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Notes on Assessment

Education’s graduation from a Golden Mean philosophy to one of statistical mean is not yet complete. Despite our failure nowadays to agree on a Golden Mean, the demands of the ideal type persistently tug at our hearts. These we dismiss as subjective longings for some bygone era. we quiet these urges by reminding ourselves of how psychologically damaging and undemocratic a Golden Mean philosophy is to the student who must endure the tensions of constant self-denial and self-control in pursuit of the ideal. Besides, it adds enormously to the burden of being a teacher, who must struggle to embody the Ideal and who must take responsibility for cultivating in his students a sense of conscience and style both inside and outside of the classroom. How much easier and safer it is to adopt the philosophy of the modern mean. Judging the student against what he is or against what his peers are, after dividing them by their number, seems far less arbitrary and demanding. What could be more democratic and less controversial? How could a student fail to measure up to what he is? Unfortunately, however, the statistical mean is a solution with mathematical — but not human — efficacy.

David Hicks, Norms and Nobility, P. 51

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