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The “Perception of Excellence”

An interesting thing came to my attention over the last weekend. I was assisting my partner at an equestrian event where she competed in several classes with her two horses. She is a good rider, and I have been her strapper for around a dozen years, so both herself and even more so, myself, have been able to assess the standard of rider opposition and judging levels over those years.

Of course, as everybody who rides horses knows, it can all come down to “the horse on the day”. But there are consistencies expected and they are the judging criteria that make or break the ride. These criteria would be the ones handed down from eons ago using a set of standards of excellence for each level of competition. These standards were evolved from centuries of cavalry manoeuvres required to keep a squadron of horses manageable in a battle situation. I hardly need tell you what sort of discipline THAT would require! Of course, such “hard core” training has been eased somewhat to accommodate the use of sporting horses in a social day out.

But … a strange realisation came to me this past weekend. My partner had competed in two events of the same level competency, with the same horse, same people competitors and with myself observing. As I have said, I have been watching these competitions for around a dozen years and I am not deluded enough to “guild the lily” on my partners behalf, so I was surprised when in those two events she came second-last in one and second place in the other! … with little discernible difference in performance in both rides … BUT two different judges.

If you Google “Methods of training for horse riding”, you will come up with a plethora of individual styles, from “Rough-riding” to ‘Touch-therapy’ for horses. I won’t go into it. For my real purpose for this missive is to discuss “Perceptions versus Standards of excellence”. Sufficient to say that along with the creeping in of many and various breeds of horses, some quite unsuitable for the competitions they are entered into, along with the many and varied styles of training and riding of competition horses, has come softly, slowly, with generational change, the “sympathetic” assessment of horsemanship graded down from a set “standard of excellence” to more of a “perception of excellence” so that while both the horse and rider may be exhibiting those moments of the criteria sought for; “in-the-frame” composition (what gives the equestrian horse that perfect style of trot or canter etc), they both have not been brought there by setting the solid/correct foundations traditional in horsemanship to create that “frame”, but have been “confected” to behave “as if” it has been trained thoroughly in horsemanship skills via the use of advantageous breeding to create artificial “composition” (appearance), saddlery and bridle gear. THIS confected, cosmetic “perception of excellence” has permeated through many branches and skills of our society, demeaning excellence in manufacture, science and medicine to management to politics. It has damaged our society and left it vulnerable to persuasive propaganda that shifts opinions and sways decisions on little more than a created false-reality/instant gratification.

Self-esteem is now everything in our society. No-one is a loser – “there are many ways of skinning a cat” – but in some things, near enough is NOT good enough. And you can’t get always away with a “fake it till you make it” philosophy. In my trade in building, structure is everything and it is too late and too dangerous to get wisdom in hindsight. There ARE standards of excellence. In lens-polishing, for instance, a milli-point or two from perfect would be disastrous. As in any demanding profession, there ARE set standards of excellence that MUST be adhered to for quality to be achieved. We cannot let these slip, yet that is exactly what has happened in our politics – and in our parliament – and the judges of those standards have foolishly let themselves be persuaded that it was THEY who had “got it right” when they allowed the outrageous destruction of House Procedures to slide into the mire of LNP corruption that is the present government.

Like those sympathies that have corrupted the set standards of excellence in many skills, the MSM Press Gallery journalists were spoon-fed – in small increments over a long period of time – the perception that Labor were incompetent, even though they had moved swiftly to alleviate the hardships of the GFC. the collapse of Financial Advisers Securities, moved on Climate Change legislation, tried to apply regional refugee solutions, the NDIS, Gonski, the NBN. broadband – and all the rest – but somehow, all the Press Gallery could see was “leadership, leadership, leadership”. Why? because the moguls who owned them told them so. The LNP press releases told them nothing more. Their own egos sought to be the “first with the latest”. In short, they reported Labor as a lost cause because of a mistake with their “perception of excellence” and reported the Abbott opposition as the best thing since sliced bread, in spite of his many quite glaring and ghastly failings. Because of their failure to report with the “standard of excellence” which was once the cornerstone of their job-skill, their stupidity and gullibility is now written in Australian history and witnessed in this current fiasco of LNP governance.

