both schools next Nov, and give them the same comprehensive tests. I'll bet you dollars to donuts the MIT group does statistically better)

So why is it? There are two things at work, particularly with entry level courses. The first is that high school preparation is surprisingly variable. Some freshmen are literally a year or more of HS level work (not courses, but work) behind others, in terms of preparation. If you have a highly competitive entry process, all of your incoming students are in the top 20% or so. If you are at a school that has open entry or very relaxed entry requirements, you get the bottom 20% in your mix (and a sampling of all the others), and they are terribly, dreadfully, under-prepared. This is why most colleges of this type have remedial (often required) courses before the "real" first year courses. Even after these preparatory courses, many of the students are still woefully unprepared. It really is that bad. So in the middle of your intro calculus course, you are stopping 2/3 times a week to answer questions that should have been mastered in 10th grade. This just does not happen at the other school.

The second thing is that there is a lot of self-selection going on the path to an elite program. So does this mean that the MIT students are just naturally better? No, not at all. Or rather, that the students who end up there and at comparable schools are not the "best" students in the country, in any meaningful sense, but they do on average represent a sampling of the better students. There are a lot of reasons you can end up there, and not. There are a lot of students who are entirely capable of doing well there, and will never go. I have no illusions about that, and I'm absolutely convinced that you could take a group of students who had weaker high school backgrounds, who may otherwise have lacked the socio-economic advantages that may have led them to an MIT level program, and design a curriculum so they would essentially catch up to the MIT students. It might take a little extra time.

But, and its' a big but, you can not do this with just any random group of students. Not everyone will do well in that sort of program, even given arbitrary amounts of time to catch up. And many will never have the time.

It all gets more complicated once you get past entry level courses, because there are strong cumulative effects. In some ways there is more gap at the end of degrees than there was at the beginning. Students push each other, and typically will rise to the course level. It's impossible to push as hard with some classrooms as others (without losing most of the class).


Posted by: mildly opinionated prof | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 1:18 PM
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OK, put it differently. Math is math, and grade people on what they know. This means that Math 101 isn't the same at MIT and Ohio State, so you're still grading on a curve, globally speaking, but not within the clas.

In actuality, students in various schools in the US are aiming at very different targets, but in objective areas of study having a national or international standard to grade to seems like a good idea. And maybe CALC 101 at MIT requires a 90 for an A, and CALC 101 at Ohio State requires a 75 for an A.

I realize this is institutionally impossible right now, but it seems otherwise like a good idea, especially in terms of letting students know where they really stand.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 1:31 PM
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343

My guess is that MIT students arenn't better than Ohio State students at CALC 101; they've just taken more, and more advanced courses.

No way, the MIT students will have much more math ability, there will be very little overlap.

25%, 75% math sat scores, MIT 720-800, OSU 590-680.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 1:42 PM
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I see where you're coming from, John, but beyond being unviable I'm also not sure I see the point on a course-by-course basis.

After all, the primary point of calc 101 (whichever variant you want) is not merely to produce students who understand the concepts of calc 101. After all, the really key concepts would only fill a few sheets of paper. There are a handful of facts, ideas and techniques from that course that are very useful later, sure, but it is equally important to have had the students go through the process of exploring these ideas and learning to think in a certain way. Several things you will teach them they will in practice never use later, because they will be shown more effective methods that subsume them.

A degree program, after all, is never merely a collection of facts or ideas.

Given that truth, what is the value of a standardized test of the material of one course out of dozens they'll take, even if you could make sense of that?


Posted by: mildly opinionated prof | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 1:43 PM
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Having taken more, and more advanced, math courses would result in a higher math SAT score.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 1:44 PM
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353

Having taken more, and more advanced, math courses would result in a higher math SAT score.

People with more ability take more courses. The math sat score mostly measures ability.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 1:49 PM
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as bright people can do 0-60 fast even with poor preparation

0-60=-60, right?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 1:49 PM
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People with more ability take more courses.

