Grade inflation and teaching standards

A few students taking a creative writing class at IU got a surprise when they saw their final grades had been lowered at the end of the semester. The professor supervising the course decided the associate instructor was not grading according to established standards, so some of the grades changed.

The AI’s grading criteria is misguided and does a disservice to her students. (More on that later.) The grades should not have been changed after the fact, however. The students have been working with Juliana Crespo for the entire semester, and they were expecting to be judged by the standards she set in her section. While under ideal circumstances all students should be graded according to the same standards across all sections, changing the standards for this particular section after the fact is not fair and does not help students learn.

Instead, this is something that needs to be handled prior to the start of the semester. It should have been very clear to the associate instructors what the grading standards should be to ensure uniform grading across the sections. If the instructors are not grading according to established standards, that should be corrected quickly. This way, no one is surprised at the end of the semester and the students are clear on what they are expected to do.

Crespo’s statement about her grading standards was inappropriate. She said “You’re going to get an ‘A’ if you put a decent amount of work in the course” and that she does not consider grades to be relevant.

So what is the point of excelling in the class and writing the best story you can if the requirement for an “A” is a decent effort? How is that fair to the students who are genuinely putting forth the best work in the class and should be rewarded with the best grade? How is it fair to the best students to get the same grade as a student who turns in a sub-par effort, even if the student did put effort into the assignment?

The purpose of a grade is not to judge effort. It is to judge quality of work. A student who literally gets an “A” for effort but isn’t learning what he needs to learn and honing his skills will not be prepared for the class that builds on what he is being taught now. Worse, if the grades are inflated, then the grades become meaningless.

Outside of academia, it is not effort that will ultimately be measured in job performance. It is results. A sincere effort to learn and improve is usually taken into consideration by good employers, who will work with employees to help them do the job. Ultimately, however, completing assigned tasks according to established standards is what will judge someone’s performance. It is best to learn that sooner rather than later.

People should not live in fear of their government

Earlier this month, a 7-year-old girl was shot and killed by police officers who forced entry into her home in the middle of the night after tossing a flash bang grenade into the home. The police were looking for a homicide suspect, and Radley Balko does an excellent job of pointing out why this specific raid was unnecessary and why it was excessive force.

The senseless killing of Aiyana Stanley-Jones is another in a long line of overuse and abuse of paramilitary tactics by police.

In 2006, a 92-year-old woman named Kathryn Johnston was gunned down in her own home by Atlanta police. Her only “crime” was defending her home from what she thought were criminals committing a home invasion. To cover up the botched raid, police planted drugs in her home. A Sheriff’s Department SWAT team raided the home of Cheye Calvo, the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland. They shot his two dogs and held him at gunpoint for hours.

The worst example of abuse of power was in Waco, Texas, where a paramilitary raid on the Branch Davidian compound in February 1993 resulted in an armed confrontation that led to a standoff with the federal government. The federal government eventually used tanks, tear gas grenades and other military equipment to invade the compound. A fire that started during the raid obliterated the compound and killed 168 people – including 19 children.

We have entirely too much of a “cowboy” mentality in law enforcement, fueled by politicians who want to appear “tough on crime” to win votes. As the “war on crime” has escalated, civil liberties have been sacrificed and too many innocent victims have been caught in the crossfire. For too many politicians, the “war on crime” is about gaining political power rather than justice. As evidence, consider that evil men like Harry Connick intentionally send innocent men to death row by withholding evidence that proves innocence, rather than “lose” a criminal case.

It is long past time to reign in the overuse and abuse of paramilitary tactics by police. SWAT teams should only be used in cases where it is absolutely necessary, such as a hostage situation or a dangerous criminal who is an imminent threat to the lives of those around him. The overuse of paramilitary tactics creates an unnecessarily confrontational situation in a high-stress environment – a situation where a split-second decision too often leads to tragedy.

The use of paramilitary tactics is a symptom of a government that treats citizens as subjects rather than constituents, an attitude that is not compatible with liberty. Either we will restrain the government or we will live in tyranny.

We need to throw out politicians who value political power more than justice, and elect politicians who place their love of liberty over political expediency. Throughout history, free people have had much more to fear from their own government than criminals – or even Islamic terrorists.

