Saturday, February 8, 2014

Are We Really Average?

The Olympics start this week. I enjoy watching the pomp and pagentry, the competition and the camaraderie. At every Olympic competition records fall. That is to be expected. The Olympic motto is, "Citius, Altius, Fortius" which Middlest, my Latin scholar, tells me means, "Faster, Higher, Stronger". Watching any athletic competition where being average is celebrated, would be dull. Just imagine a hockey game where each team strived to not outscore each other, or a figure skater only doing a double axel instead of a triple, because she "does not want to perform above average".

I know an Olympic Gold Medalist. I went back to finish my degree later in lifeand in the first class l took was a female basketball player who has since won an Olympic Gold medal in pole vaulting. My recollection of this young woman was that she was quite normal, albeit kind of tall. Although normal, she is far from average. There is nothing average about hurtling head-long down a runway, shoving a large fiberglass stick into the ground, and flinging yourself 16 feet into the air. Which, by the way, is 3 feet higher than most tractor trailers.

All of us have those dreams and aspirations of doing something extraordinary; something above average. This trait is plainly evident in children. Ask a child what she wants to be when she grows up and she will tell you, president of the United States, a doctor, a fireman, or, as littlest would say when she was in Kindergarten, a bus driver.

Into this youthful optimism and unbridled energy steps the government. Here, in New York State when I was in high school, the state administered Regents exams. These exams were designed for students who were planning on attending college. At my high school, around 20% of the students took those tests. Then someone in New York State government had the brilliant idea that all students should take the Regent's exams and go to college, whether or not the student wanted to, or was capable of going on for further education at the collegiate level.

In order for this to work, some brilliant minds created a curve. This is where it gets fun. With this curve, points are taken from those who do well on the test and given to those who do poorly. Problem solved and everyone is closer to average. Except they aren't and the government does not know why.

It is like the the Olympic committee allowing anyone to go and compete in the games, and then expressing confusion over why so many competitors do so poorly. Simply saying it is so, doesn't make it so

Enjoy the above average spectacle of the Olympics and be glad the don't curve the scores. 

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