This dangerous twisting awry of what is required to make an action “standard best practice” to accepting an action as “perceived best practice” has leeched into the electorate and allowed the lie of the “motherhood statement” to be accepted as a near-enough “perception of done-deed” so that with the LNP “200 policies costed and ready to go” and the “We will bring the ‘out-of-control’ budget back in the black by 2016” were embraced as actual policy promised and delivered. Or should I say: “Perceived as delivered”?

The electorate, by allowing its “self-esteem” to be stroked and massaged in this way, has given away democracy for the price of a couple of “magic beans”. Someone is going to have to tell them that fairy-tales do not come true, or that magic does not happen, or that God does not save little children from drowning, and economic rationalism is not going to deliver them a better standard of living. But with this whole-hearted and deluded embracing of a perception of excellence, it is going to be a bloody difficult job!


36 comments

  1. king1394

    You are writing about the use of assessment criteria really, where the ‘judge’ is required to recognise and tick off a set of skills, which have often been described very narrowly. In the TAFE system, and many of the private training organisations this has become competency-based assessment. The task is whittled down to a point where it is possible to judge did the student do it, or not. For practical tasks assessed in isolation, this is quite adequate no doubt, but the loss comes with application of the skill in context. Yes the student can start and use a chainsaw, but does the student know what type of tree he / she is felling? Yes, the student can properly lend out a library book, but does the student know how to assess the suitability of the book for the reader? Did the student write 200 words that included the facts that were given? In your description, no doubt it’s, yes, the competitor sits the horse well, and takes it through its paces. But can the judge assess the true ability of the rider?

    In trying to remove all subjectivity from the assessment process, and to eliminate creativity from the criteria, there might be seen to be a form of fairness. But in fields such as journalism, I would rather see encouragement of broad general knowledge and expert understanding of the issues leading to work that is illuminating, rather than what appears to be the same story rehashed across the various media outlets.

  2. Joseph Carli

    As I wrote, in all trades and professions, there are standards of excellence that when followed should deliver a certain acceptable quality of result..once the “standard” is “shaded” or abandoned in favour of perceived excellence, the rot sets in…and once it becomes entrenched, it spreads to allied activities…eg; Lowering of Parliamentary procedures that are overlooked by the MSM then become behavioural standard which then go on to infect public perception of politics etc..
    I used the equestrian analogy because THERE is an example of rigid procedural criteria come down many years..and if there is change, it has to be rigorously researched as to whether it will work.

  3. townsvilleblog

    Excellence is not an act but rather a habit.

  4. Michael Taylor

    In a test in primary school we were asked to write down everything we knew about William Dampier. I wrote about five words and was failed.

    I confronted the teacher and said you asked us to write down “everything we knew”. I wrote down everything I knew, hence I should have scored 100%.

    Unfortunately, my fail stood.

    Us Aspies can be bloody smartarses at times.

  5. helvityni

    Michael,

    🙂 🙂 🙂

  6. helvityni

    Michael, an excellent teacher would have given you 100%, for being an honest and brave little boy.

  7. Joseph Carli

    Michael ..That reminds me of an old Oswald Pryor cartoon.. A Cornish miner is berating his apprentice : “I taught ye everything I knows..and yer’s knows nothing!”….the fault ought to have been your teachers…I give you 100%..like helvi’

  8. jimhaz

    [THIS confected, cosmetic “perception of excellence” has permeated through many branches and skills of our society, demeaning excellence in manufacture, science and medicine to management to politics]

    Executive salary bonuses are perhaps a good example of this. Rather difficult to know what standards apply – I mean they can even get bonuses if they do things that set the company for future losses.

    The IPA seems to set the standards for the LNP.

