Last time it came up on 5Live, the silliness was “Well, you need qualifications for a decent job”…. coming from a radio DJ and a newspaper columnist, who earn far more than I do in jobs which require little more in the way of qualifications than the ability to spew words into either the mic or the word processor.
“Surely, at school.. in the office.. we all need standards to make sure we’re making progress and the trouble with this conversation to some extent is that we’re hearing the stories of the parents who are doing the right thing, how do we make sure that we’re keeping tabs on those who aren’t doing the right things?”
– Julian Worricker, Radio 5 Live Report on Home Education
Again, I’d be fascinated to see what standards Julian is subject to to ensure he’s making progress.
Gill makes the point that, especially when young, we all make progress without being tested, held up to standards.
Personally, I see this as another part of the mania for metrics: find a number vaguely related to performance that it’s easy to derive, define that number AS performance, then measure everyone according to that metric. So what if it only tangentially represents work done, quality, or any useful aim for a person, organisation, or group? Dammit, look at the FIGURES!.
I have seen a number of good managers reduced to bean counters by this mania for figures, good workers neglected compared to bad workers who knew how to game the figures, and, of course, children marked as “failing” in school because they don’t produce the right figures to make the school look good, to make the department look good.
The Target Culture is at the heart of the destruction of the NHS: waiting lists are down, because you can wait for months before you’re officially on the list. No-one has to wait more than 24 hours for an appointment with their GP… because most GP’s won’t LET you book earlier than that morning.
Good managers, good parents, good teachers, good headmasters, dare I say, good governments, don’t have this mania for figures: they manage through knowing and trusting. Genuine knowledge of what is valuable or worthy is being buried under a mountain of spurious, distracting, deceptive data, that tells you more about who is requesting the data than who it’s being requested from.