Saturday, April 2, 2011
Is a standard really standard?
In a similar vein to my post of two weeks ago, participation in the dog show world is an epic illustration of how we all interpret the world differently, even if we are seeing the same thing.
It was our Tiki CKCS Club Open Show today - a leap above the humble Ribbon Parade; the stakes are higher - and on a personal note, it wasn't 'our day' today*. But that's really not what this post is about.
Before I wax lyrical I am in no way passing comment on the judging today, or at any other particular show. It is general comment. While all breeds have a 'breed standard', and while judging is meant to reflect exhibits who best illustrate that standard, interpretation of said standard is always going to be tinged with a certain subjectivity. What one judge puts up today as the best example of the breed standard, will be contradicted by the next judge next week. That's just how it goes. Of course some will sometimes cry 'face judging' - that is, judging the handler not the dog. But that's another story.
These are 'just dogs' however, (oooh did I really say that?) and talking about higher stakes, it continues to worry me that now we are applying standards to our children in our schools. National Standards. A far more complicated document than the breed standard for cavaliers, and therefore in my opinion, open to more variance in interpretation. The evidence we ask teachers to collect on a child is way more complex that giving a dog a feel up, and watching it move around a ring. The evidence is a loosely a mash-up of all that is observational, conversational and testable/tangible for each individual student.
While we are not picking a 'winner' we are making a judgement on each student, by drawing a line in the sand and assigning them each to a standard. Or below a standard. Or maybe well below. If you're above the standard is that like the dog that wins on the day? If another judge looked at the evidence would they come to the same conclusion?
Of course that's where moderation and professional discussion comes in. And at my school at least, I am very proud of and confident in the judgements that are being made. But I don't know what is happening in other schools, and grey areas still exist. It worries me that today's students and we the teachers who are assessing them against these standards, are being used as guinea pigs. (I wonder if there are breed standards for guinea pigs?**) How I wish the powers that be had allowed more time to iron out the grey, and to allow teachers greater opportunity to discuss the standards with colleagues, especially those in other schools. That would make the moderation process and assigning to standards so much easier and, in my view, accurate. Whoa, my first work bleat!
Hmmm, just thinking, - wouldn't it be interesting if dog judges were encouraged to moderate!
* We actually did win some silverware today. Pretty easy to do if you are the only entry in that class lol
**Omigod there is!
And the addition to my useless information file today is that guinea pigs are also called... cavies! Hilarious!