    Now to stir up the pot a bit, I was reading Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech yesterday and your topic reminded me of this paragraph.

    “They found their wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children unable to obtain school places, their homes and neighbourhoods changed beyond recognition, their plans and prospects for the future defeated; at work they found that employers hesitated to apply to the immigrant worker the standards of discipline and competence required of the native-born worker; they began to hear, as time went by, more and more voices which told them that they were now the unwanted.”

    I’m sure high immigration has played a role in the decline of high standards. I see this happening quite a bit in my workplace – and we have all seen it in the papers in relation to university marking.

    As there are so many factors involved, whether generational Australians would have now been less or more apathetic without such high immigration is uncertain. My gut feel is that affluence, the neo-con power surge, entertainment technology and the increased reliance on government for problem solving, all also play major causal roles in the spread of apathy – and that “average” Australians would have been at least 15% wealthier without high immigration over the last 20 years, thus we may have become apathetic via those means. Still, with half the immigration levels, I am somewhat confident we would have been less apathetic due to the culture of the last century being less diminished by cultural division, low quality, difficult or irritating communication or the importation of lower standards due to immigration from countries with lower quality standards (as that is all they can afford, European migrants had existing expectations of high quality craftsmanship). Wealthy lower immigration countries such as those in Northern Europe do not seem to have fallen as much as we Australians have.

    High immigration also has had an effect on lowering standards of morality. If your roots are not Australian then this facilitates less personal emphasis on meeting the prevailing moral standards – there is opportunity for less duty of care, less personal discipline to do what is right for the country.

    Differences in standards do not have to be very large – across 100 generational Australians and 100 immigrants the difference might only be a few percent – hardly even noticable – but the more immigration the more they accumulate and the more it slowly spreads to generational Australians over time. For example, if people who don’t care much about Aust leave rubbish like tissues, food wrappers on trains, it becomes an example for others who would not normally do so. More significant examples of the spread of corruption would be types like Eddie Obeid, Salim Mehajer or todays border force example.

    I also think the Buy A Place immigration policy might be attracting too many arseholes. Most wealth would appear to be obtained via the use of low morals.

  9. diannaart

    Michael, your teacher wasn’t a teacher.

    Joseph

    The bloated farce that is our LNP, has personified itself by going postal on equal marriage. At the very least, John Howard should foot the bill for the postal vote, he bloody started it, slimy little toad.

    On excellence… when I was 12 I wrote an essay about a confederate (USA) soldier taken prisoner and shot at the exact same time peace was declared – I was that sort of kid. My teacher loved the story, she made me (the shyest girl in, like, anywhere) to read my story out aloud in front of my class, which was one of the most frightening things I had done in my life at that point (maybe my jitters added a type of ambience to the sad tale). This teacher went further, she praised my grammar, spelling, everything was perfect, BUT, she marked me 9 out of 10, because, she said, nothing is perfect.

    So WTF is excellence?

    😛

  10. Joseph Carli

    jimhaz…such a long response would lead me to ask if you have considered writing such a missive into an article and submitting it to this site?…I’m sure it would provoke much discussion….why not give it a go?

  11. Joseph Carli

    diannaart….” So WTF is excellence?” ….Simultaneous orgasm?

  12. jimhaz

    [jimhaz…such a long response would lead me to ask if you have considered writing such a missive into an article and submitting it to this site?…I’m sure it would provoke much discussion….why not give it a go?]

    Lol, I’m too apathetic. I’ve considered it though. Also this is primarily a left based site and has so few contributors who agree with my view on immigration.

    High immigration is something I do complain about a lot – mainly as it is something we can choose what we do about it via policy, whereas other things such as the effects of technology on our minds are just too difficult to get any sort of mental grasp on “what is likely to be best”.

  13. jimhaz

    So WTF is excellence?

    Perhaps Joseph is right, as I would have said passion and discipline enable excellence and one often needs both for simultaneous orgasm.

