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October 29, 2008
Grade Inflation is “slow and uncontrolled”
Grade Inflation “has occurred at Warwick” and continues to incrementally impact undergraduate results, the Boar has been told.
Dr Duclaud-Williams, a lecturer in the Politics department said: “there is no longer the balance between 2:1s and 2:2s as there was ten or twenty years ago; in examiners’ minds 2:2 scripts are now deemed as substantially defective… today there’s an enormous concentration of 2:1s in my department and others.”
Even so, he and other lecturers are adamant that there is no pressure from the University to award higher marks, but said that it was inevitable that institutions and examiners want to improve results: “All institutions come under competitive pressure”.
Responding the possibility that employers are having trouble differentiating between graduates, he recommended that they should be given the relative performance of students according to their year, but that examiners and lecturers should be left to their traditional understanding of grade classifications.
This view was supported by Professor Jonathan Bate of the English Department: “What I do believe is that the old four class system has reached its sell-by date: in all the top universities, the third is an endangered species and the 2:2, which used to be regarded as the benchmark average performance, is now perceived by students as a kind of failure.”
“This shows that we’re doing a good job on admissions, and that the current generation of students are more results focused than many of us were in my generation, but it’s hard to see the logic of a classification system where the lower classes are used as they are now. The system originated as a kind of rank order: as it were, first class meant the top 5% of finalists, 2:1 the next 40%, 2:2 the next 40%, 3rd the next 10% and 4th, the bottom 5%. I think we’d do better to ditch classes and go for some kind of American-style grade point average.”
Indeed, Andrés Carvajal of the Economics department thinks that the system has a big “inertia”:
“...if one year you give a distribution of grades that is considered atypical when compared to previous years, I would expect that someone (e.g. an external) would ask you to explain, and maybe even curve the grades. But this does not qualify as inflation, as it could go both ways: if my grades are seen to be too generous, I suspect that some alarms would go off.
“...for many people in the UK, a scale 0-100 actually means 30-70. I always use the full scale, so I can give a good student a mark of 97, which may seem like inflation to a person who would give 71 to a Nobel prize-winning essay. But, again, it isn’t: I am also willing to give a student a mark of 3, if their work is really bad.
“To me, the reason that may explain grades going up is the real pain that you have to go through when you fail people – like writing, proctoring and marking resits. So, if you want to do research, you better avoid failing students. But I don’t consider this to be “pressure” – it is just wrong incentives.”
According to University figures, compared to 2003/04, when 20% of Warwick degrees awarded were first class, there was a small increase to 23% in 2006/7 after minor fluctuations in the interim years. 2:1s have hovered around the 61.2% mark and 2:2s have averaged at 14.4% figure for the past five years.
In the long term, the picture is quite different. In March 2004, the BBC reported that Warwick “saw the proportion of students gaining first-class degrees almost double from 10.6% to 20.3% during the five years” between 1998 and 2003.
At the time, a University spokesman said what it was “no surprise” that the results were getting better: “We are becoming more and more popular and we are attracting better candidates”.
At present, the University still awards well above the average of first class honours, approximately double the 2006/07 national average of 11.7%. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, Warwick is also well above the Russell Group of Universities’ average of 15.7%.
Professor Robin Naylor of the Economics department contests the reasons behind such a rise: “There’s certainly a higher percentage of firsts awarded than was the case, say, 20 years ago: but is this grade inflation, or better work by students, or better teaching? No-one has done an analysis of this locally”.
From the point of view of the Students’ Union Education Officer Mo Surve, a 2:1 from Warwick does not mean any less today than it did ten years ago: “Receiving a 2.1 from one of the top Russell Group institutions is not to be taken lightly. A lecturer I know at another university told me that a 65/66 at Warwick would be equivalent to gaining a first at the institution at which she lectures.”
He also shares the view that there is no pressure on lecturers to award higher marks. Citing a change in the system the Students’ Union won a “few years ago”, marking is now carried out anonymously and some departments double mark all assessed work to ensure there is no bias towards or against a student.
Mr Surve said: “…marking is carried out as objectively as possible and should cut any grade inflation/deflation down to a minimum. If, in some cases when examiners cannot come to an agreement, the external examiner comes to a decision.”
