Several months ago my husband and I were in the process of obtaining a car loan to purchase our SUV. Towards the end of the process the loan specialist advised me that we would be receiving a survey regarding his performance and asked if I would fill it out. The gentleman was very helpful with us and I said yes. He then went on to explain that most questions were based on scale of 1 to 5 and anything lower than a 5 was deemed failing. I did not give it much thought until this past weekend when our cable was not working and the DIRECTV technician was at our house and at the end he advised that we would be receiving a survey regarding his performance. He went onto explain that most questions were based on a scale of 1 to 10 with anything less than 10 being a failure. He pointed out just as the loan specialist had that these surveys are used for his reviews and ultimately how much he makes is based off of it. That’s when it struck me how inappropriate this method was.
In both scenarios the gentleman completed everything they were supposed to, they were polite and friendly. I might not have given them the highest mark, but since I was informed both times how their companies valued their scores I felt compelled to. Here in lies the problem with this way of scoring. It is inflation at its best. The customers feel compelled giving 5′s or 10′s knowing anything less than that is deemed failure. So unless the worker was completely horrible you feel obligated to give them passing (5’s or 10’s) scores. It really isn’t a true evaluation. This way of grading has trickled down to our schools. It is less about children’s responsibility and working for a grade and more about what a child is entitled to and what they “need” (I use the word need very loosely).
I am not sure when this train of thought first infiltrated our schools but I remember very vividly being in high school and receiving at times a “B” or “C” in math or science class (not my strong suit) and I equated that to being a failure. A “B” for all intents and purposes means above average and a “C” means average, and yet somehow I took it as a failure and I know I was not the only one who felt this way. They only difference between me and the students of today are now the parents are beating down the doors blaming the teachers and demanding a grade changes because an 85 is not an acceptable grade for their son or daughter.
How have we gotten so far off the mark (no pun intended)? Somehow society has turned every evaluation that one might go through into a situation in which if you score a little less than perfect it is failure. This is certainly not healthy state of mind. The pressure we are putting on ourselves is immensurable. This is why we have kids with test anxiety and having nervous breakdowns. It’s just not right. On top of this there is the underlining message of dishonesty and pushiness. Even if you don’t earn the “A” if you complain loud enough and long enough you might just get it changed. Even if you fixed my cable and I wanted to rate you with 8 out of 10 (which is an 80%, above average), I am going to give you a 10 because you don’t deserve failing remarks. This standard of basically either be perfect or a failure is not only unrealistic expectation but not healthy. The truth is the vast majority of us are average and until we accept that fact and really try to fix this problem we are only further contributing to this black and white dilemma. “Back in the day” there used to be true bell curve and evaluations and test really meant something. Call me old fashioned but I would take that any day over a 6 year old scared to score anything less than a 90 on her math test.