Social Mood Conference  |  Socionomics Foundation

By Robert Folsom | February 9, 2012

“Enhanced performance” comes in many shapes and sizes, yet certain instances have one thing in common: A few people somehow convince many people that something is better than it really is…

…From Bernie Madoff to the street-corner grifter to athletes on steroids, even to your friendly high school teacher and/or college admissions officer.

Yes, I thought that last one would get your attention. This latest tale of enhanced performance made news in the past week, when a senior administrator resigned at Claremont McKenna College. Reports say he admitted to inflating the SAT scores of incoming freshmen in order to boost the school’s academic reputation.

Claremont McKenna is a small “prestige” school near Los Angeles, and, according to U.S. News & World Report, is one of the country’s 10-best liberal arts colleges. If you’re mindful of academic standing and have been the parent of a college-bound student in the past 20 years, you probably know all about the U.S. News “Best Colleges” list. It matters.

Recent years have seen an outbreak of grade inflation scandals in large high school districts across the country, including Atlanta, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas and Washington D.C. The enhanced performance involved collusion all the way from classroom teachers up to a district chancellor.  

Yet the Claremont College SAT-inflation story is a first at the university level (at least that made the news). An AP wire story made the all-too obvious comparison to Wall Street, while finding the behavior “especially ignominious coming from professional educators.”

True enough. But what’s far less obvious is the deeper why, which can help explain how an institution that represents character and scholarship and civilization could stand those values on their collective heads.

In fact, that deeper why has been explained in full already. Alan Hall’s “Back to the School of Hard Knocks? The Education industry Faces A Multi-Decade Peak” was the lead article in the February 2011 issue of The Socionomist.

If you’ve never thought about the possibility of a “bubble” in education, please think again – especially if you have any vested interest whatsoever in higher education. You can begin by reading this article for free, within minutes.■

Andrea Dibben contributed research to this report.

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