It occurred to me tonight to wonder…
We don’t pay doctors to rate their patients on how healthy they are, praising the healthiest, and kicking out the sickest patients, in order to motivate patients to be healthy.
We don’t pay salespeople to rate their customers on how good they are at getting deals on services and merchandise, in order to motivate them to get good deals.
We don’t pay programmers or engineers to rate their clients on how well their requirements were fulfilled by the work of the programmers and engineers, and kick out the clients who did not successfully get their requirements fulfilled.
We don’t pay lawyers to rate their customers as to how well their lawsuits went, awarding distinctions to the winners and heaping ignominy on the losers.
We don’t pay *any professional* to rate their customers on how successfully the customers achieved the aims they are paying the professional to help them achieve, praising the customers who successfully achieved their aims, and shaming or rejecting the customers who do not achieve those aims.
It’s a downright medieval* system, isn’t it? Just ludicrous! “I’m going to pay you to praise or blame me according to how well I achieve the aims I am paying you to help me achieve.” But we take it for granted in education, and if a teacher objects to it, doesn’t want to make it all about the grades, he’s considered some new age hippie freak who wants to dumb down the system for everyone.
Of course, for children in the K-12 system, they’re paying the teachers only very indirectly (via their parents and/or taxes) and have little say in anything that happens to them, so it’s a little less surprising in those cases; but it’s true even in colleges and universities.
I was talking tonight with my wife about how our twins’ kindergarten teacher, who’s one of the few teachers they will ever have who will not be required to grade them, doesn’t perceive the big differences we see in our kids’ abilities in different areas. To us one is really good at reading, the other’s really good at art, that kind of thing — but the teacher, in conferences, revealed that the kids don’t actually display those differences so much in class. In kindergarten, everyone is assumed to be capable of everything, and everyone does everything, in their own way, with or without some help here and there. Everybody learns everything.
We were regretful that it is not going to stay that way for much longer. The focus will turn from helping kids learn to sorting out the successes from the failures. If they’re lucky, they’ll happen to be good at being “successes” and manage to learn things anyway, for all the wrong reasons.
Still, I hope our society grows out of this someday.
* and not in a good way