, , , , ,

2005 Dubroff Photo Shoot 010For some of us, average is a goal. Others yearn to be above average. You may be an average baseball player yet an above-average cook. Or someone who knows more than the average person about works of art or music but perhaps has an average understanding of politics. Most parents want their children to be above average, but what does it mean to be average?

This blog post focuses on the idea and misconceptions of what it means to be average. In his book, The End of Average, Todd Rose gives this example:

Upon investigating why pilots were struggling to control their planes in the 1950s, US Air Force discovered that it had nothing to do with pilot error, but instead the way the cockpits were designed – to best fit the “average” pilot of the 1920s. The Air Force measured 4,000 pilots on 10 dimensions of size, assuming that most would be within the average range for most dimensions, and many would fit all 10. Zero pilots fitted the average size profile. “By designing the cockpit for the average man, they were designing jets for nobody,” says Rose. The Air Force responded by adopting a design that was adjustable, which led to the invention of the adjustable seat – an innovation that we now take for granted.

The concept of “average” has failed us in many different aspects of life – most notably in our educational institutions. I can’t overemphasise how useless I was at school. I didn’t fit in, and couldn’t keep up and was left convinced that I was lazy and dumb. Not seeing any benefits from remaining in education, I left school aged 16. But then something happened: beginning life as entrepreneur, no longer forced to focus on subjects I had no interest in, I turned my attention to things that I could see the relevance in and that I was passionate about. My brain opened up, and so did my world.

Do we want children to attend a school that gears instruction to the middle or average? Or, do we want children to attend a school like Wilmington Montessori School where children are taught where they are and are given opportunities to grow well beyond the average standards issued by governing sources? Our children are capable of so much more. As Rose states, “ We need to realize that there is no such thing as an average human and stop measuring ourselves according to arbitrary yardsticks with no real basis in human nature….When we stop comparing ourselves to a non-existent ‘average,’ the gates just open.”