For many students at Warwick, a 2:1 is a prerequisite to attain a job after leaving university. Darshan Shah, an engineering student in his final year said: “If you haven’t got adequate work experience, a 2:1 would be a usual minimum requirement for a ‘good’ job.”
Ian Liverton, a trainee Design technology teacher who graduated last year in electronic engineering takes a more pessimistic view: “As someone with a 2:2, it’s very hard to find graduate placement. I only got my present job because of my experience as an ICT technician at my school.”
Whilst there was considerable grade inflation between 1998 and 2002, the recent figures demonstrate only a slight increase in the proportion of firsts awarded between 2002 and 2006/07 – evewn though the figure 479 firsts in 2006/07 compared to 396 in 2002/03 show that an extra 83 firsts were awarded, or a 21% nominal increase.
As for the national perspective, which has seen the number of first class honours awarded has double over the past decade, Professor Naylor told the Boar that it is more important to look at the disparity between universities:
“If grade inflation occurs in some institutions and not others then that could create unfairness and inefficiency through generating uncertainties and imperfect information.” Dr Geoff Meaden, who retired as a lecturer this year at Canterbury Christ Church University, says:
“They say that the teaching is getting better – by and large this is rubbish. Having worked in schools and/or universities for 30 years I can tell you that it is not. In fact, generally, the kids are getting more difficult to teach. The grades are getting better because marking is now more lenient than it was previously. Notice that I do not say that the exams are getting easier – which I don’t think they are. So, an exam answer today will get about 10% more than would the same answer have got 20 years ago. Why is there a need for higher grades – because schools and universities are competing with each other – by way of various leagues tables. You have to be shown to be near the top if you are to attract the best students – or indeed sufficient students to maintain the viability of courses. I have attended many examiners meetings where we have been told to mark a little more generously. There seem to be all sort of ways of squeezing a few extra marks out for students. When I was at university the ‘average’ grade was a 2(ii) – today it is a 2(i) for many universities. This means that the students are getting 10% higher grades. Well – I am afraid that evolutionary processes could not allow the brain to have developed that much more in such a short space of time !! I think that the world of work recognises what is going on and just accepts that today’s grades are not comparable with those of the past. Also, it now behoves students to get themselves Masters degrees if they are to be ahead of the crowd. In many ways grade inflation does not matter much – but I just wish that the powers that be told the truth about what is happening”
Yet, in Warwick’s case, the University maintains that the calibre of the students is the reason behind the higher than average first class honours awarded. Defending the quality of the University, they claim that: “Data on first destinations of undergraduate students who graduated in 2005 shows that 90% had entered full employment or were taking further study.”
Peter Dunn, the University’s press manager added: “Warwick students get the degree results they deserve…We continue to attract some of the best staff and best students from the UK and beyond and the more of the cream we attract the better their academic performance will be -it’s a virtuous circle.”
June 12, 2008
Warwick Student Cinema: Relocation?
Last week Hannah Smith reported on the problems Warwick Student Cinema are facing regarding new laboratories which are to be built underneath L3 on the Science Concourse, which is home to the screen of WSC. What we know already is that a relocation for the society will cost around £40,000, which is a staggering amount. Unfortunately, a representative from Warwick Student Cinema was unavailable for comment on this issue but the Students Union released the following statement today:
The Students’ Union is of course supporting Warwick Student Cinema with
the issue of new science labs underneath L3. The lines of communication
between the Students’ Union, the department and the wider University
administration are open and clear, and all parties are keen to work
towards a mutually beneficial solution. There is certainly not an
adversarial approach being taken by anyone involved.
At this stage it is impossible to know the outcome of the situation, and
the Students’ Union for its part is working hard to resolve the issue as
soon as possible. It is important to note that the fact discussions are
being had makes it clear there is a recognition throughout the
University of the importance of student-led extra curricular activity.
From there the issue appears to be being dealt with amicably and we will keep you updated on this story, what it means for the WSC. Hopefully we can get a response from the society for next week’s show. As always if you are a member of WSC or simply enjoy the films they show, do email in and let us know what you think on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student Opinion: 42 Pre Charge Detention
The Labour government was yesterday successful in the passing the terror law through the House of Commons, which may soon mean terror suspects can be held for up to 42 days without being charged. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith stated the obvious reasons for the legislation of national interest and the view that the threat of terror is wholly new and unique.
