Thursday, June 30, 2005

Declining Standards In Academia

by Tom Bozzo

According to OpinionJournal, Diane Ravitch is "a historian of education at New York University, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a member of the Koret Task Force at the Hoover Institution." In attempting to score some points on an alleged decline in math education standards, her op-ed passes along what is apparently an urban legend regarding the trend in the contents of math textbook indexes.

In a purportedly explanatory e-mail from Prof. Ravitch to Kevin Drum (via the Daily Howler), Prof. Ravitch claims, "I have never seen a book with two indexes, but I suppose it is possible."

Butt well covered, I suppose. But never seen a book with two indexes?! Gimme a break. I had to reach all the way from my keyboard to the top of the pile of crap in front of my monitor at the office to locate a book with two indexes. (If Jeremy is getting neat in anticipation of his move, I am reverting to severe mess in anticipation of July 6.) That book was, for reasons that will become clearer to some tomorrow (though not via the blog), Applied production analysis: A dual approach by Robert G. Chambers (Cambridge University Press, 1988) — everything you ever wanted to know about neoclassical production microeconomics but were afraid to ask, BTW.

Like about half of the academic books on my shelf, Chambers provides a "Subject Index" and an "Author Index." I was even able to locate a book, F.M. Scherer's Industrial Market Structure and Economic Performance (Rand McNally, 1970), with no fewer than three indexes: in that one, a "Law Case Index" joins the name and subject index duo.

Nor is multiple indexing clearly a left versus right issue. The edition I own of Krugman and Obstfeld's international economics text has a single index, whereas Eric Rasmusen's Games and Information: An Introduction to Game Theory offers a "References and Citation Index" (an indexed bibliography) in addition to a subject index.

As if I needed another reason to avoid the Journal's op-ed page.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?