People in school systems that offer more advanced courses also take more advanced courses. You're making a very circular argument.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:02 PM
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Good evening, friends. While it may seem like four score and seven years since the last episode, I take the long view of history:

Lincoln Lincoln I've been thinkin'
some claim that you're the best
but it's Koolaid that they're drinkin'.
Your lyrical chops are clearly inferior
my words will split you like a rail
leave marks on your posterior
Your penny-ante rhymes
will be no defense
I'll drop a dime on your ass
I've got ten times more sense
I can easily double whatever you bring
you see I'm 32nd and you're only 16th
You've got your tall-ass hat
but you're just a tall asshat
You got elected twice
well I did it twice that
And you say you're honest, Abe
but you lie like John Brown's body
claiming your addresses
are anything but shoddy
They're lamer than Booth was
after jumping to the stage
"Thus always to tired-ass
MCs" is what I'll say
Cause I've got a New Deal
it's to deal out destruction
When I'm finished with your ass
you'll need Reconstruction
Even if you switch in time
that won't save you from my nine
I'll laugh at your minie balls
like fruit withered on the vine
My style is classic, vintage
my wrath can't be ignored
I'll trample on your grapes
with my terrible swift words
Your low hanging fruit
will feel trauma acute
You won't get any protection
from Hawley and Smoot
You can try to retreat
to your old Kentucky home
where the sun shines bright
but it's not a safety zone
You'll try to bar the door
you'll say I can't come in
not even by the hairs
on your chinny chin chin
But as you read by the fireside
in your stovepipe hat
I'll come blasting through your radio
destroy you with my chat
Cause that's how I roll
harsher than the dust bowl
bloody like Shiloh
more deadly than the grassy knoll
Proclaim all you want
but that won't set you free
from the havoc that I'll wreak
like Sherman marching to the sea
Now my DJ Lo-Max
will spin some hardcore tracks
they'll rip yours apart
like union soldier attacks
You shall perish from this earth
You can't stand, it's your demise
I'll leave your house divided
and put pennies on your eyes.


Posted by: F/D/R | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:12 PM
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It is irrelevant ot the main point, but it is interesting to see Ohio State characterized as "take anybody" when in truth the main campus has a 60% undergrad admit rate and there are further good-sized numbers of college-bound kids who are steered away from applying to the flagship school in a state like Ohio (plus the non-college bound).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:14 PM
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356

People in school systems that offer more advanced courses also take more advanced courses. ...

Schools offer more advanced courses when they have students with more ability.

... You're making a very circular argument.

I believe students vary in inherent math ability and that this matters more than which high school they attend in determining how they will do at college level math.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:17 PM
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Cause that's how I roll

*snort*


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:17 PM
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358: I didn't mean to give that impression. I don't know enough about Ohio to characterize it, and was trying to avoid that. There are certainly colleges that will "take anyone", and MIT is somewhere near the other end of the spectrum, but it was the spectrum I had wanted to describe, not any particular schools.


Posted by: mildly opinionated prof | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:18 PM
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359.3 to 359.2.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:18 PM
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351: 25%, 75% math sat scores, MIT 720-800, OSU 590-680

Putting aside whether it is ability or preparation, there is somewhat more overlap than this would indicate, as at Ohio State on the order of 20-25% of the students are majoring in directly quantitative disciplines while the number at MIT is more like 80%. So a big chunk of the lower Math score students at OSU never see the inside of a Claculus book.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:20 PM
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I believe students vary in inherent math ability and that this matters more than which high school they attend in determining how they will do at college level math.

Sure. But how they will do on the SAT is going to be very highly correlated with what level courses they received in high school. Which is going to correlate even more highly with what is offered at their high school.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:21 PM
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I believe students vary in inherent math ability and that this matters more than which high school they attend in determining how they will do at college level math.

While I believe there is some truth to this, and leaving aside the relevance of what you mean by mathematical ability to a typical "calc 101" course, what is certainly true is that what high school someone goes to can have a lot to do with what college level math they will typically have a chance of sampling. The whole sorting mechanism is quite loose, and there are certainly many more students with MIT level capability than can ever got to MIT, if you want to look at it that way (and some who end up at MIT who probably shouldn't be there, but for systemic reasons this is probably less of an issue than the ivies, for example)

All of this is only slightly related to the larger point though.