Don’t punish the innocent for the crimes of the guilty

On a cold December night in 2007, I was awake with a nasty cold. I went to the pharmacy at 3:00 am to buy some cold medicine so I could get some sleep, but the government has mandated that I sign a piece of paper to purchase a higher dose.

It should be no surprise to anyone that the drug warriors have not stopped there. Law enforcement in Vigo County has managed to convince area pharmacies to require a prescription to purchase cold medicine, if the active ingredient can be used to make methamphetamine. If I lived in Vigo County, I would have to wait until the next morning, assuming I could even get into the doctor. An urgent care facility (or even the emergency room) would be possible, though it is more expensive.

We have just taken a huge step toward a police state, folks. The government has decided that we cannot be trusted to run our own lives, so we have to have a medical professional sign a document to permit us to purchase medicine approved for over-the-counter sales by the federal government.

What is the purpose of the Food and Drug Administration’s regulations for over-the-counter sales and why are we ignoring the FDA’s rulings? Is the problem that people are more stupid and irresponsible than they have been in the past, or is the problem that authoritarian statists are seeking more and more power for themselves?

We should not be punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. Why should I, as a law-abiding citizen, be restricted in my ability to purchase a medicine approved for over-the-counter sale because other people use that product to manufacture an illegal drug? Why should my liberty be restricted because of the criminal behavior of someone else? Nanny-state apologists may argue that the policy presents an inconvenience, but the principle at stake is what matters here.

Does this policy represent corporate welfare? Will doctors be charging $50 (or more) for a visit so a patient can be allowed to purchase some cold medicine? How much money will flow into the coffers of doctors – from both families and insurance companies – because the police in Vigo County have decreed that the people are far too stupid and irresponsible to buy over-the-counter drugs?

There is no need for this policy. None. The current system already keeps track of the names and addresses of people who are buying “too much” cold medicine and are therefore flagged as potential meth users and/or dealers. We are already treating law-abiding citizens like potential criminals.

We have lost far too much of our liberty to the “war on drugs” and the “war on crime.” We are seeing the frightening militarization of police leading to unnecessary armed confrontations and terrible tragedies. When will people say “enough” to this nanny-state extremism?

Souder’s humility a refreshing change

The revelation that Mark Souder has been committing adultery sent shock waves through Hoosier politics, and Souder has been blasted from all corners of the political spectrum. We can’t whitewash Souder’s sin, because it was evil. He betrayed his wife and his family. More importantly, he broke a covenant established in the eyes of his Lord and Savior.

That said, we should keep perspective on this. Once he was confronted about the adultery, Souder called a press conference, confessed his sin and announced his resignation from Congress. Souder did not shake his finger and proclaim “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” He did not pass the buck about “a series of failures” and shift blame to others. He was very open about his sin, confessing that he sinned against God. The tears he shed demonstrate that he is broken about his sin and is repenting before God.

Much has been said about Souder and his Christian faith. Since much of the attacks on Souder have been focused on his hypocrisy as a conservative Christian, it is appropriate to examine this from a theological perspective.

We are commanded as Christians to be sexually pure, but salvation does not depend on perfection. King David, a man after God’s own heart, committed adultery with Bathsheba. David then murdered his good friend Uriah to cover it up. When David was confronted by a prophet of the Lord, he repented in tears and brokenness and was restored. If Souder’s repentance is genuine (and I see no reason to believe otherwise) he will be restored to fellowship with God.

Lost in the gloating about Souder’s fall is compassion for his employees. Congressional staffers know that they could be out of a job every two years. They take their jobs knowing that their employment is very unstable. What Congressional staffers do not expect is for their boss to abruptly resign from Congress with four days’ notice. Whatever we might think about Souder leaving office, his staff did not expect or deserve to have sudden economic hardship. We should have compassion on these people and pray for the staff that God will provide.

Thirteen years ago, I was offered a summer internship with Congressman Souder’s office in Washington, DC. I was unable to accept the internship because I had recently been diagnosed with cancer and had to deal with the treatment of it. Mark Souder sent me a hand-written note expressing sympathy and wishing that I return to full health. It was something I did not expect and I am still grateful for it to this day.

Mark Souder is a good man. Yes, he sinned and he broke his marriage vows. Can any of us say we haven’t sinned? How many of us have murdered people in our hearts when a fellow driver does something foolish and dangerous on the road? The test of a Believer is not whether he is perfect, because there is only One Man who has ever been perfect. The test of a Believer is whether he is repentant of his sin and fights against it.

