Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Works to Ability

That's a potential report card comment. I can't remember whether or not it's still available. The geniuses in charge of such things have revamped the comments so they all say things like "meeting the standards," "approaching the standards." or "not meeting the standards." They've rendered them less direct and more complicated. In their highly-compensated eyes, that is somehow an improvement.

You can't just say things directly anymore. The implications are bizarre. "Your kid is like everyone else." "Your kid is less like everyone else than many other kids." "Your kid is even more like everyone else than anybody else." You have to wonder which parent wants to place this message on a bumper sticker and announce it to total strangers stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

But no matter how badly they muddy the message, no matter how pedantic and pretentious they render the verbiage, they cannot touch "works to ability." as the worst comment ever. I always wonder who thought of that. What's the message when someone gets a 50 along with the comment, "works to ability?" To me, that comment says, "Your child is not smart enough to pass my class."

Now you could give the child a 65, with the "works to ability" comment, and then you're saying, "Your child is smart enough to just squeak by, but could never possibly excel."  That's kind of offensive too. Were you to say that to a parent's face, you might be putting yourself at risk. If you told me that about my kid, and were sitting near an open window, I'd consider that an unacceptable risk.

In fact, if the kid got a 90 and "works to ability," you'd be saying the kid who got 95 was smarter. And if no one did better, maybe you'd be passing judgment on yourself. "I taught this course in such a fashion that no one could get a perfect score." Or perhaps you'd be saying, "I'm smarter than all these kids," also not a particularly constructive statement.

I'm really curious whether there's any productive use for this comment. If you've got one, please let me know.
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