Posted by: mildly opinionated prof | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:24 PM
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the inside of a Claculus book.

Somehow I find this a very funny typo.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:27 PM
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361:but it was the spectrum I had wanted to describe, not any particular schools

Yep, understood. As I said, not germane to the overall point; more just an illustration of 1) how much the college admissions "game" has shifted over the past 20-30 years and 2) at a place like this blog we are prone to look at a somewhat narow slice of the world.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:30 PM
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But how they will do on the SAT is going to be very highly correlated with what level courses they received in high school. Which is going to correlate even more highly with what is offered at their high school.

Jumping in, but yes. These things are very hard to disentangle. Someone in my high school graduating class who exhausted the curriculum in mathematics would have finished calculus I. At my cousin's, calculus III. The point is of course that we don't have a test for innate ability because none of us grow up in isolation, and that even if we did, it probably wouldn't be all that relevant. MIT would have an interest in admitting the students with better mathematics preparation.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:35 PM
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345 to every single comment that's come since.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:39 PM
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367: It was John Emerson who introduced the Ohio/MIT spread. But overall, these days "take anyone" means much closer to literally that at the fairly open admissions schools. If you have graduated from high school with passing grades in a fairly short list of senior courses, you will probably be able to register.


Posted by: mildly opinionated prof | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:39 PM
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At least some, and think many, state schools will admit anyone who graduated from an a high school within the state.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:41 PM
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368

Jumping in, but yes. These things are very hard to disentangle. Someone in my high school graduating class who exhausted the curriculum in mathematics would have finished calculus I. At my cousin's, calculus III. The point is of course that we don't have a test for innate ability because none of us grow up in isolation, and that even if we did, it probably wouldn't be all that relevant. MIT would have an interest in admitting the students with better mathematics preparation.

In math ability is more important than preparation (within limits, you can't be raised in a barrel). MIT would rather admit a student with exceptional ability and mediocre preparation than a student with exceptional preparation and mediocre ability.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:44 PM
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371: Yes, I elided the in-state/out-of-state distinction for state schools. Looked it up, and for OSU, admission to OSU-Main is competitive for in-state graduates but not for branches (which are "competitive" for out-of-state).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:48 PM
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MIT would rather admit a student with exceptional ability and mediocre preparation than a student with exceptional preparation and mediocre ability.

What MIT would rather do and what MIT can actually measure are two separate things, here.

However, they can have some success in the numbers game. This works much better for the school when class size is very much smaller than the set of people who would both like to go there and have the ability to do well in the program. MIT is in this position, but most schools are not.


Posted by: mildly opinionated prof | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:49 PM
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Not that I want to turn this into a discussion of grade inflation, but I do recommend at least looking at this great chart from the site I linked in 251 showing accumulated data from a raft of schools over time. Whatever your judgment, it makes an interesting picture.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 2:54 PM
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ANIMALS RULE, PRESIDENTZ DROOL!


Posted by: OPINIONATED CHARISMATIC MEGAFAUNA | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 3:08 PM
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Even though it's impossible and ridiculous to think of having national standardized tests for topics in which the right answers are known, I think that the actual educational systems which have actual national standardized tests for those types of subjects are better than ours, and would give students a better idea of where they stand.

My guess is that many of the classes on which Ohio State students have a wide spread of grades A-F would be classes which MIT students wouldn't even take, so that there's no comparable class in the two schools. Nonetheless, there's a lot to be said for measuring math skills on a standardized scale, whatever the letter values you decide to give for the school's internal purposes.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 3:30 PM
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Well, Four and Three and Two and Umm
When I'm on the mic, suckers...chew gum
Now don't think I'm dumb
cuz you'll misunderestimate me
weak-ass presidents tend to frustrate me

Lincoln, you're great, you started my party
But you died in a theater, a little arty-farty
Intercrural sex still makes you gay, though with
a woman like Mary Todd I can see
Why you went that way

Your generals, they floundered, and you did nothing
If you'd been the Decider, you wouldn't have been pounded
Declare Mission Complete
A true bold feat
What matters it now
if the war went on for a few nother weeks?
Or months, or years, it doesn't matter
DJ Dick, put his head on your platter

