I have an instinct that my random conversations and connections with people on twitter is a good thing, though I would be hard-pressed to find some measurement that says I’m right. I also know when I am clicking with someone in a conversation, though there is no “clickomoter” that confirms my intuition. I just know.
The same thing happens with good teachers. As a parent, you know when things are clicking. A student knows when s/he is inspired and s/he recognizes this as a good thing. Sometimes we are wrong, but on the whole, it doesn’t happen very often. Human beings are really good at reading each other. Unfortunately, we’re also pretty good at denying obvious sigs, but that is a whole other blog post.
Or other things like the feeling that a finely-crafted, leather-bound, hand-set book gives you as you run your fingertips gently along its spine. Or the welcome feeling of a cool breeze in the middle of a hot August day. Or the outstretched hand of a stranger when you fall on an icy sidewalk. All of these things are good, yet have no yardstick to measure them by.
And yet, we have CEOs who demand to know the ROI of a social media program in which the primary activity is connecting with others. Or school boards demanding to have some measurements for teachers’ results based on testing scores instead of the ability to inspire the soul of a young person. Or sites like Klout to give us all “influence” scores as if we already didn’t know how influential we were.
And this is all very, very silly.
I was watching some hearing on the Ohio Senate Bill 5 today and the congressman was doing some follow up questioning on someone testifying, asking her to give specific examples of this, that or the other thing. He really didn’t want an answer. Neither does anyone asking for an ROI of some social media program. Neither does anyone demanding to have measurement tests for good teachers. They are just looking for you to provide them permission to say no.
At some point along the way, we’ve decided that everything can be measured quantitatively. I think we are wrong. I think the qualitative measurements are just as important, if not more so. It is the part of our humanity that remains an art as the rest of us gets defined more and more by science.
The Wall Street Journal had an article this week about the computer, Watson winning on Jeopardy. Tons of people were producing commentaries on how computers are becoming smarter than humans. But they misunderstand the fundamental difference between the brain and how computers work. Computers make measurements the entire time while the brain.. well, creates art even during the most rigid of mathematical calculations.
This is why the unions will eventually lose the fight in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. You can measure money. You can’t measure job satisfaction, happiness or human dignity. Not really. And if you can’t measure it, it must not exist.
Even though we all “know” it does.