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Saturday, November 20, 2010


There's are interesting things about average.
It's ALWAYS mathematically near the middle.
It's ALWAYS worse than the best.
It's ALWAYS better than the worst.
It's ALWAYS common.
And it's always boring and in need of improvement.

EVERYONE should ALWAYS be seeking to improve themselves. If we all did this we would be pushing the quality of "average" upward in every field. Sadly, we don't all try to improve ourselves all the time. My observation is that "average" seems to be declining in quality (this is backed up by the fact that the SAT has re-centered their test scoring charts several times so that their 1000 mark is, by definition, "average" - they've made it easier each time).

If everyone who were truly average were to work to improve themselves then the bar of average would HAVE to rise. Would there still be under-achievers? Sure. Would there still be a few people who NEVER amounted to anything? Sure. Would there still be gifted people and over-achievers? Sure. Would the average score ever reach that of the best? No. Does that mean it is not worth trying to be better? No.

Related to this little commentary is No Child Left Behind. NCLB is a poorly written act that the federal government put into play a few years ago. There are two major components to it. It's related to this commentary because it involves the concept of "average" with respect to students. I'll not get into the specific text of the law, but I will summarize it to the extent that I understand it. The ultimate goal of NCLB was to have the average students performing at the same level as the best students in every school.

Think about this for a moment. The federal government wanted to make sure that the AVERAGE students performed at the same level as the BEST students. There is only ONE way to do this: squash EVERYONE down to the level of the least-performing student and penalize everyone who does better than the norm.

It seems to me that the average person in the federal government responsible for developing and enacting such a plan must be well below average on the mathematical comprehension scale. If they are not I fear for the future advancement of our species.

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