Now Franklin, yes Delano,
What did you do? oh hell I know
You done started the depression
With big government and your socialist ties
I left office before Obama's recession
Can't blame me, no matter who tries

Sure, you had your war, I can't refute
Dumb bitch gimp should have put on a flight suit
Woulda won over Tojo in just a few weeks
If you'd left Germany alone, your decision reeks
Sell them some supplies, like my grandaddy
Made so much money, if you gimp ass could walk
He would tip your caddy

Here, I am, the Decider alone
Yeah I listen to Dick but I own the Red Phone
What? Yes sir, I know, but we agreed it's important
for the people and press to remain ignorant
As I was saying neither of you was attacked
By enemies of America, so don't be wack

I'll leave you too now, to cry real tears
They say I'm a dry drunk
But after a beat-down like I gave you
I deserve a few beers

So as you weep and moan, your ears burnin
I'll leave you with this: Is our children learning?


Posted by: G Dub | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 3:33 PM
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377

Even though it's impossible and ridiculous to think of having national standardized tests for topics in which the right answers are known, I think that the actual educational systems which have actual national standardized tests for those types of subjects are better than ours, and would give students a better idea of where they stand.

That what the SAT tests are.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 3:34 PM
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I don't know if grading is such a good idea.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 3:38 PM
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379: No they're not. Take a look at the topics on the SAT. There's a lot of stuff any high school student should have learned that isn't covered. There's no trig, no graphing of functions other than lines; really, nothing that a ninth-grader shouldn't be comfortable with.

The SAT tests your capacity to get right answers in a very circumscribed set of mathematical topics under time pressure. I think the theory is that it's fairer to students who haven't had decent math teaching than testing them on knowledge would be. But it's nothing like you'd want a standardized high school exit test, intended to assess how much math students had learned, would be.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 3:44 PM
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I was under the impression that grades weren't that important once you're graduated in America.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 3:47 PM
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But the SAT would nevertheless be a very good basis to hand out all the good things in life. Not all indirectly, through college and stuff, because that takes too long and I'd still have to get grades.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 3:49 PM
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True. I was very sad after the bar exam, thinking that it was the last time in my life a standardized test would do me any good. Filling in little bubbles has been good to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 3:51 PM
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381

There are two SAT math subject tests Mathematics Level 1 and Mathematics Level 2 which include trig etc.

But ability is generally more important.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 3:53 PM
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384

True. I was very sad after the bar exam, thinking that it was the last time in my life a standardized test would do me any good. Filling in little bubbles has been good to me.

Do you think the test results overrated you?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 3:55 PM
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Ah. I hear "the SAT" as referring to the general test. Yeah, the subject matter tests are closer to a reasonable high school exit test than the general math test is, but the existence of the test doesn't make our high school system one that's oriented toward preparing students for such a standardized exit test.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 3:57 PM
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Well, my preference for standardized tests means that I think I get better results from them than I have with the other techniques I've used.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 3:59 PM
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My mother overrated me.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:09 PM
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386: In terms of my ability on standardized tests? They got that absolutely correct. Any topic I know anything at all about, test me on it in a test written for a broad population in a multiple choice format, and I look like a genius.

In terms of overall mathematical ability? Eh -- I'm within a rounding error of the top of the scale in math as measured by the general SAT and the subject tests (which were called the Achievements when I took them). The ability to do fairly easy problems quickly and accurately isn't the same as the ability to do hard problems and work out new concepts, though; math competitions I recall from high school (I believe I'm remembering the International Mathematical Olympiad) I didn't do particularly well in.

