I've been following this thread with great interest. George, your analysis is cogent. As a person who started training late in life and then lost time from injury, who may never test for shodan but plans to keep showing up and training, I can't argue with your description of the prevalence of "Aikido Lite" and I can understand your concern about the dilution of the art/teaching. Yeah, for every test I've seen in which a student failed and a teacher got chewed out, I've seen several in which students seemed to be "given a pass."
Part of the issue I think really is the idea of aikido being "for the world" - hence the "rightness" of "go forth and open another dojo and teach"and making it accessible to folks who have physical limitations does come smack up against the reality of how to maintain standards for teaching. Chiba Sensei I think may have one path, which is separately grading for teaching from rank. There are some dojos (Aikido of Berkeley comes to mind here in NoCal) that do have uchideshi programs to accommodate students who wish to be on a different track from us hobbyists.
I think Kayla Feder Sensei has it right... she has an uchi deshi program nicely suited for the young, unattached, deshi who wants to put in beau coup hours on training. I wish my facility lent itself to something like that but I just don't have the space and couldn't afford it, based on the pure numbers of folks training. But it is a great opportunity she is providing and I have recommended her to several young people who wanted to train like maniacs while they still could do so.