Mark Souder sinned, and his sin cannot be excused, whitewashed or ignored. But before we judge in a self-righteous manner, we should examine our own hearts so we do not fall in the same manner. (Galatians 6:1)

Another politician commits adultery

Mark Souder is the latest politician to destroy his career – and possibly his family – by committing adultery. Rumors had been circulating about Souder’s adultery, but were not confirmed until Souder publicly admitted betraying his wife and announced he would resign from Congress.

Let’s not mince words here. What Mark Souder did was evil. He sinned against God and betrayed his wife. He shattered the trust that voters in northeast Indiana placed in him not only by committing adultery, but by committing adultery with a member of his staff. This raises huge ethical concerns, because of the power imbalance involved.

Nonetheless, I am impressed with his manliness and humility now that this has been discovered. Souder’s reaction reveals his character, his heart and his faith.

Souder did not shake his finger and proclaim “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” He did not pass the buck about “a series of failures” and shift blame to others.

Instead, Souder stood up like a man, said he sinned against God and his family, and announced he would resign within a few days. He did not bring his family on stage with him like most politicians do when they are admitting adultery. He said this is his failure and his alone and he should bear the shame alone.

It is not easy to stand up and admit your own failings, especially in such a public way. It takes a man to do that, something refreshing in a culture of boys. It is obvious that Souder is truly repentant.

Mark Souder is a Christian, and all Christians fail in some way. Sometimes, we fail in spectacular ways. While we are commanded to remain pure, our salvation does not require that believers do not sin. That is simply not possible. Christianity requires confessing your sin and relying on the shed blood of Jesus Christ to provide forgiveness. It’s easy to judge Mark Souder, but not so easy to recognize our own failings.(See Galatians 6:1.)

Souder did the right thing by stepping down from Congress. We should all pray for him that the Holy Spirit gives him the strength to remain pure and that he and his family are comforted during this difficult time.

Evil is real

One of the most wicked things about our culture is the obsession so many people have with covering up and excusing things that are just plain evil. This culture does everything possible to avoid exercising discernment and recognizing that some things are genuinely evil.

A case in point was the comment section for the story about a 13 year old boy who was charged with raping a 16 year old girl. Allowing, of course, for the possibility that there was no crime committed and recognizing that the boy has not been convicted, I pointed out that children who commit sexual violence at such a young age are often abused themselves. I also said that the boy may just be evil.

One of the responses floored me:

Sexual urge is natural and built into each of us to preserve the species. It has nothing to do with being “evil”. Man’s laws try to govern a natural urge directed by hormones. This law puts an arbitrary age at which it is acceptable to engage in sex.

What an incredibly misogynistic statement. This accusation against the boy has nothing to do with sex, procreation or sexual urges. This is about rape. Does the poster have a daughter or a niece? What if she was raped? Would the poster then brush aside rape as the product of “natural” sexual urges? This is truly sick.

We live in a culture that hates discernment. We want to find some sort of clinical excuse for unthinkable acts, or excuse the person who commits such acts because of something in his background. We do everything we can to find any excuse other than the most obvious explanation that is slapping us across the face: some people are just plain evil.

Sometimes, our culture’s hatred of discernment has tragic (though entirely predictable) consequences. Convicted murderer Willie Horton was given a weekend pass from prison. On one of his furloughs, Horton attacked a young couple, stabbing the man 19 times and repeatedly raping the woman. The scandal crippled Michael Dukakis’ ambitions to be President, but Mike Huckabee proved himself to be a fool when he didn’t learn the lesson and released a dangerous thug from prison who went on to murder four police officers.

We do this because we do not want to recognize our own depravity before God. Not one single person is righteous. We have all sinned and we are condemned before a holy and righteous God. (See Psalm 14:3, Psalm 53:3 and Romans 3:12.) We hate this truth and we try to pass ourselves off as basically good. some of us even go so far as to find excuses for the most heinous, cruel and abominable acts imaginable.

I understand evil. I am intimately familiar with evil because God has revealed to me my own heart. I am a wicked, violent, egotistical, selfish, arrogant, lazy monster of a man who richly deserves everlasting torment in the fires of Hell. For a reason that I cannot wrap my feeble human brain around, my Father in heaven chose to redeem me of my sins by sacrificing His only Son to suffer and die in my place.