The government were, however, very fortunate in getting the legislation through the House of Commons; it has a majority of 66 but only managed to win with a margin of 9. 36 Labour MPs rebelled with the government having to make concessions to the Democratic Unionist Party MPs. The House of Lords still has to make a decision with the likely outcome being that they will send it back to the Commons.But away from the number politics of the whole vote, what do students here at Warwick make of the issue? Do they reflect the wider, national opinion that holding people without 42 is perfectly in line with the tradition of civil liberties in the UK? I spoke to a few on the eve of the vote, to find out what they thought.
Also, have another chance to listen to David Davis, who resigned over the issue, and the new Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve, who we interviewed back in February on the subjects of liberty and security:David Davis:
May 22, 2008
Britain should "expect significant slowdown" in the economy
After last week’s inflation report from the Bank of England, RaW News spoke to Dr Andrew Sentance, an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) at the Bank of England. He told us that he expected inflation to return towards the 2% target in the medium run and whilst he said that we cannot rule out a recession, we should expect a “significant slowdown” in the growth of the economy. Asked whether the rising food prices would hit students would be disproportionately, he said that everybody would be affected. He also said that students should be the ones to decide what economic problem they should worry about, but wanted to emphasise the point that we all benefit from a low inflation economy.
As regards the future, he thought that if consumers become more cautious in the coming years, we may become more dependent on export led growth. This will also be helped by the depreciation of the pound.
The MPC is responsible for setting interest rates in the United Kingdom and it targets the Government’s target of 2% inflation (CPI).
We began by asking what his role is:
Please note: if your browser is having trouble opening the file, click here. and then click continue.
To read the overview of May’s inflation report, click here.
The interview was conducted on Tuesday 20th May.
April 28, 2008
Sense Through the Smoke: Student's Views on Cannabis
Earlier this month the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs issued its
update on the classification of cannabis. The government had sought a
review of its 2004 re classification of the drug from a class B to class C. The
review was commissioned out of a concern that the strength of cannabis
people are taking is far stronger than it was four years ago. Concern is also shown by the home secretary Jacquie Smith and PM Gordon Brown, who appeare determined to tighten the laws on cannabis, but The advisory council suggested that the drug remain at its current classification. The Association of Chief Police Officers, however, have compelled the government to reverse its 2004 decision. They suggest that the drug be taken back up to class b. Downgrading cannabis sent out the wrong message that cannabis was legal and harmless. This has all been a bit of a confusion for the government, as saving police time and resources was the primary reason put forward by the Home Office for the down grading of cannabis in the first place.
As for the statistics, well, come to all sorts of conclusions. For example last year the London’s Institute of Psychiatry, estimated that at least 1/10th of the 250,000 schizophrenics in the UK could have avoided the illness if they had not used cannabis. Only this month, Keele University’s research suggested this wasn’t wholly true; there was no causal link between cannabis use and mental health problems. So with the government, police and experts all giving out mixed messages, is it possible to find our way through the smoke? I spoke to 2 students about their encounters with cannabis and other drugs and what they made of the inconsistencies. I began by asking them, if they thought the government was right to down grade cannabis four years ago…
Listen to Rithee’s report here:
March 15, 2008
Warwick Atheists lose Best New Society Award
With the headline in the Boar shouting “I don’t believe it” when it came to the news that Warwick Atheists had won Best New Society Award two weeks ago, the famous catchphrase seems to have been proven correct. On the last day of term, the Union decided to revoke the Society’s award and the accompanying £100 they had won. At the centre of this decision and sudden acrimony between the society and the Union’s Welfare Officer, are the posters depicting religions being disposed of in a bin. Their inspiration might very well have come from the campaign to keep the No Platform Policy, who used a symbol of a person binning a swastika, but it seems that Atheist version led to a ‘number of complaints’.
