Saturday, June 14, 2014



No matter what we do it seems there is someone who would like to pass judgment on our accomplishments;  to make an assessment of our skills and abilities and determine our success or potential success.  But what about those intangibles like empathy, perseverance,  or  ability to pick up on social cues and get along with a wide range of people.   These are not so easy to measure but their absence has held back those with otherwise high marks.

What does the word assessment  mean exactly?   Is it that someone smarter and wiser than you will judge your performance in some arena of life?   But then the question must be, who is the assessor?   What is their qualification?    Ah, of course.   Someone assessed them, once upon a time, and did not find them wanting.   Their achievement now makes  that person qualified to pass judgement on you.

But it just isn't that easy to make these determinations well.    History, both ancient and recent, is replete with examples of individuals who succeeded despite the judgement of those deemed fit to assess achievement or its potential.  Mother bird in the photograph above has an uncanny ability to feed each of her offspring equally and give them each the same chance at life.   With some species, eagles, for example, the larger of the brood will make the decision that he deserves to survive and kick the weaker eaglet out of the nest.    Our entrance qualifications achieve the same result.   Candidates are eliminated.

The easiest things to evaluate are those that can quantified:  2 + 2 = 4.   Creativity, ingenuity, social skills and adaptability . . . the really useful stuff . . . not so much.    These attributes are not only difficulty evaluate, they can be difficult to teach.   

Many universities use marks only to determine admission to programs.   With the avalanche of applicants, marks serve as a screen, a sieve to reduce the numbers.   Even in the helping professions where you are dealing with people every day, qualities of patience, empathy and maturity are often not considered.   Are they too difficult to assess?   Few would respond well to a robot in the classroom or at the hospital bedside,   yet we want a certain level of skill and competence in the surgeon that wields the scalpel.   We just hope the person who assessed them was thinking of us.

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