So what's overrated? If you're looking for someone to accurately solve problems in the subject area tested by the SAT subject tests under time pressure, I am in fact in the top one percent or so of the population -- that kind of test accurately assesses my abilities. If you're looking for higher-level mathematical insight, there are plenty of people with SAT scores lower than mine with more potential.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:10 PM
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391

Or, less verbosely, what Megan said.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:14 PM
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392

I entered the NFL draft based on my SATs. Whoa! They totally overrated me.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:23 PM
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High SAT scores correlate with an aptitude for blog commenting.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:24 PM
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There was a bunch of weird little articles a year or to ago about some IQ test NFL players have to take, that were mostly cooing over how brilliant either Eli or Payton Manning was if I remember them correctly. All I could think is how depressing it would be retesting players after successive concussions.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:25 PM
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Don't take it hard, JP. Your mother overrated the rest of us, as well.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:27 PM
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390 makes me think of a professional conundrum: I've had several jobs not work out in my brief solo career. At some point, like a 35-y.o. single, I start to think, "Is it me?" But I know that I'm really really good at certain architect skills. So it's actually a matter of creating a practice/finding a niche that maximizes my strengths.

Perhaps design consultation via blog comment.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:31 PM
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Well, yeah. Negotiation, oral argument -- these are areas that are pretty well tied to the 'standardized test' skill (and I know 393 was a joke, but so's blog commenting). I can pull something plausible sounding out of my hat under time pressure a whole lot better than most people; that helps when I'm filling in bubbles with a pencil, and it helps when a judge asks me an unexpected question. When I have three weeks to write something, on the other hand, I do okay, but I'm not nearly as far out ahead of the pack. Skills are very specific things.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:38 PM
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Finding niches is hard. I think it would be better to convince the world they should award us ongoing career success based on a standardized test results.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:39 PM
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ongoing career success

You're thinking small. Mixed drinks and pool boys for me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:40 PM
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394: Probaby the Wonderlic Test, which is what the NFL uses. If you follow the Wikipedia link, the article has a section on NFL results. Biscuits too.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:40 PM
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I outlined the concept in 265 and agree wholeheartedly. Career success is just for starters.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:42 PM
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I WANT MY ASPIC!


Posted by: OPINIONATED LIZARD BREATH | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:43 PM
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Is the aspic a component of the mixed drinks, or of the pool boys?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:44 PM
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I know 393 was a joke, but so's blog commenting

It wasn't entirely a joke. I do suspect that unfogged selects for people who, generally speaking, do better on standardized tests
*in comparison to other metrics.* Partially because people who are intelligent, ambitious, and hard working are trying to develop other skills.

I remember when Jacob Hacker was guest-blogging at Washington Monthly, for example, and while I'm sure he's extremely smart it felt like he wasn't at all comfortable with the blog format.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:45 PM
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Don't know how widely read Vonnegut's Player Piano is but a similar concept is central to its plot.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:46 PM
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403: It comes with both.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:48 PM
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Agreed with LizardBreath that the SAT I and SAT II (at least as they existed in the mid '90s -- I haven't kept up) are testing math skills that high school grads should have, and thus not much of a test for real ability (as opposed to mere competence at math and speed at test-taking). I made a 790 on the math section of the SAT I, scored in the low 700s on the SAT II math. In college, I had to take calculus twice to get a passing grade, and made Cs in my econ courses that required calculus. There was more in heaven and earth than dreamt of by my TI-85's trig and algebra functions.

Actually, a real loss of innocence for me about the federal government's standards was when I took a test to work for the Bureau of Labor Statistics and had to do calculus. I completely bombed it, yet they still offered me a (low-paying) job. Now I can't trust their numbers anymore because I'm afraid people like me produced them.


Posted by: PGofHSM | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:49 PM
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There was a bunch of weird little articles a year or to ago about some IQ test NFL players have to take, that were mostly cooing over how brilliant either Eli or Payton Manning was if I remember them correctly. All I could think is how depressing it would be retesting players after successive concussions.

I just finished reading the poorly-written but interesting Becoming Batman. He has a whole section on concussions. Apparently, the two main problems with concussions are a second concussion before the brain can recover from a first concussion and a high total lifetime number of concussions. My lifetime concussion number is one.

Another interesting thing from the book is that repeated stress on specific bones (like athletes do) causes those bones to grow thicker while bones that aren't as stressed actually get thinner. Athletes in different sports have different bone thickness patterns.


