You're right, it's reality that's wrong.

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Submitted by brad on Wed, 03/17/2010 - 01:02

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There's kind of a three headed rant in my brain.  I recently attended a few days of 'higher education' and it stirred up a few issues. Conformity, individuality, reality, accountability, adding-ity-to-wordity....let's start with, oh, accountability. I know I'm not the first to harp on this but really, can't anyone be wrong anymore? Can't anyone screw up? I thought it was perhaps limited to kids but it's not. 

At my daughter's belt testing an older class, 10 year old-ish, had to go through their form of 30 some odd moves.  At the end three of them had their left foot forward while one had his right foot forward.  The instructor asked each of them which foot they were supposed to end on, if they were sure, did they want to change their answer.  Every single one of them answered with the foot they ended on, and didn't change. Turns out the kid ending on his right foot was correct, but "they all answered with such conviction and they all stood strong in their beliefs and they all didn't waver when questioned so they all pass we're proud of you!" I'm not. I can respect that they tried, they should be proud if they did their best but, I'm sorry, you did it wrong. Practice some more and try again next time. You don't pass them. To me, that renders the belt meaningless. If everyone wins, how can anyone be proud of their acheivement? They're pushing some tournament for my daughter where everybody gets a trophy for something. Best kick, Best enthusiasm, best yell.  I would sign my daughter up only if I could convince her to sit completley motionless on the floor the entire time, clucking like a chicken, just to see what trophy she gets.

Unfortunately, it's not limited to kids or trivial items. Sometimes lives are actually endangered.  I went to a CPR course through work. My Dad used to teach it. I remember him bringing home the Resuscitation Annie and training us on it (I also remember the funny feelings this prone and lifelike female brought about in me, but that's another story).  This teacher bemoaned that. She went to great lengths to explain how much she hated being taught cpr by this old drill sargeant type lady. Being forced to practice on Annie, where they then reviewed the printout and failed anyone who didn't get 90%. It was stressful, it was hard, and the fact is, CPR doesn't do much good anyway (her words). 95% of the time it's ineffective but it gives the person something to do. Her course would be different,she proudly said. Different meant watching videos of Mr. Bean try to resuscitate a man with jumper cables, giving us the answers to the test during the course (literally, the number of the question and the answer), and teaching us incorrectly.  We had these cheap foam torso halfequins to work on. She had everyone blowing into the mouth, not pinching the nose, 25 people at once.  It wasn't until afterwards when someone braver than I asked "I seem to recall a long time ago, hearing that you have to pinch the nose." "Oh yes, you definitely need to pinch the nose or it's ineffective." That's it. 25 people did it wrong and she wouldn't have said a thing about it.  When we discussed child cpr, I saw a women across from me crushing the shoulders of her halfequin. Some people left before the test.  Every single one of those people got a business card for their wallet saying they had completed the training. That's just scary.  I would be afraid to have any of those people touch my kid. I know the certificate is worthless, and I would be ashamed to leap to the aid of someone claiming to be trained.  God forbid there is an emergency, because some of those people are going to do just that.  It was a totally worthless waste of time. Not effective 95% of the time? Only effective in the first 3 minutes? Then shouldn't teaching people the exact way to do it and holding them to a precise standard be critical?  If I only have 3 minutes and a 5% shot, I want an expert. I want the best, most efficient, most correct technique. Not some idiot with a business card squeezing on my shoulder and feeling empowered.

This course I was taking, is part of a Management Certificate. Attend 19 days of courses and you get it. That's it. It's impossible to fail. If I can't fail, what's the point? How does that certificate have any validity? It's worthless. It shows you can sit in a chair for 19 days over a 4 year period. It's a disservice to everyone who takes the course and actually gets something out of it.  I'm sure there are people who learned a lot but, without grading, it's pointless.  For every person who truly earned a Management Certificate, there are 20 people who got it by virtual of being able to stop themselves from fleeing a room. Worse yet, there are 5 people who think they earned it even though they completely misunderstood.

We were talking about disasterous teams, projects that failed, and someone refused to say failed.  "Even if you had an experience that perhaps...didn't achieve the intended outcome, you learned from it, and that makes it a positive." I've seen that.  I've seen a project fail miserably, only to have people say "while it wasn't what was expected, it was a valuable learning experience that will allow us to improve future development".  What happened to demotion, firing, official reprimands?

Everyone can't be right. The only way to ensure quality and accuracy is to have a system of measurement. Grading.  Professionally, it's critical. Personally, too - If everyone gets a gold, how can anyone be proud of it? My kids have a right to try, to work hard, to give it their best and, if lucky, win. To know they truly accomplished something not everyone can do.

Anyway. As I say, there are a few topics riling me up from that course, none of which are particularly funny.  I'll try to clear them out of my brain with a couple quick blogs tomorrow, so I can move on.