Monthly Archive: March 2006

Mar 31 2006

Changing notions of death-4: Implications for animals

(See part 1, part 2 and part 3 of this series.) If asked, any one of us would say that we value life, that we consider it precious and not to be taken lightly. While the specific phrase “valuing the culture of life” seems to have been co-opted by those who are specifically opposed to …

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Mar 30 2006

Internet sleuthing

I am a firm believer in cooperative learning. The combined efforts of many people can produce results that would be impossible for a single person. And the internet is a wonderful mechanism for enabling collective action. What follows is a modern-day detective story that illustrates what is possible when the collective strength of people working …

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Mar 29 2006

Changing notions of death-3: Doctors versus guardians

In part 1 and part 2 of this series of posts, we saw how the idea of when someone had died had shifted to the point where people in a persistent vegetative state could have their life support systems removed because they are considered to be ‘effectively’ dead. But even if the family is agreed …

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Mar 28 2006

Changing notions of death-2: Persistent vegetative state

The next stage in the evolution of when death occurs (see part 1 on this topic) came with the tragic case of Nancy Cruzan. In 1983, 25-year old Nancy Cruzan careened off the road, flipped over and was thrown from her car into a ditch. Nancy hadn’t breathed for at least 15 minutes before paramedics …

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Mar 27 2006

Changing notions of death-1: Brain death

There is nothing more bracing than starting a new week with the cheery topic of death. I have been thinking about it since listening to noted ethicist Peter Singer’s excellent talk on The ethics of life and death on March 21. He pointed out that the answer to the question “When is someone dead?” is …

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Mar 24 2006

Grade inflation-3: How do we independently measure learning?

Recall (see here and here for previous postings) that to argue that grade inflation has occurred, it is not sufficient to simply show that grades have risen. It must be shown grades have risen without a corresponding increase in learning and student achievement. And that is difficult to do because there are really no good …

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Mar 23 2006

Grade inflation-2: Possible benign causes for grade increases

Before jumping to the conclusion that a rise in average grades must imply inflation (see my previous posting on this topic), we should be aware of the dangers that exist when we are dealing with averages. For example, suppose we consider a hypothetical institution that has just two departments A and B. Historically, students taking …

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Mar 22 2006

Grade inflation-1: What is it and is it occurring?

There is nothing that gets the juices flowing in higher education academic circles than the topic of grade inflation. Part of the reason for this passion may be because grades and test scores, and not learning, seem to have become the currency of education, dominating the thinking of both students and faculty. Hence some people …

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Mar 21 2006

Is god punishing Kansas?

The last year has seen too many examples of the devastating power that nature can unleash. The Asian tsunami, hurricane Katrina, and the earthquake in Pakistan all caused massive destruction and loss of life, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless and impoverished and grieving for lost loved ones. From time immemorial, people have looked …

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Mar 20 2006

The politics of fear bites back

If there is anything that shows how cynical and manipulative the politics of fear have become, it is the controversy of the Dubai-based company Dubai Ports World taking over management of some US ports. As everyone knows, that company has now said that because of the huge negative reaction, they are handing over that operation …

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