In a recent post Ted Simon wrote “When I first told Harry Evans, the editor of the Sunday Times, that I wanted to ride around the world I was thinking only of how to describe the journey, to make it understandable – saleable, if you like. The act of making a complete circle was not at all important to me personally. I just wanted to see as much of it as I could. But I needed to raise some money and if I was going to write a book – which was always my aim – then that label, that headline “Round the World” would be important. And so far as we knew, I’d be the first to do it.
Since those days in the early seventies the business of making and breaking records has grown with record-breaking speed. The Guinness thing has become a huge business. Everybody wants to swallow more eggs, jump over more buses, swat more flies, fly, float, drive, swim, climb, drop, skate, crawl further, faster, longer, than anyone else and get a certificate.
I wasn’t thinking about records when I travelled. It would have been easy, for example, to nip across a few borders here and there to rack up a few more countries but it didn’t occur to me because that wasn’t the point.”
Getting a certificate is the name of the game, not only for specific skills like welding, building scaffolds, cabinet making or baking cakes.
If you search for “certificate of superior intelligence” (a quite vague definition) Google offer three millions three thousands eight hundred results in 0,26 seconds.
The lion share goes to company providing tests of IQ certifying that you have a brain (at higher cost, one can obtain the same result with a EMAR scan with the additional benefit of hard copy to frame).
Forget IQ, Mensa and all the controversies about the measurement of thinking capacity; on the millions of results one can enjoy “Certificate of Applied Emotional Intelligence”, “Certificate of Competitive intelligence”, Certificate of Web Intelligence”, “Certificate of Social Intelligence” moving than to “Military Intelligence” (Online degree available) and Central Intelligence Agency (Field experience required).
Certificate of positive spirit (I was getting desperate in being generic) gives less results (1.350.000) but offers jewels such as “Merit Certificate”, “Certificate in Wholebeing Positive Psychology” and “Certificate of Emotional Energy”.
There is a certificate for everybody and one does not need to go Citius, Altius, Fortius to obtain it: it just available on line from the comfort of your couch.
The “Certificate” is supported by a grading: a set of numbers (from 0 to 10) or a set of letters (from A to D) or a set of precious metals (from Bronze to Gold). The most complicated systems are regularly introduced to justify grading as politically correct. For example, Primary school children in UK are now graded on a standard of 100 “for KS1 SATs a score of 100 means the child is working at the expected standard, a score below 100 indicates that the child needs more support and a score of above 100 suggests the child is working at a higher level than expected for their age. The maximum score possible is 115, and the minimum is 85” Complicated? Confusing?
What about One More Mile Advance Riding Observation score with 80 as negative level, 39 as sufficient and 20 as perfect? It can be explained but the explanation (as per KS1 SAT score or Mensa IQ score) does not take away the stigma of grading or, what I consider the stigma of a value-base evaluation system. And Simon is clear in is question “what is a record?” He went around the world to see, to learn, to share and to report: a certificate of “record” was not, even remotely, in his goals: and yet Jupiter Travel has been the front runner, the beginning of all “around the world” travels including crazy record not anymore registered in Guinness Book.
Since we started going to school and to university to get “a piece of paper” (certificate) the quality of tuition and the quality of participation to culture sharing has been plummeting. “University Degree online” search beats all records with 490 millions of results. Among the 490 million we have qualified “online courses and remote teaching/learning” as serious as the most demanding University, nevertheless the majority of results are jut easy way to “get a document of certification”
And this is the key issue: when the search for improvement, the curiosity for knowledge, the passion for creativity are fading, mechanical grading comes in with numbers or with option: we give numbers to the beauty of women and men, to hotel comfort and services, to pictures taken. We search for large number of contacts, like, share, visitors: the social media are turning into a game of numbers and, not so slowly, numbers turn in our mind as criteria for judging all. Standardized measurements of varying levels of achievements invasive and viral, very viral.
We all know that a grade is limited in time and in situation: getting an “A” in History only means that in that day and on that subject I per firmed well: change subject or take me on the wrong day and the result will change.
We play a game of chance for the sake of “certificate”.
Take a rider passing a “grading session” from any “school” and passing with a high grade (Advanced, Gold, Diamond, Blue Ribbon or 22… whatever); he or she will be happily show the result in certificate, pin, sticker of other gratifying media. Forever.
But the grading just evaluates that specific ride, under the specific circumstances, along a specific itinerary.
It does not express the overall level of competence; it only fixes a moment in time evaluating the temporary performance.
In old time access to an artisan profession required years of apprenticeship for the evaluation of “repeated competence”, the capacity to perform well again and again. Today the apprentices are mistreated in TV UK by multi-millionaire Lord Sugar and in USA by Arnold Schwarzenegger replacing the President Mr. Donald Trump.
Since we want everything now and since the process must be instant, no more time is available for “continuous evaluation” and “grading” is the fast service of competence.
Signs of change (in positive terms) are at the horizon with school and universities replacing grade by overall evaluation supported by extensive knowledge of the candidate and intelligent, human guidance toward improvement. Time for all of us to revise our “evaluation system” rejecting mechanical ways to express like or dislike, to judge performances in any area.
And when a test is required better to adopt the “pass or fail” system that oblige the evaluator to take a clear position supporting it with meditated documentation.
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