Swickard: Half of all Americans are below average

Surprise for my high school teachers 
© 2016 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  "For the first time ever, overweight people outnumber average people in America. Doesn't that make overweight the average then?" Jay Leno
            I salute the wisdom of Jay Leno. My high school nickname was "Slim" since I swam competitively in high school. Today when someone says, "Hey Slim," I know they are just trying to get a rise out of me. But I'm now average.
            Since the Clemson - Alabama game is a couple days away I was thinking of William "The Fridge" Perry who in 1981 played on the National Championship Clemson team and then on the Super Bowl Chicago Bears team. Coach Ryan gave him the nickname of "Biscuit." The coach said, "The Fridge is only one biscuit away from 350 pounds."
            And perhaps we could say I am just one bowl of green chile and beef away from having to buy new clothes. Hence this week is the start of the 2016 annual diet week where I do gerbil like activity until I get distracted from all of that exercise. However, this year I have a Fitbit activity tracking band that counts my steps so perhaps I will turn over a new leaf. Perhaps indeed.
            Americans try to understand average. I can safely mention this since we just got by the Thanksgiving Christmas and New Year's juggernaut of extra calories. After a successful holiday season, I resemble the average American.
            We swim in a sea of statistics with very few people understanding what they suggest. When I say that half of all Americans are below average the average American wants to do something about it. We can't have all of those Americans being below average, or can we?
            This notion has been humorously dealt with by Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion where in the segment News from Lake Wobegon he says, "... (Lake Wobegon) where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."
            In 1987, John Cannell, a Virginia physician, noticed at that time every state claimed their students were above average. Further, the student scores were found to be uniformly above average in all states. This syndrome was then labeled the “Lake Wobegon Effect.”
            In a recent poll 95% of all drivers rated themselves above average drivers. Go figure. I admit it sounds bad to be below average if we care about whatever we are being judged upon. In public school I was a statistical average student consistently getting the grade of C. Teachers in exasperation would say, "You could get a B or an A if you tried."
            They didn't understand my philosophy: if you turn homework in, they will expect it every time. So the non-existent dog ate my homework. And I cultivated a persona of not being academically inclined. Truth be known I was just not tuned to their radio station as the saying goes.
            Should we rate my teachers down because I was not interested in high school except for the things that I found interesting? In a conversation about my lack of achievement since I had just over a two point zero grade point average my mother mentioned to the counselor that I owned a couple thousand books.
            Yep, I read all of the time when I wasn't doing sports. But I didn't find what they wanted me to know interesting. As far as students going to go to college I was very much below average. But they just did not understand me since I achieved a Ph.D. when I decided that it was what I wanted.
            The great failing of our public schools is that they are focused on the adults, not the kids. Some kids are more compliant than others. All of the measures of public schools are actually only measuring how compliant the kids are in today's schools. Most are just not compliant.
            Me, I would purposely get every answer wrong on the accountability tests if I was forced to take it. I know myself and how I dealt with public school fifty years ago. And I would be labeled below average. So? What the accountability would measure with me is my engagement with their agenda. I am not.



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