The flawed foundations of average, how it hurts us and our learners.
Have you ever felt frustrated by an assessment or profile that has you feeling boxed in? Or had disappointing test results that reflected your mood and ability on that day and not your total skills or knowledge? We are constantly measured, compared and averaged and the book I have been reading recently has blown my mind by revealing the flawed foundations and the wider impact this has on us to reaching our full potential.
The profoundly challenging book ‘The End of Average’ by Todd Rose throws my years of training and work in education and evaluation into the ether as it illustrates how much of our lives from our birth to our eventual death, and all of our achievements in between, are measured and ranked according to the average.
In his book, Rose exposes Quetelet’s early work in 1840 in measuring the chest circumference of 5 738 Scottish soldiers to produce an average size and pronounce it as the ‘true’ size of a solider, and any deviation from the average as an error. Additionally Rose states, it was Sir Francis Galton’s conception that average meant mediocre and devised a ranking either side of the average (inferiority or superiority), of which many of us have experienced and been measured against as the bell curve. Do you remember educational scaling?
Further to this the assumption was made that eminence (superiority) in one area assumed eminence (superiority) in other areas.
The End of Average provokes much thought about our continued reliance on measures based on flawed logic that reduce the complexities of human individuality and potential into singular dimensions or fixed traits. It is more useful to think of intelligence, talent, skill or personality as individual, dynamic and contextual. Even as a coach working with people to embrace their unique talents for greater success and wellbeing, the book surprised me by highlighting how much of our daily lives are constantly assessed, and in turn used as personal measures of success against this flawed model. From the food we eat, the quality of our relationships, the work we achieve to how we should feel. (And many more).
I challenge you to become mindful of your internal language and judgements you make of yourself across a day to see how embedded it is.
Check out our next blog: Celebrating diversity: the alternative to fixed traits and boxes!