Shodan in some places is a statement of "memebership" to the dojo. America has this connotation that a dan equals some level of mastery... which is silly. IMO
I don't get that. Why is it sillier than making it a statement of membership? They're both just arbitrary points of reference. In either case it's just a name. It may just as well be at a comparatively more intermediate level as at a very early level.
If we made 'shodan' a more beginner grade than it is, we'd need to add several more testable dan ranks. Which would be fine, I suppose, but I don't see any advantage or real difference to doing it that way.
Other than maybe the fact that current rules make the shodan test the first one that is done in front of the Technical Committee, so if you did that earlier in a student's training maybe you could catch problems earlier and make sure more students were on the right track? Although if that was your goal you could equally well make 2nd or 3rd kyus start testing in front of the Committee, which would be the exact same thing, just with different names.
I can see lots of advantages to having more testing in front of Committee members (presumably it would help prevent some of those cases where people train for years apparently not realizing that they are not getting where they need to be going), but there would be real disadvantages, too. Very very time consuming, for one.