Get the politicians off welfare

The sign on the post page sits near the intersection of Rockport Road and Tapp Road, conveniently placed where traffic backs up at the stop sign to remind people that Barack Obama’s “economic stimulus” package was used to pay for the “improvements” to the area.

I do not believe that the federal government should be funding local infrastructure, but that is not my main concern. My main concern is the sign itself.

Why does this need to be here? How much taxpayer money was used to erect this sign, which provides absolutely no benefit to anyone in Monroe County?

Let’s call a spade a spade. This is nothing more than a taxpayer funded political yard sign. The only purpose this serves is to provide a political advertisement for Barack Obama’s agenda. It’s more that a little ironic that as city government is more than happy to threaten an apartment complex with a completely disproportionate $95,000 fine for a couple balloons, tax dollars are used to erect a permanent sign to campaign for Obama.

We can have a legitimate discussion about the merits of the “economic stimulus” package and the appropriate use of federal tax dollars for local infrastructure. We can have a legitimate discussion about the public policy merits of the Tapp Road “improvements” and whether federal fund should be used for them.

What is completely unreasonable us the use of monies forcibly confiscated from taxpayers at the point of a gun to finance what is basically a permanent political yard sign. There is no legitimate argument for this sign. None.

We have an unsustainable budget deficit that is threatening the future of this nation. During these times of economic strain and crushing government debt, using tax dollars for a political yard sign is inexcusable.

5 wins, 4 losses, 1 draw

On May 4, I was elected as a delegate to the 2010 Republican state convention in June. Nine candidates were running for thirteen seats, so everyone was guranteed to win. State convention delegates nominate the candidates for secretary of state, auditor of state and treasurer of state, but there are not any contested races this year.

My overall win/loss record in elections stands at five wins, four losses and one draw. Since 2006, my win/loss record is four wins and two losses, including a spectacular blowout loss in the 2006 general election when I ran for Bloomington Township Board. The one draw came in 2002, when my opponent and I finished with the exact same number of votes in the race for precinct committeman in Perry 14. When there is a tie, the party chairman chooses the winner.

2010 Primary Election

&nbsp Candidate &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Total Votes &nbsp &nbsp
&nbsp Brad Freeman &nbsp &nbsp 1318
&nbsp John M. Arnold &nbsp &nbsp 1240
&nbsp Scott C. Tibbs &nbsp &nbsp 1230
&nbsp Matt Wolf &nbsp &nbsp 1209
&nbsp Carl Lamb &nbsp &nbsp 1197
&nbsp Joshua P. Kelley &nbsp &nbsp 1185
&nbsp Nathan Smith &nbsp &nbsp 1177
&nbsp Allen Gilmore Woodhouse &nbsp &nbsp 1155
&nbsp Samuel Spaiser &nbsp &nbsp 1099

Overall win/loss record

&nbsp Office &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Election &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Year &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Result &nbsp &nbsp
&nbsp 2000 &nbsp &nbsp Primary &nbsp &nbsp Delegate to State Convention &nbsp &nbsp Lost &nbsp
&nbsp 2002 &nbsp &nbsp Primary &nbsp &nbsp Precinct Committeeman &nbsp &nbsp Draw &nbsp
&nbsp 2002 &nbsp &nbsp Primary &nbsp &nbsp Delegate to State Convention &nbsp &nbsp Won &nbsp
&nbsp 2004 &nbsp &nbsp Primary &nbsp &nbsp Delegate to State Convention &nbsp &nbsp Lost &nbsp
&nbsp 2006 &nbsp &nbsp Primary &nbsp &nbsp Delegate to State Convention &nbsp &nbsp Won &nbsp
&nbsp 2006 &nbsp &nbsp Primary &nbsp &nbsp Bloomington Township Board &nbsp &nbsp Won &nbsp
&nbsp 2006 &nbsp &nbsp General &nbsp &nbsp Bloomington Township Board &nbsp &nbsp Lost &nbsp
&nbsp 2008 &nbsp &nbsp Primary &nbsp &nbsp Delegate to State Convention &nbsp &nbsp Lost &nbsp
&nbsp 2008 &nbsp &nbsp Primary &nbsp &nbsp Precinct Committeeman &nbsp &nbsp Won &nbsp
&nbsp 2010 &nbsp &nbsp Primary &nbsp &nbsp Delegate to State Convention &nbsp &nbsp Won &nbsp

The anti-Semitism of the animal "rights" movement

On April 29, a letter to the editor hysterically proclaimed a sarcastic solution to the urban deer problem: “why not round all the deer up, and send them to the concentration camp in Linton? “

A concentration camp? Really?