    Or there is the buddhist 8fold path:

    The Eightfold Path consists of eight practices: right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right “samadhi” (meditative absorption or union)

  14. guest

    Jimhaz, when I see “right” this and “right” that I am very suspicious that conformity is what drives progress, whereas the progress is more often driven by the more adventurous. To try to blame immigrants for some kind of decline in Oz is highly contentious. This country was developed in early days by people who broke the law.

    In the 1950s I knew a physiotherapist from the Netherlands who had his own clinic there, but he was not allowed to practise here in Oz.

    I heard just recently a journalist claim that in order to face Artificial Intelligence we need to go back to “traditional” teaching (of the 3 Rs, presumably). Interestingly, examiners’ reports of the 1950s lament the poor poor writing, reading and comprehension skills of many of the students, as much as one third. The “Golden Age” never existed.

  15. Matters Not

    The concept of standards is often teased out into three strands. When people refer to the rise or fall in standards, the usual discussion involves norm referenced standards or what is commonly called averages. Over time, averages may rise or fall depending on the topic under discussion. Rises tend to be applauded. Falls are frowned upon.

    Yet sometimes ‘falls’ are of little consequence and sink without trace. Take the standard of copper plate writing as an example. Has certainly declined in recent years but no outcry is heard. Thus the concept of needs referenced standards enters stage left. Once upon a time shop assistants needed certain advanced arithmetic skills; engineers used slide rulers; farmers had to direct the horse(s) that pulled the plow; architects used … and so on. While the need for some standards decline, other needs arise, and hence new standards.

    The third strand crucial to any discussion of this nature involves criterion referenced standards. Sometimes norm referenced standards are simply not enough. Children who drown three-quarters of the way across the pool may well be above the average but in reality that counts for nought. Norm referenced standards, while useful at times can be also somewhat useless. Same with needs based standards. Needs change over time. Some disappear. Others arise. Sometimes the best standard to apply relates to a criterion. Swimming lesson is but one example.

    When it comes to educational standards, they are always a favourite topic for politicians. Because they, at a macro level, are always in decline. Invariably the reference is to averages – rarely to needs or criteria – and always there is the need to get back to the basics.

  16. Michael Taylor

    diannaart, on Kangaroo Island we didn’t have teachers. We had bullies.

  17. guest

    Turnbull’s “self esteem” has been “stroked” since birth. And a fine example of that is the Murdoch scribbler’s claim that “Malcolm Turnbull’s explosive phone call with Donald Trump ranks as his finest moments as PM.”

    Has anyone ever read such utter tosh. Turnbull’s approach was an obsequious crawl which stated things he would not have said, or has not said in public. It was an exercise in devious “horsetrading”. It was a “deal” supposedly arrived at without anything actually required to be done except to go through the process. Nothing was said about those who were supposed to be coming our way or what would be done with them.

    A totally depraved affair. As Trump said to Turnbull, “You are worse than I am.”

  18. diannaart

    Joseph

    Simultaneous orgasm definitely 10 out of 10

    🙂

    Michael

    I know far too much about bullies, both teachers and peers – throughout life. My sense of justice, or perhaps that should be injustice, got a very early start in my life – maybe I am a better person because of it. Maybe I could’ve done with a bit less bullying and a tad more acceptance.

    Jimhaz

    Joseph has made an excellent call – you have a great deal to offer on the topic, please consider offering AIMN readers your thoughts.

  19. Joseph Carli

    Matters Not..: ” Needs change over time. Some disappear. Others arise. Sometimes the best standard to apply relates to a criterion.”

    I would say that whatever the type of skill or action, there has to be a standard set that would be the high-bar that gives credibility to the skill of the task..be it IT tech’ or the leveling of foundation trenches. To do less than what is required for quality of product is a lowering of standard and for a supervisor to accept such low quality is to create a perception to those who follow of how high to set the bar.
    We see it today with the corruption within the policing authorities and the running of the refugee camps..which in turn have rebounded up the scale to political rorting not being thoroughly investigated by those same authorities..and on it goes.

