Caseythoughts Quick, what/who do you think is the biggest (by dollars spent) lobbying organization in the United States? I'll bet you didn't think of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, did you?? Howsabout $94.8 million spent by those proponents of American free enterprise to sway congressional opinion and action?? As a matter of fact, the C of C was a primary presenter of a 'friend of the court' memo in the DACA case before the Supreme Court last week (the organization strongly supports the 'Dreamer' program, with good reasoning).

Who's in second place in the dollar race in Washington? Would you believe the National Association of Realtors ringing up $72.8 million in lunches, dinners, snacks, swag and 'favors' (should I say quid pro quo?) for our esteemed legislators. Third place? The 'Open Society Policy Center', a progressive organization tied to George Soros.

Sorry, I stopped there at number three. Your homework assignment for extra credit will be to see where the NRA, the AFT and AFL-CIO, as well as other popular acronyms fared in the 'Diving for Dollars' extravaganza on Pennsylvania Avenue. Or is that Avenue K, where most lobbyists count their dollars?

If you have a high school student who has applied to a few high-flying institutions for degree work, and possibly received a rejection letter, you may be interested in the following. Douglas Belkin of the Wall Street Journal found out that the College Board, who owns the SAT testing system, sells the test takers' names, personal information and a 'range' of the relevant scores on verbal and math tests to universities.

Now, that probably doesn't even mildly startle you in the age of Google, Cambridge Analytica and mailing lists, and it is true that the student allows this information to be sent to specific institutions, but certainly did not authorize College Board to sell this information to more colleges than authorized. Here's the rub: The universities then send out solicitation to the students encouraging them to apply, making it appear that the college is actually interested in you. That might not surprise you, either, but the 47 cents it takes to buy the name and information garners something that you, the parent, and the student, don't know: the university appears to be only interested in expanding its pool of applicants, thus garnering a 'diverse' and larger pool of applicants. With no intention of actually expanding its accepted applicants, the ratio of acceptance vs declines raises the college's 'exclusivity' rating, thus boosting it in national ratings (US News and Report, etc) as well as the students' perception of desirability. Rejection letters abound in this system, with the student asking, legitimately, why did they even bother to ask me to apply? Of course, retaking the SAT to boost scores in an abject hope of being admitted occurs, as well. But the college, and the College Board, benefit by this academic form of shell game. Just to give you an example of selling names and information to 'boost' the number of applications (thus boosting the exclusivity rating) Vanderbilt bought between 100,000 and 200,000 names from the College Board last year. They obviously never intended to accept more than a fraction of this number. Now you can see how many 'rejection' letters can be sent to students who believed a solicitation letter was, on the surface, a legitimate shot at admission to the school. And, the number of students taking the SAT rose significantly, after "we got rid of the tricky math questions and the irrelevant vocabulary words", according to the designer of the 'new' SAT, David Coleman, who, coincidently, also designed the 'Common Core', that lightning rod of pain and angst in American schools these past couple of years.

I'd call this all a shabby conspiracy, but I'll leave it to you to make an academic conclusion.

To stay in the field of modern American academics, a short note that may have gotten past you, recently. Again, perhaps no surprise.

The National Center for Educational Statistics (which reminds me of Firesign Theater's Department of Redundancy Department) has released the results of the latest national testing of fourth and eighth graders, known as the 'Nation's Report Card'. The resultant scores of those fourth and eighth graders in reading and math were stunning, shocking, more than dismal, where nearly all scores dropped and were almost even with scores a decade ago.

Fourth graders made a one point gain in math, with an average (or was that the mean?) score of 241 out of a possible 500. And scores for the 'lowest performers' mostly fell from the scores of a decade ago.

A spokesperson for the 'Council of Chief State School Officers' (another lobbying group, I daresay) said there would be a summit of state chiefs, national experts and educators " improve literacy for all students."

Maybe they can get the guy who invented Common Core (and dumbed down the SAT, coincidently, as well) to speak to them about how he demolished the SAT, dumbed down the elementary curriculum and generally had a hand in taking the greatest free market economy in history down the primrose path of so-called 'higher education' where we are creating diploma-holding educated idiots who will blame politicians and business for the problems of America instead of the mind-sucking swamp in our American classrooms from kindergarten to commencement. It's not the hard working teachers, I daresay. Look at Common Core, College Board and administrators who promote less education and more 'curriculum' mantras. To requote the perpetrator of the 'new' SAT and Common Core, "tricky math questions and irrelevant vocabulary words." Indeed, Mr. Coleman. I am wondering why you aren't being keel-hauled in front of a congressional subcommittee. Then again, maybe they are in on this, too. Those committee members we watch on national TV don't appear to be any smarter than the kids we are hoping to educate. Sigh.