When we were little kids, about the first thing we learned after we learned how to laugh and cry was how we were going to get tested and what that meant. When we got a bad mark everyone said, "Aha! You failed! You should feel horrible!" Then maybe we got grounded for, like, ever or at least until we thought about it a while and we promised to apply ourselves better.
We hated tests. Brains froze at the thought of exams. Pop quizzes were the stuff that struck terror into minds. Multiple choice and true or false questions were bearable because there was either a one-in-four chance or a fifty-fifty chance of guessing right. There was a natural distaste of "being brought up to standard".
Britain introduced standardized testing in schools in the late 19th century to try to give everyone a certain quality of education. They brought it over from British India (where it was adapted from the Chinese model) and it spread not only throughout the British Commonwealth, but to Europe and then America, and good grades in standardized testing meant the standard had been met or surpassed. This was all fueled by the Industrial Revolution where new methods of mass manufacturing set standards that allow us to have things like cars with engines that work. Size 10 shoes that fit size 10 feet. Milk cartons with a best before date.
Then, we got older, left school and we were glad to get away from all those tests. But we'd gotten so used to proving ourselves by then we realized the grades we get from others still mattered. Because we wanted to be considered good at what we do, noticed and admired by people we respected.
So today, those who think that we're only as good as our last job, our last game, our last speech or our last kiss; will recognize we're graded everyday on our abilities, our wellness, our dedication, our aptitude, our heart, our sense of humor and our knowledge. By anyone who cares to notice. Even by ourselves.
As much as some people think otherwise, grading ourselves is how we get things to work and get new things to work better. And when you know how things work, you can fix things when they break, or even before they do. Helpfully. By combining what we know with what we do.
Maybe 2013 will prove to a more productive year if we hand out a few grades. Let people know we care. Nicely. And help those who need to apply themselves better do just that.