Letters to the Editor
Readers write about accountability in higher education and the changeover to digital TV.
Colleges laying groundwork for education accountability
Regarding your Aug. 20 editorial, "Congress flunks in higher ed act": Decrying the absence of a mandate in the Higher Education Act for colleges and universities to measure and report learning outcomes is premature. It would have been inappropriate and even irresponsible for Congress to mandate measuring and reporting learning outcomes before effective measurement tools are refined and understood. To date, only 10 percent of United States universities have ever measured value-added core learning outcomes. But that is about to change.
Nearly two years ago, America's public universities embarked on the development of the Voluntary System of Accountability. We developed a template of demographic and learning outcomes data that can be clearly understood and readily available.
Many public universities have registered to participate and some have already begun posting information within the College Portrait template on their websites. One critical issue is how to consistently measure and report the value added by an institution to student knowledge. Over the next several years, public institutions will resolve this issue.
In response to your recent editorial on higher education: The editorial is rightly concerned that there is a great deal of waste in government higher education spending. Many students do spend four, five, six, or more years in college, but learn little of any value.
Unfortunately, there is almost nothing that government can do about this other than grandstanding, feel-good measures. Students will inevitably get as much out of education as they want. Some are very eager to learn, but many others are content with "education" that is pleasant and undemanding.
Given the fact that most students are content with college as it is, governmental efforts at compelling better educational results are probably futile.
Troubles in switching to digital TV
In response to your Aug. 14 editorial, "The digital TV cliffhanger": The editorial correctly predicts that a fraction of current analog TV viewers will lose their picture completely upon going to digital, even though they have installed the converter box.
However, this loss is the price that we pay for the greater good.
Digital viewers enjoy flawless pictures free of snow if the signal is above the requisite threshold. Unless digital stations increase their power, some users will have to resort to higher antennas or signal boosters to see the show, come February. Otherwise, a signal below digital threshold is as good as none, and there'll be no picture. As with romance, with digital it's all or nothin'.
Regarding your recent editorial about challenges in the upcoming digital TV transition: The editorial prompted me to offer another possible concern. Here in Florida, and in other areas with frequent storms, many people have appreciated having battery-powered radios and TVs that provide weather maps and other information. It would be a shame to negate this helpful system.
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