Posted by: Lemmy Caution | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 4:53 PM
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397: My (not very special) observation is that standardized tests favor mental sprinters. I am nearly incapable of sustained (over weeks or days) focused cognitive effort. But I sprint well. I have done 90% of the useful work in my life in 10% of my nominal working time. Give me 3 weeks and I'll do it in a fenzy in the last 3 hours. Don't hire me.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 5:00 PM
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Maybe not hire you, Stormcrow, but I'd ask you if I needed a quick answer on something.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 5:06 PM
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408: My lifetime concussion number is one.

Not sure what mine is ... at least two.

Around here there is a growing use of ImPACT baseline testing for kids in sports (NFL and NBA apparently use it as well). You take it in preseason and then if/when you get a concussion they test you afterwards against the baseline. It measures response time on relatively simple tasks.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 5:19 PM
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mental sprinters.

I'm a bit like this. I can work on something over a period of time, but I'm not good at working at a steady continuous pace. I combine stretches of non-focused, non-productive time with bursts of productivity.

I have to believe that's somewhat common.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 5:23 PM
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410: Blue. ... no yellow.

BANNED!!!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 5:27 PM
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Hey, 357, 378

It's a waste of my awesome oratorical talents
To respond to this pathetic Goofus and Gallant
FDR so scared he's afraid of fear itself
He should be afraid to rhyme like a Keebler elf
check the rhythms in my deathless Second Inaugural
carved in marble on my mighty Memorial
MLK spoke there and went down in history
FDR's is second class and the crowds are paltry
he's a midrank contender, I'll give him that
but still not fit to hold my hat

G-dub you're no challenge, not even in fun
make Chester Arthur look like George Washington
Barack still quotes me and the crowds go wild
All over the world, you're nonstop reviled
Scholars agree I'm number one on the list
you'll be remembered as Osama's bitch
Your rep is trash except with born-again Christians
Better hope for some desparate revisionist historian


Posted by: Abe Lincoln | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 6:25 PM
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Wow, Honest Abe bringing the contemptuous dismissal.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 6:29 PM
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PGD, do you get some sort of sick pleasure out of watching two of our three greatest Presidents fight? You're against world peace too, aren't you?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 6:30 PM
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Our greatest President was Martin Van Buren.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 7:34 PM
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All you sucka presidents
Just following my precedent
So recognize my eminence
I hold that it's self-evident
So give up on your insolence
Give up thanks that providence
Gave you me
Original G
To the double u
That's double you both

Put you together like addition
Still can't match my first edition
As I rhyme with such precision
That you cower in submission


All you sucka presidents
Just doing the maintenance
All of your aggrandisements
Just become embarrassments
Next to me
You play CiC
When I was down in the Valley
Forge where this nation was cast
You work to make it last
But I worked to make it first

And you both buy it in office
While I'm off like Cinncinnatus
Like the city named for me
And DC makes three
With the state named after me
You bicker bout your legacies
While I just rock geographies


Posted by: George Washington | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 8:14 PM
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390

In terms of my ability on standardized tests? They got that absolutely correct. Any topic I know anything at all about, test me on it in a test written for a broad population in a multiple choice format, and I look like a genius.

Do you think this ability is only good for taking standardized tests? I think it is quite useful in real life but unfortunately not as useful as in school.

In terms of overall mathematical ability? Eh -- I'm within a rounding error of the top of the scale in math as measured by the general SAT and the subject tests (which were called the Achievements when I took them). The ability to do fairly easy problems quickly and accurately isn't the same as the ability to do hard problems and work out new concepts, though; math competitions I recall from high school (I believe I'm remembering the International Mathematical Olympiad) I didn't do particularly well in.

Were there a lot of kids who outdid you in math competitions but not in the math SAT or were you just comparing to a more select group? I think math competitions measure practically the same thing as the math SAT but with harder questions.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 9:08 PM
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397

Well, yeah. Negotiation, oral argument -- these are areas that are pretty well tied to the 'standardized test' skill (and I know 393 was a joke, but so's blog commenting). I can pull something plausible sounding out of my hat under time pressure a whole lot better than most people; that helps when I'm filling in bubbles with a pencil, and it helps when a judge asks me an unexpected question. When I have three weeks to write something, on the other hand, I do okay, but I'm not nearly as far out ahead of the pack. Skills are very specific things.