Everyone instinctively knows that “concentration camp” is a reference to the Holocaust.

Anne Binninger intentionally and knowingly used Nazi imagery to equate the relocation of wild animals to the systematic murder of 6 million Jews and millions of others by an incredibly evil regime. The cold, calculating and efficient manner in which the Nazis confined the Jews to ghettos, and then rounded them, up and slaughtered them in the camps like some sort of assembly line demonstrates how incredibly evil the Nazi regime was. It is one of the reasons I am thankful that a holy and righteous God provides for eternal damnation in Hell.

First, let’s recognize the reality of the deer problem in Bloomington. Overpopulation of deer is leading to increasing confrontations with humans, including a family pet getting trampled to death by an aggressive deer in front of the owner, and another deer that smashing through a window into someone’s home. In both incidents, it was blind luck that no humans were hurt.

I’ve had a couple close encounters. A few months ago, I was standing face-to-face with a large buck about 15 years away, prompting me to carefully back up and get into the safety of my home. Later, my Beagle mix Nano was barking at a deer on the other side of our fence before he was quickly moved indoors. That deer could have easily hopped the fence and killed my dog. Urban deer present a challenge to drivers as well, risking property damage, serious injuries and possibly even fatalities. We’re not talking about simply having a few flower gardens ruined.

Whether the deer population is reduced by killing some of them or whether some deer are captured and relocated, comparing this to the Nazi Holocaust represents a sickening level of anti-Semitism. This community is seeking a solution to benefit both the deer and safeguard the lives, pets and property of humans. Comparing this to genocide is undeniably racist and unworthy of civil discourse.

This is par for the course for animal-rights extremists waging a jihad for the earth “goddess” Gaia. Ingrid Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals once proclaimed that “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy,” demonstrating that she believes humans (who were made in the image of God) are no more valuable than animals. Newkirk is the kind of person the Bible condemns, someone who “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.” (Romans 1:25)

Repent, Ms. Newkirk. The fires of Hell are waiting if you do not.

The Dalai Lama visits Bloomington

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. — Martin Luther

The Dalai Lama is visiting Bloomington again, drawing significant coverage by the Herald-Times and the Indiana Daily Student. Since he is a head of state, it is appropriate to give him the honor that we would give any other head of state that visits our city. He is also the leader of the Buddhist religion.

And there is the problem. The Dalai Lama is the leader of a false religion. God the Father is the only true God, and those who worship false religions are actually worshipping demons. (See 1 Corinthians 10:20-21.) While it is appropriate to honor the Dalai Lama as a head of state and show solidarity with the people of Tibet as they are brutally oppressed by Communist China, it is in no way appropriate for Christians to honor the Dalai Lama as a “spiritual” leader. We are commanded to confess that the Buddhist religion is a lie.

This is not easy in a culture that worships “tolerance” and “diversity.” Many people will marginalize us as “kooks” and accuse us of “hate speech” if we confess the truth of Scripture. But we need to ask ourselves where our loyalty lies. Does our loyalty lie with our heavenly Father who sent His only Son to die on the cross for our sins? Or does our loyalty lie with our own comfort and pride? Do we worship our Father in Heaven or do we worship ourselves?

See previous posts:

♣  Local Christian ministers deny Christ — May 17, 2007

♣  Denying Christ, Part II — May 29, 2007

♣  City of Bloomington elevates Buddhism over Christianity — October 19, 2007

♣  St. Paul Catholic Center denies Jesus Christ — October 25, 2007

♣  More on the Dalai Lama’s visit to Bloomington — November 27, 2007

♣  No, we do not all worship the same god. — March 17, 2008

♣  When hatred pretends to be “tolerance” — June 26, 2008

♣  When hatred pretends to be “tolerance”, Part II — July 15, 2008