July 18, 2011

First, congrats to the Swedish World Cup team for coming in third and, in particular, for beating the French.

Second, congrats on the K9 corps dog thing. I would have expected no less, but still. You got it done.

The main point of the day, however, is much better. Here in the US we call the type of overattentive, smothering parent that makes you hurl* a “helicopter” parent. They are always hovering over their child, you see, just waiting to rescue little Maria from calamity. Or obsessing over the wonderousness of their average, normal behavior or something.

I have been informed that the Swedish call their version of this “curling” parents. As in the sport of curling. Now those of you who are not Canucklanders or Swedes may not immediately recognize this sublime reference. You may recall a half glimpsed interlude on the teevee during the Winter Olympics. When the coverage switches off that riveting bobsledding and you decide you have time to hit the loo. Perhaps when you return you are momentarily graced with some idiots madly sweeping the ice in front of a lumbering bit of rounded granite. Rendering an unobstructed path yet even more polished and smooth so as to further ease passage of the object of their devotion.

That’s curling. And the folks who are madly sweeping an apparently smooth sheet of ice? Those would be your image of the “curling parents”.

Evocative, isn’t it?

*I keed, I keed. (Most of those I link-pickedon know via other online venues that I’m the worst sort of braggart about my awesome offspring….)

The graph is from an analysis by Stuart Rojstaczer & Christopher Healy which looks at college/university level grades at 200 US institutions of higher education (via Catherine Rampel, via via Mike the Mad and Isis).

For some very odd reason nobody seems to be hypothesizing that the demographic of undergraduates that experience the greatest uptick in A grades and the greatest reduction of C grades was simply smarter than prior generations.

That should be the null hypothesis, right? I mean, it is pretty far fetched of Ms. Rampell and Dr. Isis to blame this on professor’s motivation to keep kids out of ‘nam since that should have affected the D and F grades, no?

Mike the Mad wants to blame it on graduate school admittance and the competition for limited slots….but can this really explain the late60s-early70s trends?

More likely to explain this is the incredible self-indulgence and self-righteousness of the late Boomers and the overweening generational meme that traditional “standards” were arbitrary constructs and have no bearing on proper evaluation. I’m okay, you’re okay and all that nonsense. and above all else, the sense of universal, personal entitlement.

and what do you know, as soon as the children of these people start hitting the Universities, up go the grades again.

I cannot put it any more clearly than this comment from CL at writedit’s blog:

Image the reviewer as you…or worse. Imaging the person you are writing for is someone who is stressed about their funding, trying to get papers out that are getting rejected, overworked and tired, fighting to get the right people in the lab, juggling teaching/clinical work, getting flack from their spousal equivalence unit for not helping out, their dog bit them, they are stuck in a middle seat in coach on the way to study section and sleep deprived. NOW they are picking up your grant to read.

about all I have to add is to note that this person is, furthermore, not a specific expert in your subfield.

If you can’t write clearly enough to get this person excited, your odds are somewhat lower than dodgy.


July 18, 2011

It’s an old story for the teaching professors in the audience, I realize. But this story made me profoundly sad. I mean WTF? I never, ever thought seriously about cheating on class work in my rather lengthy schooling career. Not to get a desired grade, not to make up for laziness or excessive weekend behavior, not for any reason.

Well, I suppose we know where the scientific data fakers come from. This population of undergrads which thinks cheating is a-ok.

Go read that bit and tell me it doesn’t make you sad….