According to the Union, the Executive Committee of the Warwick Atheists Society was sent an e-mail regarding the posters that were put up around campus entitled ‘The Importance of Atheism’. The society’s executive was informed that these posters were in the process of being taken down, and that we would be in contact again once the issue had been dealt with in the appropriate manner. Indeed, Ed Callow was seen taking them down with much determination. The main image within the posters themselves was of an individual discarding the symbols of nine major global religions into a litter bin, with the tagline “It’s time to take out the trash” written at the bottom. The Union claims that they included a level of unnecessary and discriminatory language which included: “If you’re sick and tired of hearing “it’s my faith” used as a smokescreen for ridiculous viewpoints, come and take a look at what we have to say”.
The Union has also taken the decision to ban the reproduction of the image in any other publication or media. They have claimed that the “The bounds of the Equal Opportunities Appendix apply to reproductions of these posters in the same way as the posters themselves”.
According to sources close to the Warwick Atheists new Exec, the society is planning to to appeal the decision. Indeed, their main argument against revoking their award was that they were judged on their progress throughout the year, not afterwards. However, the Union takes a different view; ‘Even though this publicity went up after the distribution of awards, given that the criteria include ‘Commitment to Equal Opportunities’, ‘Good intersociety relations’ and ‘Contribution to the Union / wider University environment’, it was felt that this breach was serious enough to merit withdrawal of this honour for the 2007/2008 academic year.’
It seems that Warwick Atheists are not prepared to sit back and accept the Union’s judgment. On an unofficial blog called ‘ToolChronicles’, the ‘Chronicler’ – an anonymous ‘individual’ who according to the ‘webmaster’, doesn’t represent Warwick Atheists, highlighted the words ‘Fuck You Ed’, evidently referring to the Welfare Officer, and he/she defends Warwick Atheists position: “We’ve produced nothing as or more offensive than has been seen in the past, and it was merely a free expression of a valid viewpoint held by a great many people. Religion is mocked in every form of entertainment we have nowadays. We weren’t even doing that. This poster is not offensive to average people. A minority, an incorrectly outspoken minority at that, expressed that it offended their sensitive theistic values.”
The issue does raise questions about freedom of speech and sensitivity towards different religions. After the recent Referendum decision to now allow racists and fascists into the Union, the debate about information will not rest. Warwick students will now enjoy a rift between Mr Callow and Warwick Atheists. The ‘Chronicler’ stated “We’re taking it to appeal, and we’re going to fight it every step of the way. Bring it on, Callow.”
To visit the Warwick Atheists’ website click here.
To visit the blog Tool Chronicles, click here.
For the Students’ Union website, click here.
RaW News is not responsible for the content of these external websites.
Outgoing Head of News
February 20, 2008
Gadsby–Peet calls for students to reclaim Saturday nights
The Union’s Communications Officer, James Gadsby-Peet, has launched a new campaign which he has styled ‘Sat_your_day’ in response to ever-growing criticism of Flirt, the current Saturday night event in the Students Union. Flirt is a brand that has been developed nationally by the NUS, but it has proved very unpopular with some sections of the Warwick student body. With the ‘Get Flirt Out of Warwick’ Facebook group now boasting over 900 members, Gadsby-Peet is offering students the chance to attend a meeting and offer ideas for the union event on Saturday of Week 8. If the event is a success, he sees no reason why this can not be rolled out to other events, meaning that perhaps Flirt may be on its way out of Warwick. Listen to what James Gadsby-Peet had to say when Political Correspondent Andrew O’Brien spoke to him earlier.
Chief Political Correspondent
February 18, 2008
Speaker sees 'Global Apartheid' – Warwick Economics Summit
The weekend from 15th to 18th February saw Warwick play host to the entirely student run 2008 Warwick Economics Summit – the largest academic conference of its kind in Europe. The Summit has been going strong for seven years since its inception in 2002. Attracting high profile speakers from the world of business and economics, such as John Kay (returning to the Summit after his first appearance in 2004) and Tim Harford, author of the ‘The Undercover Economist,’ and delegations of students across different universities and countries, the Summit aimed to provide a platform for the exchange and debate of economic ideas and the establishment of links across universities.
With the motto of “inspiring students to shape tomorrow’s world by engaging with today’s,” the Summit, opting for breadth rather than any single, overarching theme, addressed a myriad of issues, ranging from debates over the postulate of the rational utility-maximising agent, to immigration and globalisation. In addition to organising high-quality talks, the Summit also sought to enhance the social dimension through the Summit Dinner and Dance event.
