There are times when the merits of scoring our ability to do something seems arbitrary and frankly, not very helpful. For example, I still remember our son Stephen getting a report card in preschool warning us that his “cutting skills” were conspicuously deficient. Having never seen this on any standardized testing, I wasn’t alarmed, but our teacher conference included specific guidance on how Susan and I could work with him in this area. I think he turned out just fine … that physical skill simply has not proved to be a key to his social, academic or spiritual success.
I grew up in an educational system where everything was graded … even my gym classes. I was a klutz and a geek so my physical skills were abysmal. My idea of success in those areas was to just NOT be the last person picked when we chose up sides for gym games like dodgeball, basketball, or softball. I almost flunked rope climbing … one Tarzan like Fabio-looking guy climbed the rope as if he was simply pulling it in rather than lifting himself off the ground.
It is ironic that I chose to run track and cross country to get rid of my excess nervous energy in high school and for no other reason. I found that running made me more able to settle down and do my homework. Because these were afterschool events, I also rode my bicycle to school on those days … more exercise … with the eventual impact that I became quite fit. I was still a klutz, but over my high school years, I eventually moved to the middle of the pack. Needless to say, I was never offered an athletic scholarship to college.
The highest level in my high school sports hierarchy of course was the quarterback of the football team. Girls swooned over him. He also had a convertible car since he worked after school at a job in a garage. He seemed so much like he had it all. The tall players naturally gravitated to basketball, cross country, and tennis. The short ones naturally chose gymnastics since the smaller frame made it much easier for them to perform their routines. Some of course also chose soccer for the same reason.
Even though I felt bad about my physical abilities, I never felt anyone was practicing racism or exclusion when they picked their teams. No team captain in their right mind would pick a white male for the sprints if they had a black male available. It is no surprise to me that the Olympic level 100 yard dash is dominated by Jamaicans and the marathon by Ethiopians. It is not a surprise that professional basketball teams are also dominated by blacks.
It makes me a bit crazy to hear corporations proclaim DEI initiatives when professional sports teams would never have token players to satisfy some arbitrary quota. It also makes me wonder why nobody is complaining of the professional athletes who command hundreds of millions of dollars for doing so little to help others or make this world a better place.
Don’t get me wrong … I get it that it is only recent history when there was no “color barrier.” I do remember when baseball forbade black players. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on Opening Day, April 15, 1947 but black players were in the NFL 27 years before that. I don’t believe we should exclude people based upon any attributes except excellence. Excluding excellence is simply stupid.
People who operate at statistically rare levels can scare us a bit. I still remember my college engineering classes where all Chinese or Japanese classmates were in a very different intellectual category. We called them the “curve busters” because our grades in college were curved. One of my chemistry exams was so hard that we mortals got Cs with scores of 6 out of 100, a B was 8 out of 100 and an A was anything above 20 … and all the Asians had scored 70 and higher.
On a similar note, my wife always reminds me that nobody gets the complete package. We all have gifts in some areas and deficits in others. Grading and meritocracies let these gifts produce value because they are recognized and nurtured. Grading helps individuals recognize their gifts and aids in them finding a path in life most suited to them. Perhaps what bothers those who want everyone to have equal outcomes in life is that they want it because financial success tends to coincide with those who are meritorious or lucked out on the gene pool (e.g., beauty pageant contestants).
So, it is ironic that we now have a new form of racism. We are not valuing meritocracy and therefore want to do away with things like grades and standardized testing. This has pushed some women, blacks and others into higher level jobs than what their abilities would suggest. Filling these key positions based upon some arbitrary attribute has no bearing on professional performance outcomes, discourages the more capable whites who are now deemed privileged with that being the reason they are so good. White privilege may indeed still be present in our society, but promoting anyone to a level they are not fit to perform in makes no sense.
Yes, keep score of the attributes leading to success. It is also terribly important to rethink success in this modern crazy world. But, arbitrarily defining success so that it must include some percentage of this or that is crazy. Corporate America is waking up to this fact … albeit slowly … facing the reality of the statement:
Go woke … go broke!