As most of you know I teach statistics at a college level. This coming semester will mark the 120th time I have taught ECON221 – Statistics 1. I started teaching this class in 1994. Basically, I’ve been teaching it a lot for a long time. Over the years of teaching, I have noticed something very disturbing, and very motivational. It is important to note that I have taught the same classes and used the same exams (well different numbers) for all those years. Back when I first started teaching, the mean (average) final grade for my students was normally in the mid-’80s. Now it is in the mid-’70s. What has changed? Well, I curve my grades now and I didn’t when I first started. I wrote a statistics textbook for my students so that they can understand the material better. Oh, and I give the students written procedures for how to solve every problem they will encounter in my class. I do all that just so my students can pass. In the beginning, there was no book, there were no procedures, there was no Internet just overheads, and I really didn’t know how to teach all that well. So what is going on? Why didn’t the average go up?
“Parents call it “bad grades”, we call it “still passing.”
– taken from a student’s Twitter Feed
This is why. Students only care about passing and not about truly learning statistics. Ok, maybe not truly learning statistics but getting an “A” so that their GPA is as high as possible. I can’t tell you how many students actually tell me, “as long as I get a ‘C’ I’ll be happy”, every semester. I never heard that 15 years ago. Instead, they would say, “anything but an ‘A’ is unacceptable to me”, fairly consistently. Sadly, most of my students now only care about being average. That is what a “C” is after all.
I see this mentality everywhere. Instead of seeking perfection, which takes work, most people and companies seek normality. As I write this, I’m sitting in Starbucks looking out over an empty seating area. One of the employees just came out and “cleaned” the tables and chairs. Other than my wife and me there is only one person in here. In other words, there is nothing for the employees to do. So why are there food pieces all over the floor? Because that is where the employee, that was cleaning the tables, swept them. Sweeping the floor would take extra work. Why would he do that when he can get away with not doing it?
Why would anyone want to seek perfection when normality is accepted and expected? Because, if you strive for perfection you can and probably will achieve greatness or at least be elevated above the normal masses. Let’s take a look at a company that never accepted “average”, even when that would have been a huge improvement for them. This company started with two friends in a garage tinkering with electronics and grew into the highest valued company in the world. Steve Jobs never accepted normal or average, he demanded perfection of everyone that worked for Apple. If an employee didn’t strive for perfection, they were out of a job.
I realize that achieving perfection might not be possible all the time, but it should always be strived for. Even if all my statistics students strived for a perfect grade and worked as hard as they could, not all of them would get an ‘A’. But, I bet they would get higher grades than if they had just strived to pass the class.
So, what do you strive for? For me, anything but perfection for myself, my Taekwondo students and the companies I deal with, is unacceptable (ask my fellow bloggers is you don’t believe me). I admit there is a lot of things that I do that are not perfect but that is not due to a lack of trying on my part. It is due to my limitations, mentally or physically. What can I do then if these limitations percent me from achieving perfection? Eliminate my limitations, that’s what. For example, when I was a teenager, I was defiantly limited by the fact that I was ADHD. No, I was never diagnosed with this condition, but I could not control myself even though I tried. My instructor would tell me not to move when standing in line, but I would move anyway. I didn’t want to but my body had other plans. This condition was limiting me and had to go. That is when I started meditating on a daily basis. Instead of sitting back and accepting my limitations, I utterly destroyed them.
Always seek perfection or become normal (aka one of the mindless masses) and who wants to be normal?
Something to think about…
Grandmaster Sean Pearson