The success of the event is attributable to the dedication and tremendous efforts of the 40-strong Summit team which has been working hard since May of last year. Attention will no doubt soon be turning towards the work for next year’s Summit.
Philippe Legrain, economist and author of Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, has criticised the government’s points-based system for migrants seeking to enter Britain, accusing it of being “shameless populism.”
Speaking at the Warwick Economic Summit, he says that it was against New Labour’s core principle of equality of opportunity.
“They are denied the opportunity to better themselves,” said Legrain, “It is global apartheid.”
“It is easier to bring your foreign pet then your foreign girlfriend or boyfriend.”
He also criticised US immigrations policies to tighten up its Mexican border, saying that it is “driving people to die,” citing the high death rate of Mexican illegal immigrants trying to enter the US.
He called on governments around the world to remove immigration restrictions.
“Diversity is not something to be tolerated, but cherished.”
He says that migrants are not competing with natives for jobs because migrants tend to go for jobs in low value-added industries which could not be outsourced and unpopular with natives, such as elder care and transportation.
Legrain says that migrants bring big economic gains as they are more likely to be innovative because they have a different perspective.
Britain, he insists, was losing out by imposing immigration restrictions.
21 of Britain’s Nobel laureates were refugees, while half of America’s capitalists and co-founders are migrants, says Legrain.
He criticised migration sceptics of being hypocritical and “economically illiterate.”
He accused them of making “it for issues to be discussed rationally” by laying out “seemingly rational arguments.”
Perhaps one of the most anticipated of the talks was that given by Tim Harford, famous for his book, ‘The Undercover Economist’ (2006) in which he examines the economic ideas behind everyday situations in the world. At this year’s Warwick Economics Summit, Tim Harford launched his new book, ‘The Logic of Life’ in which he argues that, in spite of the seemingly irrational behaviour we often see, we are in fact considerably rational.
By drawing on basic rational choice theory and ideas from his book, Harford constructed engaging, compelling and oftentimes humorous narratives and anecdotes to elucidate the rationality and logic behind common but puzzling phenomena. From speed-dating, smokers and drug-addicts to the decision to engage in crime and almost everything in between, Harford delivered a lively and fascinating presentation. His audience was well engaged and, to the delight of enthusiasts, he was also present after the talk to sign copies of his new book, ‘The Logic of Life.’
Stephen King, the chief economist of the HSBC Group, has said central banks of rapidly emerging economies have a part to play in the recent sub-prime crisis around the world.
In his talk, King said that globalisation has a crucial role in the crisis.
He says that those central banks were keen on buying government bonds from developed countries as they were eager to attach their economies with the economic framework of those developed economies.
This has increased foreign reserves in these emerging economies, which are used to invest in government bonds in the US and Euro area, which lowers the returns for such bonds.
Other funds, such as pension funds, are driven to invest in riskier funds with higher returns, such as sub-prime mortgages.
He warns that there could be “a complete collapse of trust within the financial market” as there is not enough liquidity to substitute all such funds.
“Up until December, it is possible to feel relaxed about the UK,” said King.
“There was one redeeming feature: The UK did not have a large balance of payment current account deficit.”
However, recent revisions by the Bank of England have shown that UK is facing its largest current account deficits since the “Lawson Boom” in the late 1980s.
King warned that the UK did not have the safety nets established in the US, and there was limited rule on the fiscal side due to the government’s Golden Rule, saying that the only ways to solve the problem was to quickly reduce interest rates and engineer a fall of the sterling.
He also highlighted that globalisation was not guaranteed, pointing out to the many examples where globalisation has reversed after the First World War.
“Regardless of the economics of globalisation, politics is crucial as well.”
He emphasised the role on how China accelerated globalisation, saying that China’s economic reforms and the fall of the Berlin Wall “rocked the competitive equilibrium that used to exist in the political equilibrium.”
He also warned that even though globalisation did bring greater equality between nations, inequality might arise within nations, as shown in China and the US, which might offset the benefits of globalisation.
What do you make of the Economics Summit? Is it a good idea? Did you attend it? Leave your comments below:
February 16, 2008
As Go Green Week begins, will halls have recycling next year?
