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Let’s measure love (just like we measure teachers)

If you put together the current obsession with measurement in modern school reform (Bill Gates titled his 2013 annual foundation letter “Measuring Progress”) with the fact that today is Valentine’s Day, you get the following satirical piece by Steve Strieker, a veteran social studies teacher in Janesville, Wisconsin. This appeared on his blog, One Teacher’s Perspective.

By Steve Strieker

With Valentine’s Day here, my family just took its annual love survey.

Using a privately run, publicly funded love rating system, my family members and I rate our love for one another using a scale of 1 to 5. While the surveys are done individually and anonymously, the answers are compiled collectively and the results are shared publicly.

In the spirit of transparency, I am proud to report that the family love meter reading comes in this year at an impressive 4.37. This is a rebound from last year’s dip to 4.28, but short of our all-time love meter high of 4.76 in 2011.

Three of six family members showed improvement. The new grandson broke in at an unprecedented, perfect score of 5.0 on the love meter. The two that did not improve only went down slightly at .09 and .12. The eldest child improved the most at .97. Mom and dad made love meter gains of .41  and .11, respectively.

Why, you may ask, do we go through this annual ritual and analysis of our family love? Of course, who better to turn to in matters of love than business-minded reformers. The data meisters profess that we must measure what we value. In our family, we value love, so the love meter matters.

Without the love meter, our devotion would surely wane. In this modern era of accountability, we cannot just presume we love one another or that family love is happening naturally. Believing love is beyond measure is nonsensical in the love reform movement. We must ignore our family as a social construct and look at this love unit through the lens of MBAs. We must provide evidence of our love in statistical ways.

Analysis of our love stats helps us develop ways to keep improving our ratings. For instance, this past week, I ensured growth in my love meter rating by sending my wife and kids some gift cards before the administering of the survey. I think this did the trick and masked my Walker-related stress.

While we scored well this year, we will have much meter-manipulation work for next year. The grandson’s perfect score artificially inflated our family love rating this year and will cause a strain in maintaining our overall scores in coming years, especially as he approaches the terrible twos. Also, the great teenager-tweener war is waging and dragging down the family love score.

Consequently, my wife and I have considered sending one of the kids to the child-bribing grandparents next year around survey time. Yeah, yeah, we know such collusion might not give us an accurate reading of our family’s love, but the stakes are high and the scores matter most (see Campbell’s Law) in showing our family’s love.

Never mind that the love meter system does not pass basic validity and reliability standards. The scores are to be made public as politicians demand we show the extent of our love in graphs and charts.

According to the plutocrats, competition further nurtures family love. Therefore, our scores — in free market fashion — are compared to others using the love meter rating system. On the upside, if we race to the top of the love meter — the politicalprenuers promise a family trip to the Bahamas. Who says you can’t buy love?

On the downside, if our love scores drop, we must submit a family plan of love recovery. If this plan doesn’t result in improved love scores, we are subjected to intensive family therapy at a private counseling agency. Sensibly, if we fail to grow our love rating following therapy, our family will be busted up for our own good.

I am not complaining about this. After all, we follow a “no excuses” policy–regardless of financial and/or emotional stress–in maintaining a high standard of family love. This is a tough love policy consistent with America’s meritocracy ideals. Critics of this system should stifle their critical thinking or move to China!

We have to get a quick handle on this family love thing as more accountability is headed our way. The same companies running the family love meter are promising new-fangled instruments for measuring previously-thought-measureless things–like learning, teaching, leadership, and more.

Not so long ago, we used to handle (what we thought were) intangibles — like love, faith, hope, learning, passion, teaching, and leadership — with the utmost care. Now we know better. We must proceed with all due haste in quantifying all things of worth. For if you do not measure something, it has no worth.


Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.



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Valerie Strauss · February 13, 2013

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