  20. Michael Taylor

    Yes, jimhaz, please do. So what if only a few people agree with you. We’d be happy to give you a platform. Put something together – at your leisure and on any subject you like – and send it to theaimn@internode.on.net.

    We really do enjoy publishing articles from our readers. It shows to us that they are engaging with The AIMN, and we get a kick out of that.

  21. Freethinker

    Joseph Carli August 10, 2017 at 4:10 pm
    diannaart….” So WTF is excellence?” ….Simultaneous orgasm?

    Joe, Albert Einstein got it spot on when he said:
    “Excellence is doing a common thing in an uncommon way.”

  22. guest

    Thank you, Michael, for inviting jimhaz to express his views on immigration. Perhaps he could include an endorsement from Pauline Hanson.

    I look forward to seeing what jimhaz has to say; he has every right to say it. But already I feel I will not be convinced. I read too much contrary opinion in the all pervasive Murdoch media which pushes the notion of a homogeneous Oz population of Enlightenment Judeo-Christian clones. Boring!

  23. Ceridwen66

    A very good friend and I each submitted a major essay on this question: In 2050, is the world likely to have a unipolar or bipolar superpower or a polar power in a multipolar global power structure? Why and how? If not, why not? He used Climate Change as a major discontinuity arguing that in 2050 the globe would most likely be polycentric due to its coming effects. It was a brave, perfectly written, edited and referenced essay, an original, alternative and deep piece of writing, and before submission was advised by a retired Harvard professor that it was an excellent scenario analysis and should grade highly. I wish I had written it. To cut a long story short, he received a F2 and failed the course as the essay was worth 70% of his final grade.

    I on the other hand – and yes I admit to writing what I knew our esteemed professor wanted to read as it was worth 70% – submitted the same tired, rehashed version of a powerful hegemonic USA retaining primacy to 2050 and received a HD for my not so noble effort.

    Sometimes, excellence is confusing.

  24. helvityni

    I have already suggested before that guest should write an article for AIMN, and maybe Geridwen66 as well, and I think that Matters Not could also write something interesting for us…. So what do you think…?

  25. Roswell

    Some of the posts written by the commenters here have been fantastic. They have hidden talents.

    If I recall, that’s how John Lord and Kaye Lee started writing for The AIMN.

  26. paul walter

    Fascinating stuff, this thread.

  27. Joseph Carli

    In The Australian today…(via google)….. ” A delegation of 30 mining, oil and gas chief executives met senior cabinet ministers in Canberra on Wednesday night and urged ­action from the government to block what they described as a Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union “takeover” that would cause industrial chaos across the supply chain and drive investors away at “the speed of light”.

    The Australian understands that a bill to amend the Fair Work (Registered Organisations Act) and apply a public-interest test for union mergers will be introduced next Wednesday.”

    This is the sort of bullshit that this govt’ passes off as “brave legislation” while 7Eleven workers and others get screwed over for wages…

  28. guest

    Joseph, the idea that a government can legislate against criticism is not new. We see that kind of thing demonstrated in Ceridwen66’s experience at one level.

    On The Drum this week was a law person expounding on energy prices. He said we had always had cheap and affordable electricity in Oz and we should continue to do so. We should be wary, he said, of the kind of experiment we have seen in SA.

    It was straight Coalition ideology. No mention of coal, but it was clear what he meant. No mention of Climate Change, for that would have sunk the argument.

    The rest of the panel was silent. Sometimes we are just too polite.

    Meanwhile we have people espousing the idea of a UN conspiracy to take over the world; governments warn public servants of liking a tweet criticising government policy; people opposing some project can only be people who are directly adjacent to the project – no comments from the other side of the continent; and then of course there is the “operational secrecy” which tries to keep the facts out of sight and impervious to criticism.