I would have thought negotiation is relatively unrelated. Requiring as it does the ability the ability to "read" other people while concealing what you are thinking. Similarly oral argument would benefit from pose, confidence, tact etc which I don't think are much measured by SAT type tests. Of course it does help to know the subject better than your opponent which is related to test ability.

On the other hand I would think three weeks to write something would be strongly related involving the ability to recognize issues, make analogies to previous cases, remember key points of law etc. Although you do need some ability to write.

Also you keep mentioning time pressure. I don't think more time helps a lot on the SAT but I could be wrong.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 9:23 PM
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Our greatest President was Martin Van Buren.

The most frequently cited example, I believe, of Presidents that nobody remembers or had never even heard of in the first place. So: his spot in the annals of presidential history is assured!


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 9:28 PM
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And yet Van Buren is remembered for his role in the rise to glory of the great Andrew Jackson. Franklin Pierce is more forgotten than him, and I would say Benjamin Harrison is definitely the most little-known president.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 9:37 PM
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In math ability is more important than preparation (within limits, you can't be raised in a barrel).

Somewhat. I took the SAT three times: once in seventh grade, once in tenth, and once in eleventh. Obviously same innate ability. Seventh-grade me didn't have the scores to get into MIT; eleventh grade me did. Eleventh grade me had had trig the previous year. (Eleventh grade me also had figured out that the SAT was a big puzzle. But that's a separate issue.)

Point is, if someone's preparation wasn't as strong as mine, they could be much closer to seventh grade me than eleventh grade me.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 9:52 PM
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Millard Fillmore and Chester Arthur.

Pierce is remembered as possibly the worst President, in contention with Buchanan and Bush. (Harding and Grant have been reprieved.)

Greatest American President.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 9:53 PM
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423

Point is, if someone's preparation wasn't as strong as mine, they could be much closer to seventh grade me than eleventh grade me.

Children normally get smarter as they get older (just as they get bigger and stronger). I expect this was the main difference between seventh grade you and eleventh grade you not that you had taken a trig course.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 10:03 PM
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Due to an unfortunate intersection between the current conflict and the grand old Unfogged tradition of presidential anonymity, I'm afraid some of our commenters skillz may go unrecognized.

I've been posting as F/D/R (I figured the slash marks would give that away, in case the stellar talent didn't), but have no idea who has done the wack fine Abe Lincoln, G Dub, and George Washington joints.

My esteemed colleagues, it's all about the recognition and props. So please step forward and claim your rightful beatdown accolades.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 10:19 PM
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Step aside gents
You so-called presidents
Gonna get owned by someone new
Like Shawnee at Tipp'canoe
I can stand out in the rain
Sure ain't feelin' any pain
Got the Whiggers on my


Posted by: William "Henry" Harrison | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 10:29 PM
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427: Brillant.

Now, who are you?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 10:53 PM
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Maybe they were all written by ToS.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 10:54 PM
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418 was me. 427 wins the thread, or at least the rap battle.

*Pours one out*


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:26 PM
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431

427 wins the thread, or at least the rap battle.

427 is indeed exceedingly fine. But the thread is young, my fogga.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 05- 1-09 11:41 PM
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I've been channeling the vengeful spirit of Abe Lincoln.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 2-09 7:04 AM
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But the thread is young

To paraphrase William Henry Harrison.

Which was mine, chosen because he's the Sprinter's President, my whigga.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 2-09 7:09 AM
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I've been posting as F/D/R

I guessed! I'm so proud of myself.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 2-09 7:33 AM
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Now O.G., you were the first
but your rhymes are the worst
stop your false teeth flappin'
and listen to my rapping

You built a wack foundation
flaws that endangered the nation
a house divided that could not stand
it took Abe Lincoln to save the land
I freed the slaves to save your legacy
Now show the proper respect for me

if I hadn't liberated the negroes
then no lame-ass wiggers writing rhyme that blows
so all you dead Presidents, it's plain to see
that you sucker MCs owe it all to me


Posted by: Abe Lincoln | Link to this comment | 05- 2-09 7:38 AM
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speaking of which...I think Lincoln's claim to historical preeminence is now assured.

