A leading industrial manufacturer specializing in research and development of medical equipment is running a special introductory workshop for prospective new staff. The workshop is designed to train applicants in a way that makes them excellent at their job…
In a previous article (see Spin Doctor: Equality – Catastrophic Inspiration) I examined the devastating implications of the communist version of equality, identifying the calamity that befell Soviet Russia and its sphere of influence, the disastrous results of which can be seen to this day. I concluded that the fault lay not just with the thugs who abused the system but with the notion of bulldozing everyone to a flat, equal level. I didn’t explain the argument further, leaving it sounding too ominous for comfort, as if equality, per se, is to blame. It isn’t. Equal rights for all individuals are crucial to a healthy and able society. But that’s one thing, and not the same as being put in your place, in line, with individual capacity targeted, crushed and dissolved within a massive blob, with no chance of ever standing out – an act nothing short of a crime against humanity.
Let’s elaborate on the issue to make it clearer. Let’s do it with a tale:
A leading industrial manufacturer specializing in the research and development of medical equipment is running a special introductory workshop for prospective new staff. The workshop is designed to train applicants in a way that makes them excellent at their job, minimizing the margin for error at all levels, ensuring that the highest standards are maintained for years to come.
The idea is simple but revolutionary. All successful applicants, now referred to as candidates, are enrolled in a strenuous, twenty-week-long course for further screening and training, during which they undergo a crash course in the workings of the company, familiarizing themselves with the setup of its various departments, the scope of its operations and the technology in its possession. At the end of the first week, candidates take several tests for the instructors to assess what they’ve learned. The marking system is extremely rigorous, designed to identify, promote and enhance the cutting-edge brilliance that is expected of their profession, while pinpointing shortfalls and weaknesses in each candidate’s knowledge.
Regarding grades, they range from A (excellent) to F (failing), and are distributed as follows: 10% of the class receive As, 20% Bs, 40% Cs, 15% Ds, 10% Es, and 5% Fs. A and B are considered passing grades, while C is considered borderline. The rest are sub par, thus, failing.
The grades are announced on the first morning of Week 2. The initial strong points and shortfalls in the class are identified, key issues are addressed with the aim of plugging the holes, and the workshop rigorously resumes with next week’s material. The same procedure is followed, and a test is taken at the end of Week 2.
This is repeated for a total of three weeks, by which time everyone gages their strong and weak points, the key players, the areas of specialization one is good at, which candidates require assistance in their training.
Yet suddenly and unexpectedly, in Week 4, the grading system changes. Candidates are no longer graded individually. They’re graded collectively. Their results are pooled together and averaged out into a mass class grade that represents everyone. This continues until the end of the course, the instructors announce. The class must join forces and work together, do their utmost as a unit in order to finish the course with at least a B.
Since the class grade was a C at the end of Week 3, they’re now faced with a challenge.
Candidates grit their teeth and double their efforts over the next week, and the class grade jumps to a B. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. The course continues. Efforts intensify, but the class gets a B in Week 6. The week after that it gets a C, followed by Bs in Weeks 7 and 8, and another C in Week 9.
The candidates are exasperated. The strongest among them, tired of putting in a great deal of good work only to be held back by the average, their brilliance wiped out by the dimmer stars in their class, turn on the rest, accusing them of dragging the grade down. The majority of candidates take offence and attack back, accusing the upstarts of getting out of line and undermining class solidarity. Tempers flare and all sense of coordination is lost. Week 11 sees the class grade drop to a D.
The low grade ignites further conflict. For a while everything gets out of hand and accusations flare. Everyone is at odds with everyone else, but cooler heads prevail and organize a meeting. Some of them propose that the instructors revert to the initial grading system. Let each person be judged on individual ability. Many secretly oppose the initiative and argue against it, aware that they may not meet the B and A standards, with their weaknesses exposed for the instructors to see. They’re happy to keep working in the current system, escaping scrutiny and passing with a B, if they’re lucky – failing, if they’re not, without being held accountable. They can hide behind the class average and blame the entire class for the shortfall. They can even blame the high achievers for sowing discord in the class. They don’t openly support keeping the collective grading system, of course. Their official argument is that the current grading system is good enough and would work very well if only those selfish members of the class would stop thinking of themselves and get with the program.
It doesn’t end well. The high achievers, infuriated at having been blamed for the low performance of the class – by none other than the students responsible for it, to add insult to injury – refuse to do any work. The rest of the class responds with the same measures, refusing to pitch in, and Week 12 leads to an F.
Matters deteriorate sharply. Week 13 passes agonizingly slowly, with the majority of candidates fuming at the minority, and vice versa, each side blaming the other for the class’s latest failure. The result is a second F.
Week 14 goes pretty much the same way, with no sign of improvement. The company instructors draw the line. They intervene, assuming control of the situation.
They organize a meeting, which they moderate, initiating a dialog between the two class groups. The disgruntled class majority is urged to acknowledge the minority’s edge in the field, giving the high-achievers credit for their advanced capabilities.
The impatient and edgy minority, in turn, is urged to acknowledge the majority’s gravitas, admitting that without them no project could ever be completed, bearing in mind that huge numbers of staff are needed to carry out the company projects.
The message is clear: one group needs the other to make it through. The company’s wellbeing depends on it. The desired result is clear: cooperation, plain and simple. The groups have to cooperate.
Nevertheless, the grading system is to remain. The class will continue to be judged on its average.
Refreshed and determined to make things work, the candidates resume their efforts, eager to get back into pass territory.
The end of Week 14 greets them with a hard-earned B, and so do Weeks 16 and 17. Things are looking brighter and better – but not great. Excellence seems as unattainable as ever, with trouble brewing beneath the surface. The dimmer members of the class feel patronized and threatened by those who’ve taken initiative, unwilling to do their bidding at will, while the high achievers sense that certain individuals and groups are incapable of carrying their weight, which means a sub par performance that creates delays, hazards and accidents.
Meanwhile, at a different location, another group of candidates is getting trained in the same program. Their classes are graded according to individual capacity throughout the course. By the end of Week 10, Camp 2 has more or less settled into a pattern, with the A and B candidates leading the way, the C candidates trying to catch up, and the rest of them unable to cope, not as things stand. The top individuals are assigned to mentors, who begin to wean them into their specialized areas, while the less able are assigned to special instructors and groups whose job is to address all weak points and help them catch up.
The bar is, thus, always kept high, with something to strive for, excellence never suppressed, failure never diluted, spread out, or swept under the rug. Everyone is held accountable for his or her actions/capacities/input, and the class pushes forward, each individual addressed according to his or her capabilities, focusing on what needs to be done to raise each and every participant’s performance.
By the end of Week 17, Camp 2 is on a much stronger footing. It has fewer Ds, Es and Fs than Camp 1, and everyone is doing much better in general terms, both individually and on aggregate. Not only is the class average a strong B and the camp’s overall abilities much sharper on account of greater accomplishment, coordination and teamwork, but they’ve unlocked tasks that Camp 1 hasn’t. Camp 1, on the other hand, is in a shambles, wasting time arguing on how to get things done and on who’s to blame for this, that, and the other. They need at least an A and two Bs to pass the course, and morale is running low.
Part 2 of the story will describe what happened during the final three weeks…