    Just as insidious is the fact we have a right-wing media monpolising the distribution of news, even down to the viewing of sports events, and it is subsidised by the government.

    We are being treated like mushrooms – but the discontent is swelling. The government is heading towards 30 bad polls in a row.

  29. Joseph Carli

    Guest…” … 30 bad polls in a row.”….

    WELL!..that’ll learn ’em!….I hate to say it, Guest, but this govt’ has the MSMedia in it’s pocket, so it can and does make any outrageous lie or claim it wants without restraint or contest. It has the policing authorities on side so it can raid or create distractions on whatever law-platform it wants ….and it does…without question from whatever quarter save social media. It has control over the defence forces who in the main appear sympathetic to the LNP ideology, after all, war is now like a business and defence is a vital part of that business. It runs the Parliament like it’s their own private dog kennel and you expect me to be ecstatic because they have got 30 bad polls in a row….
    “Ask the boys in the back-room what they’ll have…”

  30. jimhaz

    OK, I’ll write something as an article within the next month or two. Bit of a challenge for me – but now I’ve said I’ll do it I’ll have to :).

    I’ve already said a lot about immigration here over the years, so that might not be the topic. I’ll try and think of a general topic I’ve not noticed an article on.

  31. guest

    Joseph, “ecstatic” is a bit over the top. The significance of 30 bad polls in a row, as you will remember, is that it was the point when Turnbull justified his removal of Abbott.

    But thanks for reminding me about the various levels of policing.

    Turnbull will also be very keen to be PM for a longer period than Abbott was. It is the symbolism of it all – and it is all about Turnbull himself and his token approach to everything.

    It is interesting that the new Labor PM of NZ is being well received. I often wonder whether NZ is as paralysed by fear of ISIS terrorists as we are. And whether the NZ people hold the ANZUS treaty so dear to their hearts as we do. And if not all this hu-ha, why not?

    Now I see that jimhaz might be backing off the topic of immigration. I was looking forward to reading about the watering down of British genes and blood, the deterioration of Oz intelligence and morality, the depletion of our wealth, etc and a dependence on Enoch Powell as source of inspiration.

    Jimhaz’s lauding of northern European excellence and standard setting is belied, apparently, by Merkel’s allowance of up to one million refugees because she believes they will improve economic growth.

    Meanwhile, some citizens in the UK are getting upset after being told that the population of the UK has been developed from numerous cultures and ethnic backgrounds over a long period of time. Surprise, surprise!

  32. Joseph Carli

    Of course, guest..I was a little agitated, coming down after a spell on twitter, where we are being treated to our illustrated-ous PM declaring that Trump’s language to Nth Korea may be just the thing they understand as “diplomatic talk has not worked”…Well suck my socks and eat the weevils!..taking into consideration that there has not been major skirmish with Nth Korea since the 1950’s I would have thought all that “diplomatic talk” has worked a peach!…I kid you not..the man’s a fool!

  33. diannaart

    Good to hear Jimhaz.

    I look forward to your thoughts on about anything (except, maybe, immigration).

    🙂

  34. totaram

    Joseph Carli ” …..taking into consideration that there has not been a major skirmish with Nth Korea since the 1950’s I would have thought all that “diplomatic talk” has worked a peach!…I kid you not..the man’s a fool!”

    I disagree. He is no fool, because he knows there are enough fools out there to swallow his nonsense without any further thought, with the aiding and abetting of the MSM. This is not an isolated statement. It has been thought up by the usual sources who cook up the latest talking points for the coalition. I heard the same thing being put forward by none less than Maj. Gen. (retd.) Jim Molan yesterday. So this is a calculated propaganda ploy. It depends on the systematic dumbing down of the population over the years to value image and form over substance and function that we are discussing here. Just repeating these statements with great authority and confidence is enough to ensure they are accepted as valid.

  35. Joseph Carli

    totarum… I have to presume you are talking about the rest of the population…those “out there”.

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