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Give Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor credit for gall anyway. Last week they congratulated themselves on steady increases in Connecticut's high school graduation rate - just days after the results of a national academic test disclosed that half the state's high school seniors are not proficient in reading and two-thirds are not proficient in math.
Since Connecticut's scores on the test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, were still the highest in the country, nearly everyone here overlooked the miserable details and never raised the crucial question: If half to two-thirds of Connecticut's high school seniors are not proficient in reading and math, exactly what does a high school diploma represent besides delusion and deception?
If, as it seems, Connecticut's objectives are mere credentialism and political posturing rather than learning, they could be achieved without the fantastic and ever-rising expense of public education. High school diplomas could just be distributed along with birth certificates.
But then proficiency in reading and math isn't necessary to gain admission to a public college in Connecticut. To the contrary, Connecticut's policy is that everyone who has failed to learn in high school should be sent to college at government subsidy as well.
That was the revelation four years ago from state government's own survey of its community colleges and state university system (Central, Southern, Eastern, and Western Connecticut state universities).
Two-thirds of freshmen in the university system and nearly three-quarters of freshmen in the community college system needed remedial high school courses in English or math or both.
The governor and General Assembly solved that problem quickly - they outlawed remedial courses so that there never again might be such an embarrassing survey.
But embarrassments keep popping up. Last week the Board of Regents for Higher Education promoted to a full professorship an associate professor at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain who is in prison - Ravi Shankar of Cheshire.
Shankar was recommended for the promotion by CCSU President Jack Miller, who said later that he had not known about Shankar's imprisonment. While Shankar had been in prison only a week because of a probation violation, his criminal record is years long and has been widely publicized - credit card fraud, drunken driving, and other motor vehicle violations. That record should have been enough to get him fired, not just prevent his promotion.
The New Britain Herald reported, "Those who worked with Shankar said he is respected and had a great sense of humor."
He must be laughing his tail off in prison. With a few more convictions maybe the Board of Regents will award him an endowed chair.
Hazing the Constitution
No college would dare forbid students from joining al-Qaida, the Communist or Nazi parties, or even the Republicans. But Amherst College in Massachusetts not only forbids fraternities and sororities on campus but now will expel students if they join such organizations off campus.
Of course fraternities and sororities are often little more than excuses for students to behave like the slobs depicted in the 1978 movie "Animal House."
Even sororities can be dangerous. This month the University of Connecticut suspended a sorority for its hazing of members, young women who lamely claimed that the sorority had "forced" them to get drunk, an explanation that used to get 9-year-olds laughed out of elementary school.
But the First Amendment rights of free speech and association deny colleges any authority over their students' legal social and political associations off campus. Amherst's policy is more of the political correctness of academia run amok.
Students should defy it and challenge it in court.