I always assume that Mitch is responsible for the initial battle rap throwdown.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 2-09 7:39 AM
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Skinny Abe you misspoke
Your lyrics are a joke
I spit lines through my oak
While you gurgle and you choke
Bragging about rednecks
When I beat the red coats


Posted by: George Washington | Link to this comment | 05- 2-09 7:57 AM
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Point is, if someone's preparation wasn't as strong as mine, they could be much closer to seventh grade me than eleventh grade me.

Eleventh grade Cala didn't put up with unprepared boyz.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 2-09 4:00 PM
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I came for the presidential rap battles, stayed for the SAT stories.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 2-09 4:00 PM
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440

Youse
Lose.


Posted by: L. Cal Coolidge | Link to this comment | 05- 2-09 4:12 PM
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441

I was G Dub.

Next meetup we gotta do these for real--especially the Lion/Whale ones.


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 05- 2-09 4:52 PM
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442

440 is delightful.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 2-09 5:13 PM
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384 -- Take another bar. Don't study at all. Zip. Just do it based on what you remember, and can intuit from your understanding of how the law works. You know you'll pass.

He gets a bad rap, but Fillmore did pretty well at keeping the country together at a time when his party was falling apart. We might not sign on to the Compromise of 1850 today, but it bought time. (Time needed, inter alia, to assimilate Catholic immigrants [German and Irish] sufficiently so that they could be cannon fodder for Lincoln.) And Japan -- come on, isn't the peaceful opening to Japan worth at least as much as that show-off TR and his big stickery?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05- 3-09 6:03 AM
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443.2: The content is fine, but you need to work on your presentation skills. I mean, there's just no flow and I can barely find any rhymes in there.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 05- 3-09 9:42 AM
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443

Take another bar. Don't study at all. Zip. Just do it based on what you remember, and can intuit from your understanding of how the law works. You know you'll pass.

That's what Kathleen Sullivan thought.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 3-09 10:08 AM
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Not the East or the West
This here is Fillmore Best
Fill more Mill ard
Get your fill of my words
Fill you more like peanut butter
Kisses from your lover
No empty calorie
Bragadocio melody
Keep it real like estate
Peace between the states
Guarding all the citizens
Civilizing Irishmen
Konichiwa to Japan
No new wars with Mexicans
Haters be hatin but one thing I that I know
Got the wolf by the ears don't you ever let them go


Posted by: Millard Fillmore | Link to this comment | 05- 3-09 10:31 AM
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Konichiwa bitches:

Microphone check
check 1, 2, 3
It's the F to the D
to the R MC
Back again to hit ya
with my New Deal edition
prime the pump, end the slump
lift us out of Depression
It's clear that I'm the greatest
step to me and you'll just fade, it's
the wheelchair-bound assassin
hear my voice and be afraid
I'm the POTUS with the mostest
and the bestest and my boast is
ETO to PTO
fuck with me wind up a ghost
Despite my disability
you can't diss my ability
I rhyme with such agility
electrify all Tennessee
More riveting than Rosie
I Can Do It! 'cause my poetry
gives everyone the surety
the world's safe for democracy
You'll see my Works Progress
I don't piddle around
hot like alphabet soup
and every project astounds
If you dare to oppose
you'll face the arsenal of democracy
Without me you're not safe
there's no social security
And just like Uncle Sam
I get straight to the point
but in this case he don't want you
you'll just stink up the joint
Yeah, all you wack presidents
ain't fit for this residence
so bow down like penitents
because your end is imminent
I'll lord over you bitches
as my troops storm your beaches
race tanks into the breaches
there'll be shit in all your britches
I'll fill the skies with planes
let the bombs fall down like rain
and get Dorethea Lange
to take photos of your pain
Span the sea with ships and convoys
hell I'll even drop The Bomb boys
While my man Robert Capa
snaps the moment that I cap ya
I'll leave you speechless, and faithless,
wanting, and afraid
there's no bunker to retreat to
for the error that you've made
Unconditional surrender
is the only option for you
Now my DJ Lo-Max
will give folk something to dance to.


Posted by: F/D/R | Link to this comment | 05- 3-09 11:45 AM
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