Objective-Based Failures

Humans were not made to chase numbers and die.

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Author. Scholar. Wild Rover.

That’s how I introduce myself to the world on social media. I wish I could do the same when I meet strangers at dinner parties.

It’s a situation I often encounter. My wife is a surgeon. Doctors get together at least once a month at various house parties and social gatherings. Professionals who spend 70 hours a week together are obligated to converse with the same people during precious days off.

It’s supposed to help doctors develop closer relationships with their peers and build a sense of community. What happens most often is they talk about the same subjects they discuss in the hospital, wearing khakis instead of scrubs. As the spouse of a surgeon, I’m also obligated to attend. Discussion topics are often either too technical for me to understand or too graphic for the social setting. Given the choice, I prefer attempting to decipher medical jargon and acronyms. While I’m eating chili at a cookout, I’d rather not hear about exploding, pus-filled cysts or messy colonoscopies.

Sooner or later, I’m approached for conversation.  When describing who I am, “Author, Scholar, Wild Rover” isn’t an acceptable response.

Doctors are objective-based professionals, usually more interested in results than rhetoric. They are not alone in this characterization. Many people stick to a standardized script when meeting new acquaintances.

Who are you? What do you do? Where do you do it?

As a teacher, I wish the field of education were not so similarly objective-obsessed. Every year, student progress and teacher performance are based on high-stakes, multiple-choice exams. This format is often attributed to Frederick J. Kelly, who designed the assessments to increase efficiency in education.  He later argued for more individually-tailored assessment methods, noting that the multiple-choice format was “too crude to be used, and should be discarded”.

Rather than inspire students to create innovation, our system of education attempts to mechanize them to correctly choose the best option out of 4-5 choices. Sir Ken Robinson notes that such a system was designed to train workers in an Industrial Age economy, preparing new factory employees for the assembly line. Such methods have no place in the Information Age of the 21st century.

My brother felt strongly enough about opposing this system that he waged a solo, 3-day protest, marching in New York and Washington DC. I applauded his passion, but it is going to take more than one man with a sign to knock down the factory model of education. It requires a united front of teachers, students, and parents demanding tangible changes.

Life has more than four choices.  Instead of teaching students to fill bubbles, we should motivate them to expand their minds as free-thinkers. It is the natural state of children to be inquisitive and creative. The present education system, which seeks to reduce students and teachers to measurable numbers, stifles that creative spirit. It should be no surprise that students rebel against such an unnatural obligation. Student anxiety crescendos as these assessments approach, and on the date of the test itself, many kids become physically ill.  The sounds of vomiting echo through the halls of schools. I hear it when I serve as a hall monitor during these tests. If students don’t make it to the restroom, and throw up in their classrooms, an “irregularity” must be reported to the State.

There is nothing regular about a system of education that literally makes kids vomit.

Societal expectations of meeting arbitrary, external objectives do not cease after graduation.  Millions drive 90 minutes or more every day in heavy traffic to jobs they hate, move papers from one pile to another, and receive a number from their boss on a performance evaluation which objectively rates their value as an employee. That value as an employee is often construed to mean value as a human being.  The stress of reaching a satisfactory level is a magnified, real-world replay of the anxiety faced by students in classrooms during standardized tests.

Adults facing workplace anxiety aren’t limited to vomiting in the restroom. Use of antidepressants has skyrocketed over 400% since the late 1980s.  Almost 30% of companies surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recorded a workplace violence incident that occurred within the previous 5 years. Americans spend a third of their lives in cubicles next to coworkers teetering on the brink of mental breakdowns. How did we get here? How do we fix the human psyche of the modern age?

Germans have a single word to describe this phenomenon: Leistungsdrück. Literally translated, it means, “Achievement pressure”. This pressure follows us from kindergarten to retirement.  When we’re not thinking about our own leistungsdrück, we’re asking others how they’re doing with theirs.  What do you do? How is that going? What’s your test score in life?

Maybe in a few years, we’ll perfect the formula so we can boil it down to a single question and number.

“What are you?”

“I’m a 76. You?”

“54. But I’m hoping to get to the magic satisfactory number of 70 soon.”

“Good luck!”

Humans were not made to chase numbers and die. That isn’t an existence I find acceptable. We were made to chase our passions.

Charles Bukowski wrote, “If it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it.”

That’s how I feel about what I’m doing with my life. My name is Rudolph Lurz. I write, I teach, and I travel. I’m trying to change how education operates. I’m interested in communicating with others and exchanging ideas.

I recently completed my first novel. It’s a dystopian story of three teenagers who arrive in an Afterlife teetering on the brink of revolution. The tagline of my book, Realms of Glory, states, “There is life after death, but Heaven is no Paradise”. It is being published this summer. Stay tuned to my blog and social media pages for more information.

I write about life, death, and everything in between.  I’ll post here about my books, short stories, and academic articles. If you’re interested, you can be one of the 12 people in the world who will read my 205-page dissertation about state government policy formation.  I successfully defended it in April, and will be publishing that beast in December when I graduate with my doctorate in Administrative & Policy Studies.

I hope you’ll follow me, read my stuff, and comment with your own ideas, thoughts, and snide remarks. Let’s talk about things that matter.

Today is the first Lurzday Thursday.  Welcome to my page.

RW Lurz

FB- Rudolph W. Lurz

Twitter- @RudolphLurz

 

Author: lurzdaythursday

Author, Scholar, Wild Rover.

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