Go Green Week begins next week, so RaW News decided to find out what is going to happen and what the University and Union are doing with regard to environment policy.
RaW News has been speaking with the University’s Environment Officer – Nick Hillard, Go Green Week’s Coordinator- Hannah Smith, and Tom Callow who is Finance Officer at the Union.
Nick Hillard promised that there was going to be some ‘exciting news’ with regard to recycling in the coming months. Whilst being slightly evasive over the issue of recycling in halls, it seems that it might well be introduced in the near future, and he said it was part of the University’s sustainability matrix. When we asked him, he said ‘Yes, indeed’ to whether there would in-hall recycling, but he wouldn’t be drawn on a date. However, he added that Warwick Accommodation had to incorporate sustainability into their aims and told people to ‘watch this space’. It wasn’t a question of cost but a question of behavioural change, he said.
Mr Hillard said that the University had saved 763 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide this year against the target of 800 tonnes as part of the carbon management scheme. The Environmental policy of the University apparently contains targets that exceed the commitments of national legislation. As for the University’s expansion, he didn’t believe that the aiming for carbon neutral buildings was right and that it was instead ‘greenwash’. Instead all buildings will be ‘BREEAM excellent’.
Nick Hillard also said that the University was providing funds for Go Green Week’s Publicity, and was ‘delighted’ that they were able to assist. He hoped that the University would meet its environmental targets and said that he was there to ensure that it happens.
To see the University’s Environment targets, click here.
To see the Environment policy, click here.
The Union said that they had managed to secure some furniture for Go Green Week.
The University’s policy and achievements seems to be quite clear, however for the Union the water is much muggier. As the Union is a part of the University (though separate politically speaking in the words of Tom Callow), the Union finds it hard to separate the achievements that it has made. The Union’s Environment Policy (674) has only just come into force last term after been changed by the Finance, Democracy and Governance Officer, Tom Callow and Environment Officer Asen Geshakov. The Policy outlines hard lobbying on the University and NUSSL to help find more environmental friendly methods as well as mandating the Union itself to make its actions as green as possible.
However in the discussion hosted by RaW News, the Finance Officer was unable to come forward with any hard figures on the actual achievements of the Union in terms of its green objectives. The Union’s Executive will soon be presented with a report from the Finance and Communications Officer which shall give an update on the progress (or lack there of) that has been made towards the targets set out by Policy 674.
There is the hint of tension as well with the Environment Officer allegedly stating that he was ‘unhappy’ with the funds that had been given to him to do his job. Mr. Callow did not agree however and said that there was a difference between the funding allotted to campaigning for the environment and money allotted to making the Union greene
To see the Union’s policy, click here.You can listen to the feature here. We begin by previewing what’s happening in Go Green Week and then tackling Nick Hillard and Tom Callow:
Head of News
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February 12, 2008
Shadow Attorney General has anxieties over 'surveillance society'
In light of the government’s proposals to extend detention without trial for terrorist suspects to 42 days, the recent revelations of the bugging of Labour MP Sadiq Khan, and the ongoing controversy over ID cards and a biometric database, RaW News has been addressing the issue of the “surveillance society” and the ubiquitous dichotomy between liberty and security we face.
In the same vein of last week’s discussion on civil liberties with interviews with Conservative and Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretaries, David Davis and Chris Huhne, I interviewed Dominic Grieve, Conservative MP and Shadow Attorney General, on the issue.
Dominic Grieve spoke clearly and elegantly on the issues of 42 day detention and ID cards, advancing an argument based chiefly on pragmatism rather than an ideological regard for civil liberties.
Sceptical of the efficacy of such procedures as extending detention without charge, but aware of the need to restrict some liberty in exchange for security, he called upon the existing powers and civil law, like the Civil Contingencies Act, to be used more effectively; he went on to criticise proposals for 42 days as an “act of administrative discretion.”
Grieve, who has been his party’s spokesman on community cohesion, highlighted the need to use also persuasion to prevent people becoming sympathetic to terrorism, and in such a “values battle”, he stated firmly that “the last thing you should do is to bin your own values.”
On the issue of ID Cards and a national database he again offered criticism based on a pragmatic outlook, but also underlined anxieties he had over the implications that the “surveillance society” would have on the liberty and fulfilment of future generations.